This has been a huge week on the blog as we end our year-long look at Love & Respect.
And, as promised, today I want to share your comments and pass the torch to you all, so that you can continue the work.
I was so encouraged by how many comments came in this week, especially after the open letter to Focus on the Family about Love & Respect. I’m going to feature some of them here–but please know that if I don’t feature yours, it’s not that I didn’t appreciate it! I’m just pulling out different ones that show different things.
Boundaries work; unconditional respect and coddling does not.
Many, many women (and men!) told stories about how confronting their husband and standing firm is what actually changed their marriage, not showing “respect” in the way Eggerichs instructs. I love this, because it’s exactly how I opened the week with our Iron Sharpens Iron series: Confronting your spouse is not a sin! And as we continue that series in the next two weeks, we’ll get even more practical.
This comment sums up the whole week in three quick sentences:
“Respect” that enables sin is not actually respect at all!
Years of “respect” did not motivate my husband to seek help for pornography addiction.
Setting firm boundaries did.
And this one tells a very similar story:
I came to Christ later in life and was eager to do things the “right” way. I looked to resources such as “Love and Respect” to teach me how to be the perfect Christian wife. When I recoiled from messages about submission and silence I assumed it was my fleshly, sinful nature that needed subduing. I realize now it was the Holy Spirit in me that was recoiling from unbiblical teaching. Thank you for teaching me that I have the Holy Spirit in me just as much as any so-called Christian writer. My husband recently told me that if I hadn’t taken such a direct, assertive, take-no-prisoners approach to his drinking early in our marriage that he would most certainly have ended up unemployed, in jail, estranged from our children, etc. And I had always thought I had mishandled the situation because I hadn’t been more of a doormat. It turns out if I had followed Eggerich’s advice my husband would’ve been lost to alcoholism and our family would’ve been destroyed. Instead, my husband is now an amazing (and sober) husband and
So happy for her! Here’s another:
I read Love and Respect with my former fiancé when I was younger, and we were working through some issues. He was struggling with a serious mental illness, refusing treatment, and treating me more and more poorly as our engagement progressed. This book had the effect of gaslighting me so terribly – making both of us believe any issues we were having were primarily my fault for not respecting his decisions. Also, he began interpreting my disagreement about anything as disrespect as well, saying that I was challenging his biblical mandate to lead. Two weeks before the wedding I called it off – best and bravest decision I’ve ever made. Afterwards I went to counseling to work through what I would now consider spiritual abuse that resulted from this book, which weaponized my faith against me in the relationship, using the Bible to suggest I should continually submit to a man who was harming me. I’m now married to a wonderful man who has never treated me as less than his equal – who listens to me, respects my boundaries and believes I am also worthy of HIS respect. The best relationship decisions of my life required defying all of the messages I received from this book. I have no doubt that the marriage I was getting ready for based on the principles of this book would have crushed my very soul. So grateful that you are speaking up about the damaging messages it holds!
I publicly repent for my part in bringing a Love and Respect study to my former church 12 years ago, and I am so deeply sorry for the damage that may have caused to my friends. L&R definitely perpetuated destructive patterns in my marriage. Now that my husband and I are egalitarians — treating each other as equals — we are creating a healthy culture in our marriage.
My husband and I concur that L&R is not truly helpful and we have seen it be hurtful to multiple marriages. I cannot recommend it and have apologized to some who read it because of my suggestion. I don’t remember every person, so please consider this my public apology. Even if this book isn’t straight up hurtful (……..), there are so many truly balanced options out there that hearing his lop-sided opinions isn’t necessary. Also! Using one’s professional expertise and training in the negligence and harm of others makes one an accomplice! Psychotherapeutic malpractice, in this case.
I want to lend my voice.
I publicly repent of recommending Love & Respect from the stage at marriage conferences when I hadn’t even read it (I believed the hype that it was good). I publicly repent of quoting Eggerichs in some of my posts and in my book without having read the whole book. It was irresponsible and wrong, and I am doing my best to make up for it now.
Speaking up about this actually BRINGS people to Christ.
I’d love to write more about this phenomenon soon, but I want people to truly get this: Millennials and Generation Z are fleeing the church in droves, and a lot of it is because of toxic teaching like Love & Respect. This comment was my favourite from the whole week. This is why I do what I do. Kristen, I’m glad you’re here!
I am a single twenty-something with a complicated relationship with the church. Though I do not profess to be a practicing Christian currently, there are times when I consider returning. However, I cannot abide toxic and/or legalistic teaching. And as for the view of marriage presented in Love & Respect? If that’s what a Christian marriage looks like, count me out.
Sheila, I know I’ve said this before, but your blog is one of the few remaining things in my life that keeps me remotely tethered to the faith of my upbringing. You and your crew give me hope that I might return to it one day.
Focus on the Family, you should be ashamed. If Eggerichs’ view of marriage is what you truly endorse, then let me tell you that it’s not a pretty picture, and it certainly does not show the ideal of Christian marriage in a good light. I’d rather be single for the rest of my life than to enter the kind of marriage that you endorse by continual promotion of Love & Respect. And I do NOT say that carelessly. If you wish to have any type of positive witness in contemporary society, you are doing it wrong!
I’m Passing the Torch; Now it up to You to Speak up About Love & Respect
Sometimes it seems daunting. We know something HUGE is hurting people, but we’re small. We don’t have a big platform. What can we really do? And yet, I’m amazed at how God routinely uses the “foolish things of the world to shame the wise.” (1 Corinthians 1:27). That’s not say that we’re foolish–but in the eyes of the broader Christian machine, we’re small. We’re unimportant. And yet God is using us.
God used David to bring down Goliath. And God can use an army of men and women who are committed to Him and who refuse to listen to bad teaching to change the broader church’s direction on marriage. All you have to do is speak up where you are, and there will be a tipping point.
Here’s the comment I woke up to yesterday morning which made me happy for the whole day:
After sharing your post yesterday, I heard back from multiple pastors who agreed that this book is problematic. Some looked into it for the first time, but no one gave pushback defending it especially after reading the post. My current pastor decided against using it for our next marriage conference. That’s a win.
I also heard several stories from women (some who I hardly knew) who got peace yesterday that they weren’t the problem—as they were led to believe when their small group did this book. Love & Respect has left a trail of devastation in marriages. Your post helped bring healing.
She simply shared and spoke up. Didn’t take very long. But it made a big impact–and healed some women’s hearts, too! Another woman wrote this on Facebook:
I have just shared this with a leader of a group I’m apart of that strongly recommends this book. Thank you for putting my feelings into words for me.
And then a few minutes later posted this:
I’m happy to report that she actually feels the same way and recently sent her thoughts to the pastoral leader of the group as well.
We’re making a difference! YOU can make a big impact, too, where you are, and it doesn’t take very long. And here’s how:
1. Leave a comment on the Open Letter to Focus on the Family
If you agree, and you haven’t commented yet, please do so, even if it’s just to say, “I agree and stand with Sheila.” The more comments that post has, the more credibility we have! (Can we get it to 1000 comments? That would be AMAZING!).
2. Speak out if you notice the book on a friend’s bookshelf.
Don’t be mean about it; ask them what they thought of the book. Then you can contribute some of your own thoughts–“I found that his take on respect was very problematic and could hurt people”; or “I found it very problematic that in his sex chapter, he said that sex is only about the husband’s physical release, and never once, in the whole book, mentions women’s sexual pleasure.” Then mention that it’s been found to be the most harmful book by Christian women, and offer to send her some articles about it.
3. Speak to your pastor/women’s group leader/church librarian if the church is hosting a Bible study or if the church carries the book.
Share any of my articles with them (the open letter to Focus on the Family is the most comprehensive), or you can share a letter i’ve prepared. I also have a summary page of issues with Love & Respect that you can share with people. The thing to keep stressing is how much the book enabled abuse. Let’s keep the focus on the harm that it has done, not on doctrinal differences.
God used David to bring down Goliath. And God can use an army of men and women who are committed to Him and who refuse to listen to bad teaching to change the broader church’s direction on marriage.
4. Suggest other resources to study
Love & Respect is not the only marriage book out there–there are plenty that are better! Here are just a few that I would suggest that make awesome studies: How We Love by Milo and Kay Yerkovich; Boundaries in Marriage by Cloud and Townsend; When to Walk Away by Gary Thomas; Love in Every Season by Deb Fileta. For women’s Bible studies, I also have 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage with videos for 6 week studies or 8 week studies, and they’re free! Find them here.
Instead of Mothers and Sons (Eggerichs’ new book on mothers respecting their sons), look at Rebecca’s book Why I Didn’t Rebel (which is far better), or, for younger children, check out Discipline That Connects with Your Child’s Heart from Connected Families.
5. Share the Open Letter wherever you can
Share the letter on your social media to alert other people to the problems with Love & Respect and with Focus on the Family. And if Eggerichs is speaking at your church or one near you, share the letter on your social media, or share it with local news media so that they know what is coming.
6. Leave a review of the book where appropriate
If you have read the book (don’t just take my word for it; it should be an honest review), then leave a review wherever you can and warn people what’s in it.
Are you PeaceKEEPING or PeaceMAKING?
7. Let Focus on the Family know how you feel.
Especially if you have been a donor in the past, or are reconsidering your donations now, send them a note. (Writing to them when you have never been a donor/listener isn’t as effective). If you receive emails from them promoting Love & Respect or Eggerichs’ new material, Mothers and Sons, reply and ask them why they have not responded to my letter (and include a link).
8. Apologize to any people that you may have encouraged to read Love & Respect
Like the apologies I noted above, this can go a long way. Check back in with any who were in a Bible study you led, or any you gave the book to. Make sure they’re okay. And share the open letter with them so that they recognize the problems. Apologies give others permission to question what they’ve read as well. This whole big series and big year has been me trying to apologize and make amends for recommending it in the past without doing due diligence.
9. Dispose of the book wisely.
Don’t donate the book where others may get a hold of it. Cut up the pages and put it in recycling (we can do that here in Canada), or cut it up and put it in the garbage.
10. Continue the work critiquing Love & Respect
We have not yet taken a look at the Mothers and Sons curriculum (I’m kind of scared to, actually; I’m afraid it will send me in another major funk), but it’s being promoted VERY heavily by Focus on the Family right now. (If you have it, I’ll pay you for it and pay for postage if you want to get rid of it! I just don’t want to buy it myself. So let me know!). But if you have it, and you’d like to write a review of it, I’d be happy to link to it.
There are also some studies that would be worth doing with Love & Respect to get some more data. For instance:
- In the parts of the book where it’s addressed to BOTH the wife and husband, how many paragraphs does he spend telling the wife how to shape up vs. the husband?
- If you have the DVD series, how many minutes does he spend explaining what the wife is doing wrong vs. what the husband is doing wrong?
- In the book, list all of the things that the wife does which he considers disrespectful, and then group them. For instance, it seems to me that he consistently labels her simply expressing her opinion or her feelings as being disrespectful. It would be great to have a list of all of the things that he labels disrespectful. Again, then I could put it up on the summary page about Love & Respect so it’s all in one place.
Some of these would make an awesome thesis for someone in seminary, too!
I just don’t have time to do these things, because I’m working on writing my own book. But if others wanted to take over the work, I’d be happy to serve as a repository for it. If this seems like overkill, remember: this is the second best-selling Christian marriage book of the last 15 years. It is the most commonly studied book for marriage Bible studies. If we are going to reach a tipping point where people will recognize how toxic this is, we need to be as thorough as possible.
So I hand the torch to you, and I’m excited to see what God will do with an army of people wanting to see Jesus put first in marriages once again!
See what else we’ve written on Love and Respect:
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