Rewriting the Rules: Second Edition!

Rewriting the Rules: Second Edition!

The second edition of my book Rewriting the Rules is out now. Look – here’s the cool new cover and everything!

This is pretty huge for me because – as you can gather from the title – I set up this website around the time I wrote the first edition. Back then I had no idea that it’d do well enough to warrant a second edition, nor that I’d get to write several further anti-self-help books on the topics of love, sex and gender, on the back of that one. This year I even get to talk at an international conference which is subtitled after this book (so much gratitude to the amazing Ruby Bouie Johnson and Poly Dallas Millenium).

In the second edition it was great that I got to use the ‘anti self-help’ phrase in the subheading (more on that in a mo), that I got to publish it under my new name (marking one of the shifts I’ve gone through since writing the first edition), that I got to include new comics, more subheadings and pauses, and more intersectionality throughout. Hopefully it shows what I’ve learnt – about myself, about writing, and about the world – in the last few years.

The folks at Psychology Today did an interview with me about the new edition. If you want to find out more about it, read on, and do pick up a copy if you’re interested.

There’s a lot of information out there about relationships, and much of it implies that when things aren’t working, you are the problem. Maybe it’s time to revise the ways we all think about relationships.

Why do we need new rules for love relationships?

We don’t necessarily need new rules, but we do need to think carefully about the rules we’ve received and whether they work for us. There’s a strong idea out there that there is one “right’” or “normal” way of doing relationships that everyone should aim for by following certain relationship rules. Actually there is no “one size fits all” way of doing relationships, and it’s important for all of us to find the way that works best for us. The current rules of relationships can lead to a lot of pain and suffering—for example, if somebody so fixed on finding ‘”The One” perfect partner that they don’t invest in all the other important relationships in their life, or if the pressure on long-term love makes someone stay in a relationship that’s damaging for them, or if attempts to find love mean somebody ends up being bruised and battered by breakup after breakup.

Do we need any rules for them?

Not necessarily. One point I make is that any set of rules can become rigid and constraining if we hold it too tightly. This is true for conventional monogamous coupledom, but it’s also true for any kind of alternative relationship style. The approach of embracing uncertainty, which I explore in the book, is about moving away from the desire for a clear set of rules that will hold forever and instead embracing flexibility and being present to relationships as they are in the here and now. That doesn’t mean that we won’t communicate and negotiate about how we want to do our relationships, but it does mean a move away from rules that are set in stone.

Why a self-help guide that claims to be anti-self-help?

What I mean by “anti-self-help” is that a lot of self-help books locate our problems and difficulties in life in ourselves, as individuals. They suggest there’s something wrong with us that needs fixing, and they sell the book on the basis that the “expert” can give you tricks or hacks to solve all your problems. My view is that many of our struggles—particularly around relationships—are more due to the rotten cultural messages that we receive than to any kind of individual ‘flaw’ we might have. So Rewriting the Rules is a self-help book in that it gives you lots of ideas about how to navigate the wider cultural ideas about relationships, but it’s anti-self-help in that it doesn’t see you as the problem that needs fixing. In fact it sees that whole idea as part of the reason we struggle so much. Read more…

Meg-John (MJ) Barker (they/them) is a writer, zine-maker, collaborator, contemplative practitioner, and friend. They are the author of a number of zines and popular books on sex, gender, and relationships, including graphic guides to Queer, Gender, and Sexuality (with Jules Scheele), and How To Understand Your Gender, Sexuality and Relationships (with Alex Iantaffi).


  1. […] As Meg-John Barker explains whilst describing the new edition of their iconic book Rewriting the Rules: […]