This has been a wild week on the blog as we have looked at Love & Respect by Emerson Eggerichs, one of the best selling Christian marriage books.
I intended originally to write only a post about how the book approached sex, but the outcry was so immense that I decided I had to look at the book’s arguments as a whole. I didn’t intend to devote a whole week to this, but obviously it struck a chord. And so I’d like to make this post a repository for the hundreds of comments that have come in over the last week. I think it’s important for them all to be in one place. I can’t post them all–though I do appreciate them all–but I’ll try to give you a sense about what they all say. For reference, here are the posts from Love & Respect this week:
But first, I want to address a critique I’ve heard, and then I’d like to call us to something more.
This is not about me, or anyone else, misunderstanding Eggerichs’ points in Love & Respect
I honestly have not had very much pushback about my posts at all. In all of the comments, on all the platforms, only 11% were from people saying they liked the book, or telling me that my posts are unfair. Usually when I write a controversial post, the comments are about 50/50. That tells me that most people already realized there was something wrong with Love & Respect, they just needed words to express it.
When people have spoken up, though, it’s been in an attempt to clarify what Emerson Eggerichs meant. I’ve had people saying, “but he didn’t mean what you said!” or “you’re cherry picking.” Others have told me that if I just watched the DVD series I’d understand better. Others have suggested that I ask Emerson directly what he meant.
I believe that these people, though well-meaning, are missing the point. It’s not whether or not I’m mischaracterizing Eggerichs or misunderstanding him. It’s not even about me.
It’s the fact that all of these hundreds of women can read the book and see exactly the same thing that I did–and that these hundreds of women can say that the book contributed to very dysfunctional, if not abusive, patterns in their marriage.
Now, maybe Eggerichs doesn’t actually believe the things that I’ve said about his book. If so, then he didn’t write Love & Respect very well, because so many of us interpreted it the same way–in the way that hurt women.
Or perhaps his views have changed since 2004, when he wrote it. That’s wonderful!
But in both cases, the answer is not to say, “that’s not what he believes!” The answer is for him to withdraw the book and rewrite it to convey better what he does want to say. Or, better still, to take some time to reflect about how his views on marriage may not actually be biblical.
Because these women’s stories matter. You, my dear readers, matter. To say that there’s nothing wrong with the book is to say that all of these hundreds of women just misunderstood, which basically means “well, you’re too stupid to see what he was trying to say”, or else it means “well, if they had just done what the book said, they’d be fine, so it’s all their fault!”
No. When this many people read a book and get a terrible outcome, the problem is not that they misunderstood. The problem is the book. In medicine, if a doctor were to prescribe a drug that left even 30% of people harmed, but 70% of them helped, that doctor would cry to the rooftops to get the drug withdrawn. In this case, I think it’s far more than 30% harmed.
So what is the next step? What can we do about the harm Love & Respect is having?
As I mentioned in my podcast yesterday, what blew me away was that so many of you agreed with me. This is truly a case of The Emperor Has No Clothes. This book is a best-seller. When churches want to do marriage courses, they tend to turn to this book. And yet so many of us don’t like the book, but we don’t speak up because we assume we’re the only ones. We assume there’s something wrong with us.
After all, Focus on the Family publishes it. Everybody buys it. It must be good, right?
We must start using discernment. So here’s what I’d suggest:
Next time someone mentions the book, tell them what you think.
Don’t just nod or change the subject; let them know gently that you feel the book is harmful to marriage, and tell them why. Even send them these posts!
If your church wants to put on a Love & Respect study or a Love & Respect event, speak up.
Don’t just refuse to go but stay silent. Talk to the church leadership. I honestly believe that most churches do not realize what it is that they are promoting. My own church, which very much values women, has been running a Love & Respect study, and I’m going to talk to my pastor about it when he’s back from vacation. I know he would be appalled if I shared just Monday’s post with him, let alone the others. Speak up.
Remember there are other books.
Marriages will not fall apart if we stop using Love & Respect. If it’s helped some marriages, that’s great. But if it’s hurt a significant portion of those who have read it, then we need to find another book to study instead. For women, I’d recommend 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage.
Consider contacting Focus on the Family.
The book is published by an arm of Focus on the Family. Focus was under different leadership in 2004. I have been on the Focus show several times; I know the leadership. I have a very difficult time believing that they would condone what Eggerichs said about sex or the advice he gave to women in abusive marriages. One person left a comment this week saying that Focus on the Family sent a fundraising letter, offering to send them the book Love & Respect in exchange for a donation. If you get such an email, write back and tell them why that’s harmful.
It’s okay to speak up. You matter. Your dignity matters. Women matter. Marriages matter. And we all deserve more than this, but we will not get it unless we start demanding more from publishers, churches, and pastors.
And now I’d like to give all of you the chance to speak up. Here are your comments from this week about Love & Respect:
I was overwhelmed by how many comments were left, both on these posts and then on Facebook as well. And so I asked my assistant Joanna, who has a graduate degree that involves a lot of data analysis and statistics training, to curate them for me. So here’s Joanna:
I’m one of Sheila’s assistants and we’ve all had bees in our bonnets for the last week over this book. Sheila asked me to give a look through the comments to help curate them for this post. To organize them a bit, I chose to do a quick (and I do mean quick – my baby girl has had a fever for the last 24 hours so I’ve got a true need for speed) thematic analysis of the comments that were left on the blog posts for Monday-Wednesday, as well as the comments that were left on the first Facebook post Sheila put out about Love and Respect last week.
I put all of the comments into a spreadsheet and marked when they were posted, who posted them, and a few other housekeeping variables. Then, once I had it all organized, I created categories for the comment content (an example: “this book made my marriage worse”). When a comment had a particular theme included, I’d mark it. Additionally, as I went along, if I found a new theme, I added it to the list as well and then went back through if there were previous comments that also hit upon it. Comments, then, may be in multiple categories.
Obviously, the sampling for this exercise wasn’t done scientifically. But, despite our limitations, we did get an amazing group of comments and I think the themes that emerged were really powerful.
As I did my work, I found myself snuggling my little girl and promising that we at To Love, Honor, and Vacuum were working hard in the hope that, by the grace of God, the Church we leave to her is better than the one we inherited.
All right! Onto and upward to what we found!
The first major finding here is that the posts on Love and Respect have had huge responses. I ran a t-test on the results of the number of comments on these posts and on Facebook versus other posts in January over the years, and it was statistically very significant.
I want to show you the big picture findings of what people said, but then I want to include some comments afterwards to show you the breadth of hurt that people are experiencing because of the book.
The themes I identified (number of comments that hit on each theme and the % of all comments with that theme are in brackets afterward) were the following. Please note that numbers don’t add up to 100; people could be in more than one theme:
Here were the positive statements about Love & Respect (and again, many people were in both groups; only 25 people were positive):
- Love and Respect (book, classes, seminar, or some combination thereof) is/are a favorite of mine; I like it/them (16, 7.3%)
- Love and Respect was helpful to me (25, 11.4%)
Everybody else said very negative things about Love & Respect:
- Love and Respect contains bad theology or is unbiblical (25, 11.4%)
- Love and Respect made me feel belittled as a woman (8, 3.7%)
- Love and Respect made my relationship, or the relationship of someone close to me, worse (20, 9.1%)
- Love and Respect is dangerous and could facilitate abuse (27, 12.3%)
- Love and Respect drove me away from Christ (1, 0.5%))
- Love and Respect facilitated abuse or cheating (15, 6.8%)
- I threw away, considered burning, or burned Love and Respect (4, 1.8%)
- Love and Respect was supported from the pulpit or by pastors at my church, which was upsetting (17, 7.8%)
- Love and Respect was supported by my friends at church or by the lay leaders of my church, which was upsetting (7, 3.2%)
- Love and Respect makes love seem conditional, that’s wrong (3, 1.4%)
- My husband hated Love and Respect (1, 0.5%)
- I participated in a Love and Respect class or seminar and disliked it (4, 1.8%)
- Love and Respect puts undue pressure on women (20, 9.1%)
- Love and Respect is sexist, man-centric, and/or mysoginist (12, 5.5%)
- I felt something was off with Love and Respect, but could not articulate it (5, 2.3%)
- My spouse/fiance/SO used Love and Respect to manipulate me (7, 3.2%)
- Love and Respect relies too heavily on gender stereotypes (5, 2.3%)
- I am thankful for this post on Love and Respect (39, 17.8%)
- Love and Respect’s definition of respect is erroneous (13, 5.9%)
- Love and Respect misses the fact that both women and men need love and respect and/or presupposes that women give love and men give respect naturally (27, 12.3%)
- Love and Respect misses the fact that women also experience sexual desire and may in fact have a higher drive than their husband (12, 5.5%)
- Love and Respect misses the fact that women having sex to keep men from straying is wrongheaded, pressuring women for sex is sinful, and guilting or shaming your wife is inadvisable (19, 8.7%)
- I could not finish reading Love and Respect (12, 5.4%)
- I did not like Love and Respect (50, 22.8%)
That’s the view from 30,000 feet. But what did commenters actually say within the themes? We’ve included a bunch of comments so that you can see the scope of the responses we’ve gotten over the past few days. We can’t include them all, obviously, but we do value all that came in. These included stories from women, and a few men, whose marriages were deeply hurt by the teachings espoused in Love and Respect.
Theme: Love and Respect made my relationship worse
I first read Love and Respect back in 2011 after a pastor provided the book and DVD to me and my then-boyfriend while we sought counseling for our troubled relationship. He was emotionally demeaning and physically abusive toward me, and often used Love and Respect as a weapon against me when he felt I was being disrespectful. He claimed since he was the man (and the spiritual leader of the relationship should we marry) and I was the woman (and therefore easily deceived), that I should respect him and his desires even if that meant I lost something of myself in the process. He had rules for everything, and if I broke them, he would claim I was being disrespectful and withhold his love and affection as punishment (and even report to his family and friends that I was causing problems in the relationship). It was a highly abusive situation, and I’m so glad that God gave me the discernment and strength not to marry him!
Thank you for this. I’m so sick of seeing this book recommended. These teachings were toxic to our marriage (my husband was a very, very broken man – “basically well meaning” doesn’t even enter into the discussion. He’s slowly healing, though). I haven’t read the comments, so I may be repeating, but my take on this book was basically: if Emmerson wants it but doesn’t get it from his wife, it’s lack of respect or overt disrespect. If Emmerson doesn’t want it (like the issue of picking up wet towels) but does get it from his wife, he chalks it up to lack of respect of overt disrespect. He writes over and over, “I didn’t feel respected.” He paints himself a great, big carte blanche. It’s largely about him, and the wife and the unit is distant second or third. My husband began using this tactic w/ me. We were taught this in church by the elders. “This is the best teaching on the man/wife relationship I’ve ever encountered” they told us. So, thank you for speaking out. We desperately need this.
Love and Respect was gifted to us at our wedding. Being anxious to make a good and God-honoring start to our marriage, I started reading it shortly after we got back from the honeymoon. I was so disheartened by Eggerichs’ depiction of a marriage relationship. As I was reading I kept thinking if I had read this before I got married, I would have stayed single! I wish I had our first year of marriage to do over again. I resented my husband for letting me pick up the slack in multiple areas of our life. I sent mixed signals to my poor husband while I was trying to pretend everything was okay because a godly wife should always be positive toward her husband. Being the “neat freak” in our relationship, his story about wet towels on the bed hit so close to home that it made me want to cry. I was overwhelmed and disillusioned by my marriage. To be fair much of my struggle should be blamed on my own immaturity and not directly on the book. But, at a time I could really have benefitted from solid encouragement to start healthy conversations and open up to my new husband about my concerns in our relationship, Eggerichs’ book pushed for the opposite under the guise of biblical authority. Nearly everything you wrote in this review was exactly how this book [a]ffected me and there were several other issues you didn’t even have time to cover. (Thankfully my husband doesn’t hold to this definition of respect. He has since read sections of the book and groaned. I now tell my newlywed friends your communication can get better and don’t follow this book.)
I can’t thank you enough for this article. I was introduced to this book while going through a separation with my now ex-husband, and it felt so demeaning at the time even though I did try to read it with an open mind and heart because I wanted help for our situation. I kept questioning my reaction, wondering if I was just being defensive, but it just felt like I was being told that I had an obligation to have sex with him, in spite of the horrible way he was treating me and our children. He certainly used it in an attempt to pressure me into having sex with him, in order to “fix” our problems. Please forgive the graphic description, but having sex during this point of our relationship made me feel almost like a prostitute, except I wasn’t trading sex for money–I was trading it for momentary peace in our home. And then, because of this book, I was told that I was required to fulfill this marital “duty” because if I failed to do so, then I bore the blame not only for any sexual sin that was caused by his deprivation, but also for his treatment of me because he was only reacting to me withholding something I was required to give. I fully believe that this book is well-intended, but it caused great harm to me. At a time when I was vulnerable and wanted desperately to be obedient to God’s Word, yet felt that I had to do something to protect myself and my children, this book, and the discussion of sex it contains, were used in an attempt to guilt and manipulate me. I am so grateful to see someone trying to explain the fallacies in its approach, because at the time I was introduced to it, I couldn’t think clearly enough to articulate precisely why it troubled me. Please keep addressing this issue–I know I’m not the only one who has been in that situation.
I’m sorry to say that I read this book and followed the advice given for men. Wholeheartedly throwing myself into showing my wife “unconditional love” with the hopes of restoring our marriage. Unfortunately for me this meant turning a blind eye to increasingly destructive behavior, immorality, and even abuse. All with idea that if I just showed her more love, she would all of a sudden wake up and realize that she really wanted me. Of course this didn’t happen and I turned to tough love instead. This didn’t bring her back either, we are now separated and divorcing. But at least i’m not living in the barren wasteland of sacrificing everything for someone that has no intention of ever sacrificing self for me. Not what I wanted, but better than the alternative.
I’m blown away. I read this book early in my marriage and took it all in… I can see now that it was only by the grace of God I didn’t end up in an abusive marriage. But I can also see why I enabled my husband in some very bad sin habits for years. These books weren’t taught from the front of church, but they were sure touted amongst the congregation- a church that ended up being spiritually abusive. How easily we are deceived! Lord forgive us!
Thank you for your review, Sheila! I have read this book and was raised in a church and family where this was the thinking on sex. My husband and I are still working hard (and successfully!) after nearly 24 years of marriage to undo the mess left by these unbiblical ideas.
Thank you for this! I have never read the book but I did listen to Eggerich’s podcast 3 years ago which covered topic and from his book. At the time, I got the sense that something was wrong in my marriage but I didn’t know exactly what. I would try to talk to my husband about it but he thought I was just too sensitive or not seeing things clearly (turned out this was gas lightings). So I wholeheartedly threw myself into Eggerich’s “The Rewarded Cycle” (basically doing your part in the marriage knowing that God will reward you regardless your spouses response). In spite of my efforts my husband grew more emotionally AND sexually distant and I fell deeper into desperate attempts to follow “Christian” marriage advice which really just led me into idolatry with my husband happily enthroned as the god of our home. I came to find out that he has a porn addiction which was beginning to escalate as I caught him surfing Tinder for girls. And this was after years of trying everything in my power to get his attention, sexually or otherwise. It turns out the problem was never me, it was an addiction that he had struggles with since before we were married. He was all to happy to keep his addiction and be waited on and doted on as god of the Home while never being held accountable for his actions as a husband or father. And sadly it was “Christian” advice like this that kept me locked in a “This must’ve be my fault” mindset for years. I’m so grateful that God has brought clarity to the real issue and that he has provided experts in the area of sexual addiction to help get our marriage back on track. Thanks again for speaking out!
Theme: Love and Respect is dangerous and could facilitate abuse
10 years ago I attended a L&R conference in an attempt to help restore my marriage with a negligent husband. We had been married 2 years, I was early in our first pregnancy, and he was staying out until 4am four nights a week. What he got out of their conference was “Men and women are made differently and have different needs, therefore I am just fine the way I am. It’s wrong to tell me that my behaviour is wrong for a married man, because as a man I don’t need to conform to what women think is appropriate behaviour. If we are going to stay married, we don’t have to fit our marriage into a box, it can be whatever works for us.” So I had to leave, 5 months pregnant, and we were never able to reconcile. I had totally forgotten until now what role that L&R teaching played in our marriage deterioration. Like you said, a healthy marriage could read the book and understand the point is to be unselfish, but in our case it just affirmed his selfishness.
I often feel like a lot of marriage books are fine if they are read by a “normal couple”, two good intentioned , unselfish people who look out for each other. They get a totally different meaning out of it, because the husband wouldn’t dream of treating his wife inappropriately, so the wife thinks that these books are ok. I was in an emotionally abusive marriage, I read ALL THE MARRIAGE books, including Love and Respect. (My husband and I took the course together as well). Nothing helped. I tried to be quiet, submissive and respectful and yet I KNEW how awful he was treating me, so then we would often have big arguments where I would try to explain how I felt. And it never ended well… I needed to work on myself , but that was only to become stronger in my faith, to spend more time in the word and to not treat my husband like he was going to fulfill/ complete me. I had to separate from him emotionally to be able to see what needed to be done. I started SPEAKING UP! I started kindly saying my own opinion, what I wanted , stopped letting him taking advantage of me, and more importantly STOPPED FEELING GUILTY ABOUT IT. I stopped engaging / arguing but I also stopped being a [doormat]. In our marriage[,] all the typical Christian marriage advice [d]amaged us greatly, because there was never any incentive for my husband to change, it was always me trying to fix everything. Anyways, after counselling etc, we are doing very well, we are in love again, we are experiencing a marriage like God intended. I feel hopeful, and I wish more people in the church could understand and encourage couples to mutually love/respect each other.
Wow Sheila thank you thank you thank you for this post today!! I wish I could’ve read this post years ago when the message of the book caused so much pain and damage to me in my emotionally abusive marriage. God did show me over time how so much in this book was false…He strengthened me with truth over the years so I could eventually leave a marriage filled with alcoholism, emotional abuse, and adultery. But you know what’s amazing? Someone is going to read this blog post and your links, and they are going to have the truth all upfront! Books like this, and the lies throughout it, won’t be able to hurt them and their families. Thank you Sheila for shining the light of God’s truth in the world. This is SO needed.
Theme: Love and Respect puts undue pressure on women
Thank you for writing and sharing this one, too! What a horrible book!!! Years ago, when in the throes of my husband’s sexual addiction, which had starting progressing beyond porn, a marriage mentor at our former church made it all about respecting him. She told me I was fully responsible for making him feel 100% respected and like a man. As a result, I secretly worked through the book, “The Respect Dare,” which is all about unconditional respect (aka, being a doormat to abuse and having no voice). Over the next year, our marriage mentor asked at every meeting if he felt more respected and if I felt more loved than the previous week. He happily reported each week that he was feeling more and more respected, while I was becoming severely depressed each week as I was feeling less and less loved. He was reaping the benefits of “unconditional respect,” while still fulfilling his sexual needs outside of our marriage, ignoring and neglecting my sexual needs, emotional needs, etc., and being verbally and emotionally abusive to me. Practicing unconditional respect, especially while my husband blatantly showed no desire to behave respectably, nearly killed me. I became near suicidal from depression. Fortunately we’ve gotten away from that person, and that church, we have found good counselors and recovery groups, and he and I are both much better today. But I agree with absolutely everything you wrote here. The idea of unconditional respect is SO harmful!
I too was given this book because they felt it really helped them understand their husband’s needs…. ..but I never could finish it all the way, and was left feeling guilty and completely hopeless. I can not tell you what a relief it is to read these posts you’ve done on it. I know some people might feel like its nitpicking, but I so badly wish I had seen this back when I was feeling so hopeless, so full of guilt and sadness! I do want to say my husband has never been abusive and has always been loving and supportive, willing to try anything I thought would help…I think though, marriage retreats, and books I read fed me so many lies and I consumed them all, and allowed them ALL to be placed on me. I remember going to a marriage retreat once…and just crying and crying because I was filled with so much guilt and pressure to be “perfect “. We haven’t been to another one since. The thing that is so sad to me…is it is the women who WANT to be great wives who pick up those books, who take the advice to heart…and I feel in my case anyway..it does exactly opposite. I gave up on ALL books and advice for a long while before I accidentally stumbled on your FB page. They have been so helpful, and healing(along with other authors) and so totally mind blowing for both me and my husband. So thank you so much for being willing to take on the hard stuff!
Thank you so, so much for writing this series! My husband and I went through the the love and respect series early in our marriage and, after years of following this advice, it nearly destroyed me and our marriage. I was tired, resentful, and feeling unloved. This book taught me that, as the wife, I always needed to be the one to sacrifice, to “break the cycle”. You know how this makes women feel? As though our husbands will only love us if we give them what they want, which is exactly what Emerson endorses.
My church regularly offers marriage classes based on Love & Respect because, “husband’s really enjoy the course.” I left with some insight on how I can be unintentionally disrespectful, but mostly feeling an inch tall. Shortly after the last class, in the middle of an argument my husband said (kindly), “I feel like you don’t respect me.” I had been working hard to use a nice tone and focus on the issue at hand, so I asked back, “Do you really feel disrespected, or are you just upset you’re not getting your own way?” He thought about this for a few days and decided it was the latter. I grew up with my mother being a doormat in the name of respect and my father walking all over her in return, and so my husband knew before we married I would not tolerate being in a marriage like that.
Thank you for this Sheila!!! I 100% agree, this is very dangerous teaching. It belittles women and can break their spirits especially in abusive situations. This is how I felt when given this book to read during my abusive marriage. It simply reaffirmed what my abuser preached from sun up to sundown… I was the problem and the one walking in sin. Thankfully, a dear friend walked with me through leaving and healing. She helped understand that I mattered, that my feelings, thoughts and voice mattered. Sadly, I still hear this faulty teaching in churches. Someone close to me recently encouraged me to keep quiet about my concerns with my (new) husband because I was blocking what God was trying to do in his life. She told me that even though I had valid points and hurts I needed to put those aside for the “bigger picture” (that my husband is supposed to be the head and lead, so that my family will be blessed). I’m sure this person meant well. But I could not reconcile the notion that speaking up about hurtful things (being out down, having my feelings being dismissed as not important, etc) could be out of the will of God. After reading this post I see what bothered me so much. The advice given was very much what comes from Love and Respect– keep quiet and show respect. *Sigh*
Oh my goodness I’m so glad I’m not the only one! I tried to read that during an extremely difficult time and had to put it away. I already was feeling like a failure trying to carry a heavy burden, and the book made it feel heavier with every page. Matthew 11:28 “”Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”
Theme: Love and Respect drove me away from Christ
Thank you so much Sheila. I cannot explain to you how healing it has been to read your posts. I have stopped going to church mainly due to the issues you talk about. And I refuse to date Christian men because of this reason alone. I have had multiple male pastors and men in church treat me the way you speak about and teach these types of things. After I left a marriage where I was being treated this way, and was finally standing up for myself, I was actually accused by the male pastor of “leaving my faith” and that god had told him I needed to return to my husband. To which I replied “when I hear the same thing, I’ll be sure to listen”. Thank god I didn’t listen to him and go back or I’d still be in an abusive marriage. Thank you so much for shedding light on these topics that absolutely MUST be discussed. You are so brave. And I’m so grateful to be able to read your blog and see that I wasn’t crazy. That these problems are rampant in church and that they MUST be dealt with. It has been truly healing to read your posts and I cry, out of shear happiness when I read it knowing I am not alone and knowing that other women who are in similar situations also get to read these posts and hope that one day it might save them too
Theme: Love and Respect’s definition of respect is erroneous
So far as I can see, the dumbest thing about this is saying men respect naturally and need to be taught to love. Really? Never noticed that while caring for children. No matter the gender, children love naturally, but need to be taught what respect is and how to earn it. Age does not change this. Education and observation does. If a boy watches or hears his dad or other men treat women like plastic dolls, they’ll pick it up because they think these authority figures know how things work. Girls will do the same. And so it goes on for generations. Then those who know somehow that something is wrong but not what, get advice from books like this and the authority figures of the church, and the poisonous rot goes on.
The idea that love can be separated from respect is utterly ridiculous to me.
Also, reading the rest of your article and that awful story about towels, it appears this book promotes unconditional respect from women, but highly conditional *love* from men. He can’t even be bothered to ‘lie’ that he missed his own wife???? Awful!
Theme: Love and Respect misses the fact that women having sex to keep men from straying is wrongheaded, pressuring women for sex is sinful, and guilting or shaming your wife is inadvisable
Thank you, Sheila. It was through reading a different (negative) review of this book that I realized that I had been raped several times within my marriage. No wonder it’s so hard to trust or feel safe!
What you’re talking about is hugely important. I’ve been in therapy 4 yrs and [I’m] still struggling with guilt over whether or not I can say no to my husband re:sex. There’s an underlying lie that I’ve believed that tells me I don’t own my own body. Intellectually I know it’s garbage but a lifetime of messages teaching me how to be a “good wife” are difficult to disentangle. I keep telling myself I’m dishonoring God, myself, and my husband by having sex when I don’t want to (nearly daily). Maybe one day I’ll believe it.
Aside from the fact that it’s kind of hard to love a woman or meet her need for love if you show her no respect and treat her as a sexual object, making her responsible for your sin.
Hi, Sheila! I have been finding this series fascinating because I’ve been exposed to the faulty teaching for SO LONG. Interestingly enough, it hasn’t [a]ffected my husband- his response continues to be primarily Godly and unselfish. However, hearing continued teaching about “love” and “respect” did change MY view for the worse. I put expectations on myself for “keeping” my husband, rather than my seeking God. This has caused so many problems in our marriage, including my thought that sex had to occur so often (and it was up to ME to seek it) in order to keep my husband faithful. I remember having a conversation with a friend about the book where we discussed how men didn’t have any power over an urge to ogle a beautiful woman and how we needed to be available and try to look better (read: perfect) in order to keep them from looking. Wow. What pressure on ourselves when we try to constantly keep someone else from sinning. I love your straightforward approach in this piece to point us to the Lord and not to idolatry.
[“Y]ou are his release” This is just so gross and would make me feel deeply uninterested in sex! It’s like they are getting their ideas from porn, and considering how many men in church seem to have issues in that area it might be true. I wouldn’t trust relationship advice that refers to a woman as a ‘release’ not a person.
Theme: Love and Respect misses the fact that both women and men need love and respect
The oft-given explanation of the underlying verse for this book always cracked me up. “Women need to be commanded to give respect because they LOVE naturally, but don’t show respect naturally.” And conversely, “Men need to be told to love, because it doesn’t come naturally but showing respect does.” Ha! Talk about reading your own biases into that. Where, in the history of the world, are all these men who have “naturally ” shown respect to women?
I wonder how much of the “women just need love” stems from a deep-set, overarching, narrative in our churches and society at large that women are just not worthy of respect. When a woman gets overt and subtle messages that women aren’t respected for her entire life, then it’s not unexpected that she will reach adulthood and marriage just having given up on that as an expectation. So we tell women that they don’t get to be respected, and then we turn around and look at them and say “See? Respect isn’t important to women.” I think that’s what bothered me most when I read the book (many years ago), coming away with the idea that the author really believed a woman had zero need to be show respect as a person. That some warm fuzzies and emotional connection were the totality of her desire in relationships. I knew I wanted a man who would respect me (and I had one, he’s a great catch still!), but according to this book it meant I wasn’t in the category of “women.” I also have a higher sex drive, and that was apparently not in the needs I was allowed to have either. So I chunked the whole concept, which, it seems, was the far better choice.
Shiela, wow!!! I have been through a L&R conference when I was newly engaged. Even then I didn’t t get it. As a man I didn’t want my wife’s (fiance then) respect, I wanted her love. Even to this day I want her respect for who I am and what I do, not just because I am a man. Thank you for this honest review. I really enjoyed how [thorough] you were.
I have good friends that loved this curriculum and teaching. My gut response when they shared it with me was this: You know what men need? Love AND respect (and sometimes a good kick in the ass with solid boundaries). You know what women need? Love AND RESPECT (and sometimes the same reminder and boundaries). In other words, it’s not either/or, it’s both/and. We are brothers and sisters (and “one another”) before we are husband and wife. Let’s not ignore the totality of scripture that teaches us how to love God and one another in order to focus on one or two verses to develop a modern marriage curriculum.
This helped our marriage a little but I ended up throwing [t]he book out. I want respect too. Love = Respect.
Theme: Love and Respect is sexist, man-centric, and/or mysoginist
Thank you!! I have heard so many raving reviews about this book, but when I read it, it made me raving mad! Haha! He actually says it’s a sin for a woman to not meet all of her husband’s respect needs because God commands her to, and then says a man can never give his wife the love she craves because only God can fulfill that desire. Totally lopsided view of all marriage intimacy. His book was very obviously “for the man”. So glad someone else felt the same way I did!
I bought this book several months ago after it was recommended to my husband and I as a great tool for couples. I was so confused after reading the first couple of chapters, wondering why I felt like the book was written as an instruction only to the wife. It’s so sad that someone can use spiritually as a coverup for emotional abuse, and turn it into a best-seller.
And that’s it for now. I have so many more in a file that I could include, but this is already really long. I may one day put all the comments in a .pdf so that it’s shareable, because I think people need to see how much this book has hurt others.
Thank you for sticking with me this week and for your support. We’ll be back to regularly scheduled programming next week, and then I’ve got a lot planned gearing up for Valentine’s Day!
Any comments that you’d like to add to the discussion? Leave them here!
Other Posts in our Love and Respect Series:
- A Review of Love and Respect: How the Book Gets Sex Horribly Wrong
- Love and Respect: Why Unconditional Respect Can’t Work
- The Ultimate Flaw in the Book Love and Respect: Jesus Isn’t at the Center
- PODCAST: The Love and Respect Earthquake, Tidying Up, and More!
- Your Stories of Women and Marriages Damaged from Love and Respect
- Is It Okay if Christian Marriage Books are Just a Little Bit Harmful?
- An Open Letter to Focus on the Family about Love & Respect and Emerson Eggerichs
- PODCAST: Our Love & Respect Wrap Up
- I’m Passing the Torch on Love & Respect. 10 Ways You Can Pick it Up
Plus our Resource Pages:
Like this post?
Since posting these reviews of Love and Respect, many people have asked me how they can share their concerns with their churches and community.
We created a report of the hundreds of comments we received (including good and bad reviews) which is available to download together with a sample letter to send to churches.
You can download both and send them to whoever you think needs to read them here: