So the wet towels anecdote from Love & Respect has gone big on social media this week.

And I wanted to share it with you!

As some of you may remember, I’ve been appalled at what Emerson Eggerichs said in his book Love & Respect (again, the most used marriage study in North American churches) about how he would leave wet towels on the bed, and his wife would ask him to stop. When she went away for a week with their daughter, Emerson and his sons enjoyed having her gone, and he told her that when she returned. They liked not being reminded to clean up after themselves.

He told  her she was being disrespectful, and she learned her lesson and stopped asking.

I don’t know what made me think of this this week–I think someone sent me a graphic from their Facebook Page (I’ve been blocked, so I don’t see it), but I decided to post about it on social media.

And it went big, and I wanted to make sure you all didn’t miss it!

I started with this graphic:


Emerson Eggerichs Wet Towels

Can we PLEASE do something so this stops being the #1 used marriage study in North American churches?

This has to stop.

My ministry completely changed direction the day I sat down and read Love & Respect. Until that day, I figured, “I love Jesus, these authors love Jesus, we must all be saying the same thing!”

Nope. We’re not.

Love & Respect scored 0/48 on our healthy sexuality rubric, while the Gift of Sex by the Penners scored 47/48.

Definitely not saying the same thing.

On our survey of 20,000 women for The Great Sex Rescue, Love & Respect was named the most harmful resource.

Churches, we can do better.

See our open letter to Focus on the Family about Love & Respect to understand more of the problems with it (if the wet towels didn’t do it well enough).

I followed that up with a testimony about Love & Respect. 

On Tuesdays on their social media, they post a testimony of someone who benefited from Love & Respect.

Someone sent me last week’s (come to think of it, I think that’s what got me started on all of this this week!), and it said this:

“Love & Respect was revealing in our marriage. I thought my husband was the problem, when it was me that was the problem. I had to change me. I had to respect my husband and treat him the way he desires. I needed to submit to him the way Christ asks me to submit to Him. That changed everything!”

I asked on Facebook if anyone noticed any red flags with that, and we had a huge conversation!

On Twitter I also reminded people that Emerson Eggerichs thinks men have a need to be in authority over women:

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.

What would you have done with the wet towels?

Then I decided that it was worth a bigger conversation about how to deal with the wet towels. That conversation is still going strong as I post this!

So what SHOULD a wife do if her husband leaves wet towels on the bed and won’t stop?

For the last few days I’ve been talking about a ridiculous and infuriating part of the book Love & Respect, where author Emerson Eggerichs talks about how he left wet towels on the bed, his wife asked him to stop, and he felt this was disrespectful. The resolution was that she stopped asking.

On Instagram, I’ve had people tell me–“but she was in sin by nagging.”

First, nagging is not a sin. Second, it is not nagging to ask someone to stop doing something that is wrong.

But regardless, how else could this be handled? What are boundaries that she could draw with what she’s willing to do or put up with that can help this not become her constantly asking him to stop doing something childish.

Let’s brainstorm! I’ve got some ideas here, but I’d love yours in the comments.

1. She could put the wet towels in a pile on the floor on his side of the bed (leaving them on the bed, even if on his side, can make the bed mildewy and i don’t think that’s a good alternative).

2. They can buy different coloured towels so that it’s obvious which are his. She never hangs up his towels or washes them unless they’re in the hamper.

3. She can announce, “If you’re going to make the bed mildewy or gross, I’m going to start sleeping in the guest room.”

4. She can create a pile on the floor on his side of the bed where everything gets put–his dirty clothes; his clean clothes; anything he leaves on the floor. She can say: I’m happy to do laundry and put it away (assuming she does most of the housework), but I only do laundry that’s in the hamper.”

In other words, if your spouse leaves laundry and clothes all over the bed or the room, you do not have to clean them up. It is okay to say, “I deserve respect, and my work and time deserve respect.” So if you tend to do the laundry, you don’t have to do it unless it’s in the hamper.
What other ideas do you all have?

UPDATE: Many are saying she needs to be direct and likely get counseling. I completely agree–I’m just assuming that she has already been direct (“please stop leaving wet towels on the bed”). But I agree. That should be the first step, and this couple would desperately need counseling with a counselor who DOES NOT recommend Love & Respect.

Sheila Wray Gregoire


A couple of things I do want to say based on the conversation on Facebook.

If it was ONLY the wet towels, and it was just a small thing in marriage, it really wouldn’t have been a big deal. Rebecca’s writing more on that line in our weekly email that goes out today–make sure you’re subscribed!

The problem comes when this is part of a pattern of disrespectful behaviour on the part of the husband towards the wife, which this clearly is (since he labels her asking him not to do something unsanitary that ruins their bed as being disrespectful TO HIM, and he chronically ignores the request).

A few others were saying that what I was suggesting in passive aggressive. It’s not. It’s simply setting a boundary of what you’re willing to do. You may be perfectly willing to do laundry, but you may not want to be treated like a maid. So you’re not going to pick up stuff that people leave on the floor. That’s not passive aggressive; that’s a boundary.

And if you announce these and let him know, that’s honestly fine.

I also had a lot of comments along these lines:

I just can’t help feeling that if a marriage is like this—if the wife is having to decide how best to handle behavior that I personally wouldn’t tolerate in a 5-year-old…then is it really a marriage?? Or does she have an extra child, but one she can’t discipline, correct, or reason with? And why on earth would a man think this was attractive? What woman would want to have sex with a man who acts like a child?

Couldn’t agree more!

I think what makes me the most flabbergasted about the wet towels in Love & Respect is that Emerson Eggerichs seems to have no insight on how bad this incident makes him look.

Others have told me that in their video series they use this example too, and he’s very smug about it.

The complete lack of insight that this makes him look very, very childish is astonishing to me. Does he live in such a bubble that he doesn’t know that most couples actually expect to treat each other well, and for their partner to act like an adult?

The number of women commenting that he sounded like a child–and does he not realize that women don’t want to have sex with a man who is acting like a petulant child–was HUGE. That’s the primary response. We’re doing a series starting in October (we have others first in August and September) where I’ve got a bunch of new peer reviewed studies to share with you about how this type of attitude can affect libido within marriage for women. Women may actually have a strong sex drive on their own, but when they’re married to a man who is acting like a child, they have no desire for him. It’s fascinating.

I wonder if this is part of the reason that so many marriage books portray women as having no sex drive? When the books act like it’s okay for men to act like children, is it any wonder that women lose their libidos? Fascinating stuff.

Anyway, that’s it for this week.

I’ll continue my conversation about how to get things in place to make dealing with aging parents easier next week–and thanks to so many in the comments this week with some great thoughts! (especially appreciated Boone the lawyer with some good ones!). But I just thought you all should see the huge outcry on social media about the towels for now. It’s been quite the ride!

And now let me know what you think: What would you do about the wet towels? Why was he able to get away with this anecdote 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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