This week, I’m doing something different—sharing my thoughts on an issue I’ve been asked about. If you came here to get sex tips for your bedroom or address a sexless marriage or enjoy something funny about this whole sexy thing, here are a few other posts you can go read:
- 12 Ways to Make Good Sex Even Better
- These 3 Actions Could Bring You to Orgasm
- What Can I Do About My Sexless Marriage: Part 4 (with links to others in other posts in the series)
- Lighten Up a Little and Laugh about Sex
- Sex Isn’t Just for Bunnies
But recently, there has been some controversy in marriage circles and conversations about a particular book and what it teaches. That book is Love & Respect: The Love She Most Desires; The Respect He Desperately Needs written by Emerson Eggerichs. The core question has been whether the book encourages maltreatment and abuse of women. But the discussion also touched on whether the book defines sex in terms of a physical need for husbands and an obligation for wives.
While I’d read Love & Respect many years ago (and taken the video course at a marriage retreat), I decided to read the book again. Not with the hope of finding or not finding proof of the accusations, but with as open a mind as I could have.
Following is part one of my conclusions, with two other parts coming later in the week. Someone else might have a different take, but where I make a point, I try to back it up with an excerpt from Love & Respect, along with the page number where the quote can be found. I also expand on my own perspectives that differ from the author.
The Missing Piece
Eggerichs begins with the premise that the importance of love in marriage has been well-covered in churches and marriage classes. “For the past forty years, the American church has preached unconditional love. I preached it for many years in my own church, as I remained clueless about the importance of unconditional respect” (48). The addition of respect as part of the marriage relationship is his unique selling proposition; that is, what differentiates this book from other marriage books (27).
Given this initial premise, Eggerichs focuses more on wives giving their husbands respect, since that’s the part he believes has been neglected. “Yes, love is vital, especially for the wife, but what we have missed is the husband’s need for respect” (11). Understandable, but the next sentence is this: “This book is about how the wife can fulfill her need to be loved by giving her husband what he needs—respect” (11). That’s a bothersome statement, as it seems to place the burden for making a marriage work on the woman respecting her husband.
To be fair, he includes plenty on husbands needing to love their wives and how men can assume the responsibility to make a marriage work better. The “Crazy Cycle” Eggerichs describes even begins with the husband’s part: “Without love, she reacts without respect. Without respect, he reacts without love—ad nauseum” (25).
He also points out that either spouse can, and should, go first in giving the love or respect their mate needs: “Taking the role of the mature mate and moving first may be risky, but it is powerful” (73), and “In your marriage, be the first to ‘seek peace and pursue it’ (1 Peter 3:11)” (73).
Defining Differences by Gender
Eggerichs’s approach rests on a core belief that love isn’t enough, or that love to a man is better spelled R-E-S-P-E-C-T (174). This viewpoint hinges on the final verse of the Ephesians 5:21-33 section on husbands and wives: “However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Eggerichs focuses on how the husband is commanded to love his wife, but rather commanding the wife to love her husband, she is told to respect him.
You can believe or not believe his premise. Eggerichs goes into how he pursued that interpretation, considered its various angles, weighed it against the struggling couples he counseled, and looked at research on this topic.
For myself, I believe the premise in part. That is, adding respect to the conversation about marriage is important, and overall men seem more concerned about receiving respect and women about receiving love (more on that in the next post).
However, we have other scriptures in the Bible that tell us to love and respect each other without regard to gender:
- “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:10).
- “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2:17).
- “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
There are also verses instructing husbands to respect their wives and wives to love their husbands:
- Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers” (1 Peter 3:7).
- “Then [the older women] can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children” (Titus 2:4, and yes, that instance of love is phileo rather than agape).
While Eggerichs agrees husbands also need love and wives need respect, he emphasizes the opposite so much that readers can forget that we all desire love and respect and are commanded to give it.
Unconditional Love & Unconditional Respect
Eggerichs uses the terms unconditional love and unconditional respect a lot. Here’s an example of his view:
“My thought process went something like this: ‘A husband is to obey the command to love even if the wife does not obey the command to respect, and a wife is to obey the command to respect even if the husband does not obey the command to love.’ So far, so good. Then I reasoned further: ‘A husband is even called to love a disrespectful wife, and a wife is called to respect an unloving husband.’ There is no justification for a husband to say, ‘I will love my wife after she respects me’ nor for a wife to say, ‘I will respect my husband after he loves me'” (23).
He thus lays out how unconditional love and unconditional respect are keys to a godly marriage and how expressing them can heal your relationship and open up the feelings of love or respect you’ve been missing from your spouse.
But here’s where I’m going to get really unpopular. I’ve come to detest that word unconditional. I can discuss my theology on it another time, but practically speaking, that word has been used like a mallet on people, pressuring them to put up with things God never intended us to put up with. We use God as our example, but even if there are no conditions to His love, God most certainly laid out expectations in commands and followed up with bad consequences if you don’t get with the program.
We are called to extravagant love, far beyond what we usually display, given our selfish nature. But what happened when someone displayed ongoing hate toward our Father? When they hardened their heart again and again? Look at the biblical record, and you’ll see that God didn’t stick around interminably; sometimes, He walked away.
Can He come back? Sure, He did that too. But at times he “hid his face” from those who pursued evil and would not listen. And in a way, isn’t that love too? To set reasonable conditions in the relationship, walk away if they’re not being met, and pray that your absence causes a change of heart.
So this call to unconditional love and unconditional respect can be problematic in practice. While I recognize we shouldn’t have to earn love and respect, because we’ll never deserve it enough, we should have reasonable expectations in our marriage of good treatment.
It is from those relationships, where things are reasonably good, that Eggerichs’s advice is best understood. For those without good will, a call for unconditional love or respect can become manipulation at best and abuse at worst. (See Are You in an Abusive or Destructive Marriage?)
But Does Eggerichs Advocate Abuse?
In short, no. Eggerichs addresses the importance of having two good-willed people in a marriage, using that phrase “good-willed” more than 30 times. For instance: “What do I mean by good-willed people’? Simply that both of these people love each other a great deal. They do not mean real harm; they do not intend real evil toward one another. They are hurt and angry, but they still care deeply for one another” (39). That’s the audience he’s writing to.
Eggerichs also recognizes abuse of women throughout history. “Over the centuries, men have used Scripture in ignorant, abusive, and even evil ways. They have justified all kinds of terrible treatment of women, all in the name of ‘the Bible says so.’ But the Bible doesn’t say so. It says something much different from what is claimed by chauvinists” (184).
That said, he does believe in the what he calls “biblical hierarchy”; that is, a woman placing herself under the headship of her husband, while her husband takes up the responsibility to love and protect her. And one might presume he’s fielded questions in the past about that belief and abuse: “Will the concept of biblical hierarchy lead to abuse? Will a man take advantage of being the head of the family by putting down and even abusing his wife and children?” (186).
He answers: “Yes, this is possible, but because it is possible does not mean a woman should refuse to allow her husband to be the head. If a husband is evil-willed, the abuse will happen anyway, no matter what the family structure is. Any hierarchical role given to him has nothing to do with the abuse. The evil-willed man always treats those around him abusively” (186). Eggerichs then goes on to talk about the importance of a good-willed husband who accepts his duty to love and protect his family, not selfishly use his position over others to mistreat them.
Now, the gender-role continuum ranges from patriarchy through complementarianism (hard, moderate, soft) and egalitarianism to feminism/matriarchy, and some Christians assert that more patriarchal systems create an environment where abuse is not addressed properly. Believe me, I take that concern seriously. But I also don’t think you’ll convince another Christian to surrender their view by saying it can be abused. After all, so many things God created for good can be twisted for evil.
We have to engage in conversations about what God actually said and our resulting theology and ultimately decide for ourselves what we believe about gender roles in the church and in marriage. That theological debate is beyond the purview of my blog (hint, hint: don’t leave a long comment about it).
Regardless, any and all marriages need church resources that will honestly and effectively address abuse. No wife should go to a church leader with the heavy news that she’s being abused in her marriage and be told to simply submit to her husband more.No wife should go to a church leader with the heavy news that she's being abused in her marriage and be told to simply submit to her husband more. @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet
Back to Eggerichs’s view: “When a man acts in this way [doing something illegal, wrong, evil, abusive, dishonest, unethical], he is not a good-willed husband, and he forfeits his right to be head and to be followed. A wife’s submission to God takes precedence over her submission to her husband. She is not to sin against Christ in order to defer to her husband” (196).
Next time, we’ll get into more about gender roles, how Eggerichs views their impact on marriage, and whether his views lead to problematic outcomes. And in the third and final installment, we’ll tackle his chapter on sex.
My Thoughts on Love and Respect: Part 2
My Thoughts on Love & Respect: Part 3 (Sex)
Other recent takes on Love & Respect:
Love and Respect: Why Unconditional Respect Can’t Work – To Love Honor & Vacuum
Don’t Study the Counterfeits – The Generous Husband
Respect: A Dirty Word? – The Curmudgeonly Librarian
52 thoughts on “My Thoughts on Love & Respect: Part 1”
“That said, he does believe in the concept of biblical hierarchy; that is, a woman placing herself under the headship of her husband, while her husband takes up the responsibility to love and protect her.”
Headship is not hierarchy. The LORD uses “body” language to describe marriage. Husband = head; wife = body. The focus is on mutual care and harmony, not organization. Failure to comprehend this and put it into action is why many relationships suffer abuse.
Doug, I used the word “hierarchy” because it’s what Emerson Eggerichs uses to describe his viewpoint:
“Ever since I have been sharing the Love and Respect Connection around the country, I have been willing to be fool enough to use terms that are just not politically correct. One of these words is hierarchy” (184).
“The passage that spells out biblical hierarchy is Ephesians 5:22…” (184).”
“We have already seen in chapter 17 that Paul lays out the biblical hierarchy of the home: The man is the head, and the wife is to be subject to him (see Ephesians 5:22-23)” (193).
I could have worded that better, however, to indicate that it was his phrase, not mine. So I’ve edited a little. Because yeah, my description alone does not mean hierarchy in the way he describes it more specifically in the book.
Cool. Interestingly, your post comes just after my wife and I had watched a specific episode of the popular series “Outlander” which interacted specifically and explicitly with the subject of love and respect in the wife-husband characters of Claire and Jamie. Just shows many are grappling with this subject.
I agree. Even the submission language in Ephesians 5 (and other passages) has as much to do with alignment to the purposes of God and not dictatorial authoritarian rule. The deeper issue concerning the entire issue of headship/submission is trust. It’s funny how many pastors (by the way I have been in ministry for over 40 years) fail to put this forward when talking about the issue. Nice article J. Parker.
Wow! Can’t wait to read the other two parts.
You’ve done a great job with this article, J. I’ve heard all of the debates also and haven’t had a chance to go back and read the book myself, but some of the quotes you mentioned here are a bit shocking to me. I’ve grown a lot in what I used to believe about marriage based on my upbringing and I’m so thankful that so many Christians are willing to talk about these issues. In particular, I really appreciate that you pointed out that love and respect are required of all of us. So, so good!
As we moved across town a few months ago we’ve begun attending a new church, and it was very encouraging to hear our (new) pastor state unequivocally while preaching through the gospel of Luke one particular week, on Jesus’ words about marriage and divorce: “If you’re in an abusive situation, #1, call the cops! #2, if you need some guys to come help you move your stuff, I’ve got some guys who will come help you move your stuff and get out of that situation!” (Obviously those were the pastor’s words, not Jesus’ – although I could see Jesus making similar statements! :))
Real men are protectors of women, and those are the ones that are easy to submit to, respect and follow.
That’s awesome! Good for that pastor and your church.
This is a really good beginning, J. To be honest, I have not read the book – but also honestly, I think I already get the picture.
As a man, a married man, and just as a person, I have very little patience for stereotypes, cliches, and things that are partly true which are turned into a doctrine. The excerpts you shared smacks of all three. Like you, I don’t think the man-needs-respect, woman-needs-love stance is completely wrong, but I’m glad you shared scriptures reminding us of the opposite.
I myself have heard the love-respect dichotomy taught, which is probably why this blog resonates with me as it does. I have seen some Christian women get some glazed eyed “revelation” that respect is what men “really” want, thus reinforcing yet another stereotype (‘women don’t really think things through, just stay starry eyed’, you know, that sort of thing).
That semantic misuse of a very good biblical practice – unconditional love – got me to thinkin’, too. Hmm….
I don’t need much help falling into behavior or word choices that reinforce stereotypes, and what I mean is this: I’m probably one of the least boastful of guys you’ll ever meet, if we ever met in person – but even posting on here I’ve caught myself. (You know, ‘gosh that sounded awfully boastful, or something). So I’m not claiming to be immune from such stereotypes, only that I absolutely do not like them, and at the risk of not giving the author a full and fair reading, I’m glad you called it out.
Outstanding thoughts J, many thanks for the well researched and thought out post.
I especially like extravagant rather than unconditional for both love and respect.
I really like that you approached this with they way the book was intended: to highlight teaching that has traditionally been missing in a large number of Christian circles. When I read the book, I thought it was fantastic. I could see so many failed marriages that might have been saved if they’d used these principles. As a woman in trades, I see so many men disrespected by their wives and I’ve seen the damage it causes in the relationship.
That being said, he doesn’t mince words, and a lot of what he says is hard to swallow from a cultural standpoint. But I saw an incredible amount of truth in what he said.
As with ANY book however, you need to approach it with an open mind, and use your own intuition and conscience. No book adequately explains the ins and outs of every single relationship and each one is unique and different. Don’t assume you can’t take every single thing that one book says and apply it to your marriage successfully. My husband for example desires love more than respect, and his sex drive is less than the stereotype. But it doesn’t mean that Love and Respect needs to be thrown out the window because my husband happens to be a unique individual that doesn’t fit into an exact mold.
It means I take the principles from the book that apply to my marriage and go from there. Personally, it’s my favorite marriage book that I’ve read. However, it does need to be read with grace and an openness for the intent behind it, not just cherry picked for controversial statements.
I totally agree. My wife and I read the book many years ago and it changed our marriage. We often give it as a wedding present to newlyweds. To us, it was eye-opening in terms of helping us understanding the different emotional needs of men and women (admittedly, not each and every man and woman). As a man, I craved my wife’s respect and, dare I say it, her admiration much more than I did her love. I wanted her to respect me and place her trust in my abilities. However, my wife’s love language and spiritual gift are acts of service. She felt she was lovingly helping me by generally telling me what to do and how to do it. While I couldn’t deny her loving desire to help me, I also couldn’t deny the fact that, at home, I felt like an incompetent child. I often wondered why I sometimes felt better about myself at work than I did at home. At work, I was a highly respected manager. My employees placed their faith in me and trusted my abilities. I received much praise for my successes. At home, I felt like I couldn’t properly load a dishwasher or drive a car or manage money or fill-in-the-blank. After reading Love and Respect, both my wife and I had a better understanding of a deep emotional need that neither of us fully realized I had. I also had a better understanding of her need to feel cherished, a need I didn’t fully appreciate because I didn’t share it.
The point of the book is that men and women feel differently, and we make an enormous mistake in treating our spouses in the way we want to be treated. I have made that mistake countless times in my marriage, and I continue to do so. However, I appreciate Eggerichs’ effort to educate. I’m sure that, like any written work, one can find ways in which he could have said things better, but let’s give him the grace to hear his heart in giving us a message that is sorely needed.
It’s been a while since I read the book, but my take away was that men tend to play to their strengths, I.E. showing respect and women tend to play to theirs, showing love.
When each wants the other to show them what they really want. I.E. men want respect and women want love.
What I took from the book is that we are to step out of our area of expertise and grow a bit. Men be more loving, women demonstrate more respect.
I didn’t get out of it some weird, unhealthy thing where you show respect in every circumstance, and certainly not in response to unhealthy behaviors from him.
It’s more of a if you want to effectively communicate with him, this is the language he prefers.
So you can bring him a sappy card that you just love, or you can notice that he keeps the home safe and secure and express gratitude (a form of respect) for his skills an attention to that aspect of your lives.
Just an example. It’s been quite a number of years, so I reserve the right to not fully remember everything I’ve read a decade or so ago.
PERHAPS your ‘beef’ with the word unconditional comes from not keeping it tied to (God’s) love. His love is holy and righteous and sets boundaries and consequences for unloving (and disrespectful) behavior and attitudes.
DL: I was thinking along those lines, too. For a woman feeling pressured by “unconditional love” to stay in an abusive relationship, improving her understanding of what unconditional love looks like might be an easier path for her mind to take, rather than tying to convince her that she should love only under conditions.
It is a bold, strong love that has the courage to say, “I love you too much to be an enabler of your abusive behavior.”
It’s a really deep and important aspect of love; Leslie Vernick’s book, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage, explores this in detail near the beginning.
Well, I also have theological issues with “unconditional love,” but again, my blog probably isn’t the place to go into it. And I would never word my view as “that she should love only under conditions.” I’m purposeful in using extravagant love—which conveys that sense of going above and beyond, not enabling, and loving for someone else’s good as well as your own.
I think Eggerichs’ used the terms “unconditional love” and “unconditional respect” to address a duality in our thinking about love and respect. On the one hand, we are often taught that a husband must unconditionally love his wife even when she acts unlovably (and I agree that he should). On the other hand, we have been taught that respect must be earned, with the corollary being that a wife should only respect her husband after he has earned such respect. Eggerichs’ noted that the exhortation in Ephesians 5:33 to both husbands and wives was given without condition. Husbands love your wives, period; wives, respect your husbands, period. We make a mistake when we withhold either love or respect until the other spouse has earned it. That withholding is what Eggerichs’ calls the “crazy cycle”.
I wonder, too, if there is a misunderstanding caused by the word “respect.” When one thinks about respect it’s easy to picture a child learning to say “yes, sir” or “no, ma’am” to his parents. But, that’s not the respect we husbands crave. For us, it’s more an expression of faith in us. It’s vitally important to me emotionally to know that my wife believes in me. When she expresses her faith in me, I can take on the world with boldness and confidence. As a man, I would much rather hear my wife say, through words and actions, “I believe in you,” than hear her say, “I love you.”
I should also point out that I agree that “unconditional love” does *not* mean accepting unacceptable behaviors or abuse. Quite the contrary, true love wants the very best for the beloved, which is not that the beloved continues in abusive ways. Love requires that unacceptable behavior be dealt with, not swept under the rug.
Well, “unconditional love” does not appear as a phrase in the Bible. Maybe we should talk about what agape love looks like. Regardless, I’ve known of several instances where someone in a difficult situation where they should have confronted a bad behavior or even left and didn’t, because they were told they had to display unconditional love. And that’s what I was addressing.
I understand and agree.
I’ve had discussions with myself and others (I don’t always agree myself), and have (and sometimes still do) struggle with the “unconditional love” concept. I think we agree that the model is God’s agape.
As in most conversations/arguments/debates/etc., it’s not the words we use so much as it is what we mean by those words and getting the parties to be on the same page of meaning, whether or not we agree on the message the words convey.
Thanks for your blog. I appreciate your wisdom, spirit and transparency. Blessings
I believe God’s Word teaches that there are no qualifications for God to love us–that’s His nature. God truly does love us just as we are, but loves us beyond that to not let us stay as we are. Rom. 8:29
DL and Jason,
So what would unconditional respect look like then?
I attended a two day seminar with the Eggerichs many years ago. What he said resonated with me like nothing I had ever heard before. It so accurately described what was in my heart and what I most needed. However, ever since the seminar, my wife does not like me to even use the word respect. I have stayed with her because of my unconditional love. I always put the needs of my wife and children before my own. I do so dispute my wife’s selfish actions because I am called to do so as “head” of my family. The one thing that would bring me untold happiness would be unconditional respect. A man can dream…
Summary – I think the Eggerichs are spot on right.
Great beginning J! I personally can not wait to read the others parts to this.
Thank you for tackling this!
Excellent point about “unconditional” love or respect. Perhaps one could say, yes we should love without conditions, but that might look like making conditions and setting boundaries. So we should wish the best for people and work for that best no matter what they do, but its right and appropriate in some cases to make interaction with people conditional on their behaviour (I will not speak to you while you are shouting at me, I will not live with you while you are taking drugs, etc etc) not out of a lack of love but because thats the best for the other person. I think the ‘just be nice no matter what’ is completely unbiblical, there’s so much in the bible about having nothing to do with fools and divisive people etc.
Jesus said in Matthew that forgiveness should be seventy times seven,which was another way of saying without end–and without waiting for the other person to apologize. I believe that Paul, similarly, had both unilateral love “as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it” and unilateral respect in mind in Ephesians 5. But often these are not equal as not all marriages are equal. For example, my maternal grandmother, who married in 1917, was at the time a “babe in Christ.”
Only 12 when her father died, Grandma was reared by an ungodly stepfather and a mother who was only mildly interested in church (I knew my great-grandmother). Grandma stayed with Grampa for more than 40 years. She respected and loved him. He was a good man and treated her kindly, but his love was the shallow kind common among ungodly men. Together they reared two daughters who followed Jesus. The oldest of these was my mother. They are all together with Jesus now, for Grandpa repented before he died.
I firmly believe that Grandma’s unilateral love and respect for Grandpa was the primary factor in his conversion, as well as in seeing their daughters (both who married godly men) come to Christ.
It has been awhile since I have read the book but two things stood out to me and still do years later, not in a good way. The story about the wet towels with his wife and children was insulting. I even went back and reread that portion of the book at the time because I was shocked. To be honest if I was dating one of those sons and saw this story play out or heard him retell the story at the dinner table I would absolutely leave the relationship and consider myself lucky for getting out. The other issue was how a wife was to address an issue. If he is making bad choices (could be not being present in his sons life, could be drinking etc) she is to go to him and respectfully ask him to alter his behavior and then wait several weeks before bringing it up again. This attitude is exactly what the church has had and it has enabled sinful behavior and or abuse. If my husband is looking at porn or had an affair I have the biblical right to separate immediately. I understand he will say that this is assuming good will. The problem is good willed people sin. Sometimes a lot. I should not be counseled to approach it respectfully and then live in a deteriorating situation so he doesn’t feel disrespected. It doesn’t even have to be adulterous. What if I have a teenager and I know they are dabbling and heaven forbid becoming consistent users of drugs or alcohol and my husband is not plugged into the family and doesn’t prioritize addressing the issues with his children over his work or need to work excessively. I am supposed to watch a child become gripped with addiction while I wait several weeks before I bring it up again.
I think the book means well. In some cases I think he is dead wrong (the towel story) and in other cases I think he makes a general statement that is meant to cover a lot but really doesn’t work in serious family and marriage issues. If a wife is upset that the husband isn’t pulling his weight around the house. I completely understand how his method of approaching him respectfully and then waiting before it is brought up again. For serious issues it shouldn’t even be considered.
Yes, I had several problems with statements in the book too, and more of those will come up next time. But to your point, I actually put in a note in my margin where Eggerichs shared a letter from a wife who said :”I believe that more good things will come as I continue to show [my husband] unconditional respect, and after all, the Lord is responsible for the outcome. I have only to be obedient to Him, and He will handle what concerns me” (86). My note to myself was: “Actually, we are called to rebuke one another too.” That is, sometimes the way God handles what concerns us to have us address it directly. Which is neither unloving nor disrespectful in and of itself.
Reading the book I had many aha moments, it is an eye opener and I believe the overall message to be correct, effective and biblical. As others have mentioned, no book will cater for all. Yes there are other verses in the Bible found that address love and respect but those were not necessary directly towards the institution of marriage. I as husband, naturally want to be loved by my wife, but it is the respect, that gets a man going. Learning how to love your wife, her way, equally important, so difficult, I’ll never quit trying. Thanks to all sharing opinions!
I agree with activemom’s comments. The wet towel/candy wrapper story is so bizarre it is hard to take the rest of the book seriously. Even if you agree with the core message of the book there are so many questionable passages that have nothing to do with the Bible, and I wonder why those who defend the book will never respond to criticism of those passages. Talking about the wet towels it doesn’t seem like Eggerichs likes or respects his wife very much. I guess I am lucky because the men in my life don’t do things like that. My husband would shame my son for doing something like that.
One of the bloggers you link to says the Church is feminized and people are being taught that women are morally perfect. I’m not sure what Church he goes to, but I grew up with a fairly strong “women are less than” message from church. Plenty of those messages exist today and you don’t have to go far to find them. I don’t agree with that blogger. Nor do I agree with his take that a female blogger has no standing to question a sort of celebrity pastor who writes a book for profit.
So much of the book is really just condescending to me. Sure my husband and son might be wearing their blue sunglasses when they are parallel parking—and I’ll never get a hold of the blue sunglasses to help me parallel park. But so many of the pink/blue fifties style couple examples just don’t resonate with me.
There are plenty of criticism of the book online going back many years. I just wish churches would hear those who don’t care for the book and find another resource. But if you have strictly male leadership in your church—-you might never be heard. For that reason, the larger scale critique of the book by SWG was much needed.
Lastly, I think Eggerichs is getting at some other message about women besides marriage. He has a book about moms needing to respect their sons…..shouldn’t all parents respect their children regardless of gender. Frankly as the mother of a 17 year old son—his message just seems a bit strange. But I am assuming his wife did most of the parenting and he just wants to capitalize more on the men need respect message.
Thanks for your blog post.
Denise, this is that other blogger, CSL. You are correct in noting that I speak of the church in America as feminized. A couple of years ago, I wrote a series on that because of a Pew Research survey that showed that the Christian church is the only major religion that appeals to women more than men. One of the sources I quoted was Emerson Eggerichs’ Love & Respect, because in it, he told how he taught for over 20 years that men should listen to their wives due to their moral superiority.
Please check out the Women Rule, Men Drool series.
I’m a man, and I grew up with a fairly strong “women are morally perfect” message. It was never preached in those words, but that was the general undercurrent. Essentially, women are saints to even stoop to the level of being married to us big dumb animals. And I’m still not sure what is true and what isn’t.
I was told that, at least when it comes to relationships, if there is a problem it is *always* the guy’s fault because we are the spiritual head of the relationship. When women do sin, because hey, the Bible says everyone does, it’s usually because a guy caused her to by doing something wrong or failing her in some way. Guys are just more sinful when it comes to relationships, and, by the way, are always the ones that are pushing for things to go further physically than they should before marriage because women are just more pure whereas a man’s sexual/physical desire is a horrible problem to be prayed about and fought against.
Also, there’s a reason that most Mother’s Day church messages are about how faithful and loving wives/mothers are and most Father’s Day messages are about how fathers/husbands need to buckle down and work harder to meet their wife’s needs. I mean, men should sacrifice for their wives like Christ sacrificed for the church, to the point of death. So husbands should sacrificed everything to meet their wife’s needs. But a husband shouldn’t have needs, or, rather, if he DOES have needs he should take them to Christ. If she doesn’t seem that interested in sex and is very passive or detached about it, it’s because I’m doing something wrong and need to figure it out.
And, if my wife is angry about anything, even if it has nothing directly to do with me, it’s still a failure on my part because if I had been more involved and more loving whatever made her angry would not have bothered her so much. As a Christian man, the worst thing you can do is upset your wife, so don’t ever bring up anything that might make her angry or cause her to feel upset or bad about herself. So don’t ever talk about anything that hurts you or anything that might make her feel insecure int he relationship. That’s selfish.
So I have a terrible time letting my wife know when she’s hurt me, because, well, I usually feel I deserve it and to bring it up is selfish. But I’m also terrible at hiding my feelings, so she usually can tell when I’m hurt but then gets upset that I won’t share what’s wrong. So I’m still trying to figure out what is best to do in that situation; I usually just apologize for being hurt.
All of this is to say that I did experienced a “women are morally perfect” undercurrent, though I’m not sure what of it was truth or not. I’m still working on that. I do agree there are a lot of “women are less than” messages out there, and those messages are wrong. To me at least, it seems that women are “more than”, and I sometimes wonder why God didn’t just put women in charge, because they seem to be far wiser, mature, loving, and less sinful than men.
(Denise, please understand I’m not at all saying anything you said is wrong; I’m just relating what I learned growing through my teens/20s and into marriage. I’m not trying to derail the conversation.)
It’s interesting to hear people’s stories. I know men who feel as you describe but also plenty of women who tell an opposite tale of feeling like the burdens were always on them.
My take is that we have to return this truth: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24). Both men and women are bearers of God’s image and imperfect sinners saved by His grace.
Nobody reads a book in a vacuum. We all come to it with our unique backgrounds and baggage. As a child, I can’t say that I ever heard that women were either “morally perfect” or “less than.” However, several other messages came through loud and clear.
One message was that women were more spiritual. I remember my mother telling me that when a couple marries, it is customary that they attend the wife’s church (assuming they came from different churches to begin with). In other words, the woman’s faith was more important than the man’s. This played out in my childhood home. My mother taught me about Jesus. My father taught me how to throw a baseball and balance a checkbook.
The other message that I heard very clearly was that men either (a) did not have emotional needs or (b) if they had them, they never expressed them. I don’t recall my father ever expressing anything that resembled an emotional need. I saw it plenty in my mother, but never my father. My father was the emotional rock upon which our family was built. His emotional stoicism gave me a sense of safety and protection. He never demanded that we respect him; we just did. And, I never, ever doubted his love for all of us. I grew up believing that men had to be strong and, to be strong, we had to either control or deny negative emotions.
So, when I got married and found myself at times hurt by my wife’s behavior, I didn’t know how to handle it. In fact, even now, 30+ years later, I feel like a wimp even typing that I I found myself being hurt by my wife’s behavior. Real men don’t let themselves get hurt. We plow through the pain, deal with it in our man-cave, and get on with life and get the work done.
That was the attitude I had throughout the first 20 years of our marriage. I spent a lot of those years feeling disrespected (with no such intent on my wife’s part), and blaming myself for having a “typical male ego” (said with the obligatory eye roll). When my wife hurt me, I would hold the pain inside and try not to let it show. I felt that, if she saw me in pain, she would respect me even less (I could have never articulated that sentence at the time, but that is how I felt).
I couldn’t have said that being respected was my greatest emotional need, because I just wasn’t that much in touch with my own emotions, but I knew that I felt better about myself at work than I did at home. I then came upon Eggerichs’ book and, the light dawned on me. For the first time, I read a book that even acknowledged that men have emotional needs. I didn’t know that was possible, nor did I think it was at all manly. I did not believe then, and even struggle to believe now, that a woman could respect a man who had emotional needs or who couldn’t deal with his own emotional pain.
So, I owe Eggerichs an enormous debt of gratitude for helping me put words to the feelings I had felt for decades. And, my marriage is better for having read his book.
How interesting. Those messages are not the same as what many others received. We definitely have our own backgrounds and lenses for perceiving what we see, experience, and read.
Thanks for the thoughtful and well-considered post, J.
Almost any marriage teaching blows up when there is a lack of good will between spouse’s. I believe in most marriages that’s not the case.
I’ve read Eggerichs’s book several times and on balance I think he does a good job depicting the differing needs and wiring of men and women, even if his word choice and examples are awkward at times. As with any generic marriage advice, it can’t possibly account for every couple’s situation, but I believe the core principles are sound and biblical.
Strong’s defines the Greek word for respect (Phobeo) as “to reverence or treat with deference.” For most men, love is best expressed as respect, just as for many women love is best expressed as affection and care. Should respect be unconditional? I think a respectful (ie honoring) attitude should be the norm for all martial interactions, just as love should be the basis and motivation for all actions. Yes, of course both men and women need both love and respect, but I’ve seen strong evidence to suggest that they don’t carry the same weight for the majority of men and women. Majority, is not universally.
I don’t understand at all those who make the case that the book advocates abuse. I know abuse exists and is it’s horrible when it happens, but I don’t like it when people’s whole marriage theology is based solely or mostly around abuse prevention. Marriage theology should be based on the Gospel. To me that means love and grace at its core.
I wouldn’t defend every statement in the book (or any book but the Bible for that matter), but I don’t hesitate to recommend Love and Respect to couples.
When I first saw J’s post, I was taken aback that some folks were suggesting that the book could be used to justify abuse. I just never saw it when I read it many years ago. But, then I remembered that a pastor friend of mine has (mis)used the Bible itself to justify his own emotional abuse of his wife. So, I guess any book can be misapplied.
I re-read this book 3 months ago since I hadn’t read it in over 5 years & had forgotten most of it. What struck me the most about it was how poorly written it was. Maybe I just couldn’t see the forest for the trees & just got stuck in that rut, but I literally couldn’t glean much else from that second reading other than how poorly written & repetitive it was (the whole time I was basically saying to myself “OMG! Get to the point already! Stop repeating yourself!”), and how hung up the author was on specific gender roles concerning respect & love. In our marriage, my husband is more stereotypically “feminine” (emotional, talkative, etc) while I’m more “masculine” (high-drive, goal-oriented, etc). He definitely needs respect, but he also needs love, just as I need his respect and love. After re-reading, I’ve concluded that love and respect go hand-in-hand for both spouses in a marriage. I don’t think either spouse can truly love their spouse if they don’t respect them, or respect their spouse if they don’t love them. The two are mutually inclusive.
@CS, I hear you. You also say that if your wife is angry it is essentially your fault because if you had been more loving and tried harder the situation wouldn’t be what it is. That is sort of the message that love/respect promotes, that if we only loved and respected our partners more, our marriages would be so much better, and our spouses would be happy. Though I feel in general the messsage if you only respected your husband more is pushed to woman more.
@Scott, I don’t feel the book is generic at all. It assumes most problems are about love/respect, particularly respect. It has a stereotyped view of the pink/blue dynamic. Eggerichs also assumes women don’t work outside of the home, or if they do this is a matter of choice rather than economic necessity.
Pingback: My Thoughts on Love and Respect: Part 2 | Hot, Holy & Humorous
WHY ARE THERE SO MANY MEN COMMENTING ON THIS?? ARE THE MAJORITY OF YOUR READERS MEN?
Nope. At least, the last time I looked it was like 65-35 women to men. I’ve concluded that men are generally more likely to conclude they have something worth adding and thus comment. (See Wives, Why Aren’t You Commenting?)
But this would be a great place for you to leave a comment about the content of the post, thus adding to the female voices here. 🙂
I think you are doing an excellent job with this series, and I’m looking forward to reading the last one. I read the book twice. When I asked my ex-husband to read it, he said the portion on respecting husbands didn’t even resonate with him. I do remember thinking that the ways the author said to show love to a wife seemed pretty right on for me.
A problem I see is that so many people fail to do their own Bible study and take books like this as the only gospel truth. This author says women need love more than respect, so many people believe that without looking at other Scriptures or introspection. But husbands are commanded to honor their wives. The Greek word for honor is the same word that’s used for “glory, honor, and praise.” Pretty big deal! And in times of reflection have discovered that my ex-husband’s lack of respect was a bigger issue than his lack of love. I mean, without respect, there IS no love.
As for the book not promoting abuse, I sort of agree, from what I remember. But there is a huge problem. If a woman is in an abusive relationship, and she is trying to follow the book’s advice, it won’t get better for her. She will only take on more responsibility for the toxic situation, and she won’t get help. Heaven forbid she tell anyone he is abusing her, because that would shame him, the ultimate disrespect!
Yes, I wrote a post not long ago about how to read a marriage book, and one caveat is that most marriage advice does not apply to those in abusive situations. Eggerichs himself says that, but sometimes hear these messages or read the book without understanding that important point.
Pingback: My Thoughts on Love & Respect: Part 3 (Sex) | Hot, Holy & Humorous
Pingback: A Loveliness of Links ~ July 2019 | The Forgiven Wife
Pingback: 10 Takeaways from the Spark Marriage Conference | Hot, Holy & Humorous
Thank you for all you do, I am a guy who has appreciated your blog for several years.
This is a hugely complex topic: 1) Virtually every “good-willed” spouse is also guilty of “Normal Marital Sadism” according to Dr. David Schnarch, 2) Physical abuse by the wife occurs even in homes who espouse the husband’s headship, 3) wives with a Cinderella Complex create patriarchal relationships while killing killing sex and passion.
The journey that my wife and I have been on the last four years (been married 41 yrs) has taught us that we both need to have a solid, secure Self that is differentiated from each other in order to be both connected to each other and capable of self direction. A solid secure Self includes a sexual self, even an erotic Self. Unfortunately, our Christian culture has taught us that it is selfish to develop a solid secure self that is differentiated from our spouse. As it turns out, those without a solid, secure self are the most selfish of all. I was living proof!
A Christian counselor wisely told me that until I develop a healthy “I” and until my wife develops her healthy “I,” we had no hope of having a healthy “we.” It has been four years since we heard that. We’re still working on it but we are both grateful for the progress.
I find it so sad that many Christians have been taught such things. I grew up in the church, and while I heard a lot of bad messages, I also heard that you had to be a full person in Christ before you can successfully join with another in marriage. That is, the equation isn’t 1/2 + 1/2 = 1, but 1 + 1 = 1.
Glad you found the answers, and here’s hoping that we get that equation across more and more each day!
Comments are closed.