Has anyone noticed that the math in Love & Respect for how many people the book applies to doesn’t add up?

Joanna and her family are on their way down from the Arctic today to stay at my house for a week. They’re moving to Edmonton (it’s funny to think of Edmonton as SOUTH for them, but there you go), and they’re stopping by for a few days. We’re hoping to take the kids to the zoo and to some great hikes, because her kids have been cooped up for the Arctic winter.

While she’s here, I’m going to record some podcasts talking about the way that research is commonly handled in many books. I’ve been collecting lots of examples, and one of the basic ones I’d like to use is Eggerichs’ claims in Love & Respect about who the book applies to.

Emerson Eggerichs’ claim in Love & Respect is that men primarily need respect while women primarily need love. I’ve written at length about the problems with Love & Respect and why Love & Respect scored 0/48 on our rubric of healthy sexuality teaching, but today I just want to look at his claims at face value.

He bases his thesis for Love & Respect on two things:

  • A single Bible verse telling wives to respect their husbands and husbands to love their wives
  • A survey Shaunti Feldhahn did of just 400 men asking them if they would rather be “alone and unloved” or “inadequate and disrespected”

There is much to say about the problems with Shaunti Feldhahn’s survey question and methods, but let’s give her the benefit of the doubt for a minute and assume she’s right that if a man says he prefers to be alone and unloved that this means he wants respect over love. 

How many men chose this?


Okay, so already we don’t have 100% of men. But now, how many women say that they prefer love–like how many women say they would prefer to feel “inadequate and disrespected”?

Well, we don’t actually know because Shaunti Feldhahn never asked women. The whole “scientific” basis for his claim is an inadequate and confusing survey question given to just 400 men, and then assuming there’s a gender difference without checking. 

You can’t just ask men and assume that women would answer in the opposite way, but that’s what they did.

Again, let’s give them the benefit of the doubt.

Let’s assume that the same number of women want love as men want respect.

Do you remember back in grade school when you have to find the chance of something happening? You multiply the chance of one thing happening by the chance of another thing happening.

Until we figure out the chance of ONE PARTICULAR HUSBAND wanting respect being married to ONE PARTICULAR WIFE that wants love, 74% sounds pretty high. But let’s do the math and see what happens:


74% x 74% = 54.76%

So in our very best case scenario, this book only applies to 55% of couples.

But what if we ask women the same question that Shaunti Feldhahn asked men?

Even though Shaunti didn’t ask women, other researchers have (even acknowledging it’s a badly phrased question; they just wanted to see if there’s a gender difference). A Psychology Today article reports on a poll of 1200 women (so three times as many men as Shaunti Feldhahn asked), and in that study, how many women preferred respect?


So virtually the same. In fact, when they asked Harvard grads (of which Shaunti is one), 75% of women chose respect (even more than the men).

Okay, so a little bit more math.

If 65% of women want respect, then how many want love? 35%.

So let’s do the math again.

74% x 35% = 25.9%

This book only applies to 1/4 of couples, based on the survey question that Eggerichs used to support his thesis.

Even in the very, very best case scenario (which does not exist in reality), it only applies to just over half.

And Eggerichs should have been able to do the math to see that it only applied to just over half, even using the assumptions that he was using.

The math for Love & Respect doesn’t add up.

There are so many other things wrong with the book, and I’ve detailed them at length elsewhere. But I want to encourage us to get used to dissecting the underlying assumptions in the books that we read, rather than taking them at face value.

Emerson Eggerichs and Shaunti Feldhahn:

  1. Based a whole theology of marriage on something that only applied to 1/2 of couples AT BEST
  2. Did so using a bad survey question while only asking 400 men
  3. Assumed a gender difference without ever asking women

And somehow this passed muster and the book became the #1 used marriage study in North American churches. 

And no one pointed out–your basic assumptions are really faulty.

We have to stop letting things like this slide. They’ve done too much damage. And can we please, please learn some math?

What if you're NOT the problem with your sex life?

What if the messages that you've been taught have messed things up--and what if there's a way to escape these toxic teachings?

It's time for a Great Sex Rescue.

Math of Love & Respect by Emerson Eggerichs

What do you think? Why did his math go unchallenged for so long? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Founder of To Love, Honor and Vacuum

Sheila is determined to help Christians find BIBLICAL, HEALTHY, EVIDENCE-BASED help for their marriage. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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