A Letter Explaining Concerns about Love & Respect

After writing my series on Love & Respect, many people asked how they should approach churches or organizations that offer the book as a resource. How can they explain why the book is problematic?

To help, I’ve written a letter which you can use and adapt as you see fit.  I suggest that you copy and paste this text into an email, and then also attach the report on Love & Respect that we created, which gives voices to the women and couples who were hurt by the book.

(You may need to change the wording in the first few paragraphs to reflect who you’re sending the letter to).

If you share this with any big churches or big parachurch organizations or media companies and you get a response, I’d love to see it. Just email it to me here. Thank you!

I am writing to express some serious concerns about the Love & Respect resources that [THE CHURCH] is offering.

I want [OUR CHURCH] to be a place where marriages thrive, and where we “spur one another on to love and good deeds.” I want marriages to point people to Jesus.

Unfortunately, I believe that Love & Respect can be used to do the exact opposite. Though many say that they have been helped by the book, many also report that the book has made their marriages worse by taking away intimacy; enabling a husband’s selfishness; and even enabling abuse.

My concerns, while many, are threefold:

First, Emerson Eggerichs portrays sex in a very distorted way. He equates sex with “the husband’s physical release”, taking away the mutuality and intimacy that God designed for sex. He never says that sex is supposed to be for the woman’s pleasure as well. He also never gives any reason why a woman may be permitted to say no, including nausea during pregnancy, hurt after an affair, hurt after abuse, vaginismus or pain during sex. Indeed, he says that men experience sex as respect, and that women must give men unconditional respect, even when their husbands are “drinking or straying” (from page 88).

My second issue with the book was how Emerson Eggerichs defined respect—or rather how he didn’t. He says that men need unconditional respect, and that women must speak respectfully, but he never defines either thing. We are left to infer from his anecdotes what he considers respectful. And what we learn is that a woman should not bring up big problems in the marriage, except by speaking one to two sentences, every few weeks. She should not question her husband. She should simply follow him.

There is nothing in this book about healthy boundaries. Nothing about pointing your husband to Jesus. Nothing about ironing sharpening iron. In fact, the book gives husbands permission to define anything that they do not like their wives doing as “disrespectful” (and the examples that Emerson Eggerichs uses of his own marriage are very illuminating and distressing in this vein).

I believe that this book lends itself to justifying emotional and spiritual abuse of women.

Third, Eggerichs takes Jesus out of the centre of the marriage and puts the husband there instead. He tells women that they are easily deceived, and thus should not listen to their inner voice (in essence, the Holy Spirit) and should instead obey their husbands. However, the Bible says that women are not saved through their husbands, but through their relationship with Jesus, and husbands are not women’s mediators (1 Timothy 2:5). Paul also says in his letter to the Galatians:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! (Galatians 1:6-9)

No matter what you think of its marriage advice, I hope we can all agree that any book that tells women to ignore the voice that may be coming from God and instead obey their husbands is spreading a false gospel to women, and is the exact antithesis of the teaching of multiple stories in Acts chapter 5.

All three issues are fleshed out more in the following blog posts:

When this blog series ran, the author analyzed all the readers’ comments that she received, and put them into a report, which I will attach here. I ask you, humbly, to read it and pray about it. Please listen to these women’s voices as they tell how Love & Respect affected their marriages.

I understand that many couples have been helped by the book. But just because some have been helped does not compensate for those who have been hurt. In medicine, if a drug helped, say, 70% of people but seriously harmed 30%, that drug would be off the shelves in a heartbeat. There are many other good marriage books that build marriages up; we do not need one that harms so many.

Thank you for listening to my concerns,