x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

No longer living by the book

Felicity Campbell found herself hooked on self-help books - and has had no regrets about kicking the habit.

I am in my 30s and my shelves - like those of most of my girlfriends - are filled with relationship-advice books. These books have been around for years but seem to have exploded in popularity during the past decade.

I gave all of them a proper go; you might even say I became addicted. But they're all so conflicting. Here's a glimpse of what my poor boyfriend has been through.

The Rules (Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider). The Rules advocates the adage "treat 'em mean, keep 'em keen". He would phone up for his nightly chat and I wouldn't answer. When eventually I did, I had to pretend I was super-busy, the book said. "Yep, sorry, can't talk now, off to meet my friends for dinner," I would say, having just muted the television. Thanks a lot, The Rules. You very nearly got me dumped. As well as his feelings being hurt, he thought I was not interested.

Women Who Love Too Much (Robin Norwood). Well, Women Who Love Too Much is one of those books that, by hook or by crook, is going to make itself applicable to you.

You are a woman who loves too much if you can tick one or more of a bunch of boxes. And what a range of boxes there are. You WILL end up ticking one or more. A cornerstone of relationship self-help books, it reached the number one spot in The New York Times best-seller lists in the "advice and miscellaneous" category in 1985. Are there that many "women who love too much"? Logic would decree that no, there aren't.

But of course I became convinced I was one. I wouldn't get the groceries on my way home. No, I would not cook dinner. Nothing was my fault. The book said I blamed myself for everything and I was "mired in an obsessive relationship". Well, thank you Women Who Love Too Much - you very nearly got me dumped because the poor man just thought I had lost my marbles.

Why Men Marry Bitches: A Woman's Guide to Winning Her Man's Heart. (Sherry Argov). This might as well have been entitled "Felicity's guide to getting dumped."

Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man (Steve Harvey). The best time my boyfriend had. It was a period of me trying to do things that would make him happy and understand him. I found there wasn't very much more to discover than lying on the couch and playing PlayStation .

This is just a selection of the many titles I put my relationship to the test with. A few months ago I decided that taking advice from a stranger who had no idea of the particular problems facing me might not be the smartest of ideas. So I went cold turkey and cut the self-help. And, what do you know? After three months of just being myself he proposed.