Remember The Rules? The dating how-to book was a cultural phenomenon in the 1990s—breathless New York Times profiles, several sequels, a mention on Sex and the City. It was also regressive and anti-feminist, according to its critics, and is now a curious artifact from the pre-dating-app era.
Forthcoming dating and relationship self-help books are bending and even breaking the rules, their editors and authors say. For one, they’re more progressive and inclusive.
“I want to publish books that speak to people who’ve been left out of this conversation,” says Ronnie Alvarado, an editor at Simon Element. She acquired More Than Words (Feb.), by couples therapist John Howard, because “he’s writing for people in any and all committed relationships, be that a heteronormative relationship, a monogamous relationship of any orientation, or a polyamorous relationship,” she says.
In Speaking in Thumbs (Doubleday, Feb.), psychiatrist Mimi Winsberg taps into her professional experience in the field of digital health as well as her own online dating adventures. “I was looking at messages as entertainment, and also in terms of science,” she says. “I joked that I could make a psychiatric diagnosis in less than 20 texts.”
Her book helps readers decipher textual clues from potential mates—emoji, punctuation, those three-dot ellipses—and stresses that her insights have application beyond the early days of dating and outside of hetero partnerships. “Text messaging is not only the way we meet people, it’s also the lingua franca of love,” she says. “It’s the primary way we communicate with our romantic partners through every stage of the relationship.”
Howard and Winsberg’s books are two of several forthcoming titles that are less about nabbing a husband or wife, and more about health and happiness in romantic partnerships—and beyond.
Cinderella, You Bitch
Shannon Heth and Beau Nelson. Wonderwell, Feb.
Public relations executive Heth and celebrity makeup artist Nelson’s snarky and swear-y book seems like a standard relationship guide at first glance, but its primary concern is self-love. The book asks readers to identify unrealistic expectations and rewrite personal narratives, and stresses that happily ever afters are found within.
Gary John Bishop. HarperOne, Jan.
The author of Unfu*k Yourself and related titles (815,000 print copies sold to date, per NPD BookScan) applies his tough-love take on self-sabotage and personal empowerment to romantic relationships. The introduction gives the uninitiated a taste of what’s to come: “You don’t know shit about having an authentically great relationship.”
John Howard. Simon Element, Feb.
Howard, a couples therapist and relationship wellness coach, mines interpersonal neurobiology, trauma-informed healing, attachment theory, and other disciplines in this inclusive guide to strengthening romantic bonds, outlining techniques for deepening intimacy with a partner (or partners) through touch, talk, and other tools. “While his insights aren’t exactly novel,” PW’s review said, “they’re sure to get readers thinking about more mindful ways to connect with others.”
The Practice of Love
Lair Torrent. Rowman & Littlefield, Feb.
Torrent, a licensed marriage and family therapist, shares exercises that lean on Western psychology, mindfulness, and Buddhist psychology. He encourages readers to root out negative habits and replant healthier modes of engagement in chapters that include “Why Is Mindfulness So Important for Couples?” and “Why Choosing Is So Important to Connection.”
David Richo. Shambhala, Apr.
Psychotherapist Richo presents decision-making strategies applicable not only to partnerships, but also career, home, and faith, through practices such as meditation, self-inquiry, journaling, and affirmations.
Speaking in Thumbs
Mimi Winsberg. Doubleday, Feb.
Translating the language of texting (and sexting) in this science-forward guide, Winsberg uses her expertise in telepsychiatry as cofounder of a behavioral health startup and as resident psychiatrist at Facebook. The book is punctuated with text threads, including Winsberg’s own, that illustrate subtle signs and red flags.
Where Is the Love?
Anna Williamson. Green Tree, Apr.
English TV presenter Williamson, who cohosted the British reality series Celebs Go Dating, brings her cheeky advice stateside. The book targets the recently coupled and long partnered, with tips that apply both to romance specifically and to life more broadly.