Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs was a book my command chaplain gave me when I first sought marital counseling before Julie and I were married (which should give you an indication on how long ago I read this).
The book is based on Ephesians 5:22-33: “22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.[a]28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”
Eggerichs bases his book on the foundational premise that love is the critical need most wives have, and respect is the most critical need most husbands have. I personally agree with this general term. Yes, some husbands crave love more than respect, and some wives crave respect more than love.
However, in my own experience, I get the most frustrated with Julie when I feel disrespected. This happens when I feel undercut (something I tell my boys is subverted by something she said), or when I feel contradicted. I’ve never for one second felt unloved.
I also know Julie is most frustrated with me when I’m unloving toward her, which is usually right after I feel disrespected. I can also be inattentive. I’m a task orientated person, and I don’t consider, “Give Julie some snuggle time,” a task. This isn’t because I don’t love her. It’s because I don’t think of it as work, so I don’t mentally put it on my to-do list.
This book gave Julie and I a base to start from. We typically have conversations that cover how I felt disrespected or she felt unloved (or how she realizes she behaved disrespectfully, or I realize I was unloving).
The knock I have on this book is something I feel important to discuss. It’s my belief that Eggerichs spent a great deal of time emphasizing the wife’s need to respect the husband. If I gave this book to my sister, she’d call Eggerichs a sexist pig. If I didn’t have the context I have (both through Bible study and conversations with my command chaplain) I’d probably agree with her.
I think the reason for this emphasis was something he mentioned briefly: Most husbands already know they need to be more loving. Most people readily discuss that as an area of improvement for men. However, Eggerichs’s claim is that it’s counter-intuitive for a wife to realize that she doesn’t need to love her husband more, but instead needs to look for ways to demonstrate respect.
But that statement already has a sort of negative connotation, so Eggerichs continued to try and explain the reasoning, which only (in my opinion) made the hole he’d dug himself deeper.
So, I’ll try to clarify a few things. First, a husband should always be loving. This is a command from God regardless of whether or not he feels (or even is) respected. A wife should always respect her husband. This is a command from God regardless of whether or not she feels (or even is) loved.
A husband does not have the authority to brow-beat (in any manner) a wife into submission any more than a wife has the authority to emotionally manipulate a husband into some showy demonstration of affection.
The most valuable part of the book in my opinion lies in the ways to show love and the ways to show respect. Another very close (if not equally important) part of this book was the way to address conflict. When Julie and I are at our best, we usually realize in the moment how we acted. There are several times when I’ve told Julie, “I’m sorry, Babe. That was unloving, and I don’t ever want you to feel unloved.” This is when I already realize I’d done something insensitive. The next best is when Julie mentions something bothered her. There are times when Julie immediately realizes she’d done something that made me feel disrespected.
To be honest, even that realization of how she made me feel is just so amazing to me. We’re not perfect. We probably get on one another’s nerves about once a day. Those don’t devolve into arguments. Having this basis, which helps me understand where about 90 percent of my frustration comes from, helps with our discussions.
From there, we talk. She’s probably not as big a fan of the conversations as I am. This is because she absolutely sees conflict or correction as negative. A lot of that comes from her previous marriage. But I work on staying positive and as loving as I can be. We’re at our worst when we’re venting our emotions rather than trying to understand or communicate.
The funny thing is, our biggest frustrations usually happen when we try to do something for one another at the same time, and those efforts done in love are in direct opposition to the other’s efforts. One time, I was just trying to come home and get something done. Anything! I’d had a day at work where I felt everything was futile. Julie in the meantime was trying to help set some stuff up to sell so we could attack our debt. So when I went in there to start chucking trash, she stopped me. I was trying to give her, her garage back, and she was trying to support our goal of being debt free. Those two actions were born of love, but happened to be in direct opposition.
We needed a bit of time to think as individuals, but then we came together to talk it through and try and see what was going on. Still, I’d say situations like that are the most common source of conflict. Imagine how great that is! Our biggest current issue is that sometimes the efforts we make to support each other conflict with other efforts we make to support each other.
I’d recommend this book to any married couple, but I’d make sure I stress that part about how often Eggerichs goes on about the wives needing to “understand.” I probably wouldn’t recommend this to any of my non-believing friends. Without strong Biblical context, I’m afraid wives will just feel like a man is trying to use God to bend them into submission.
For the record, all Christians should be submissive. Submissive to God. Submissive to authority. Submissive to law. This is not a gender exclusive issue.
Thanks for reading,
8 thoughts on “Book Review: Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs”
I read this book, several times actually. I don’t think Eggerichs really understands women. His point of view in the book is largely colored by the fact this a couple from the fifties where the woman stays home and the man is the sole provider.
He makes statements like a woman can choose between “pregnancy and promotions”, not understanding that many women have to work, and may simply a be a cashier at the grocery store standing on her feet all day with no real hope of a promotion. I’ve always worked either part time or full time in my marriage. At this point I will be working full time until retirement age.
A woman’s husband is painted in a supervisory role, working in an office, where the female employees respect him. I just point this out because not every man is a supervisory role where they are appreciated or respect. These narrow stereotypes in the book make the book useless if you don’t fit them.
The most bizarre parts of the book are when he practically brags that he and his son throw their wet towels on the bed and don’t bother to make sure a candy wrapper makes it all the way into the trashcan. And he makes it clear he doesn’t intend to change. My husband would have been shamed by his father for being a slob. My dad wasn’t the most helpful but he wouldn’t have purposely been a slob.
One gets the impression that his wife is very quiet and if she does anything beyond walking on eggshells that will be considered disrespectful. There is an example in the book where Eggerichs forgets his wife’s birthday. She brings it up in a respectful manner, but then he says later he felt disrespected by the conversation??
Respect is tremendously important to me. Deemphasizing a woman’s need for respect in not really helpful.
His forays into other Respect topics/books like telling a mother she must be very respectful to her son are really weird. I have a 17 year old son. Why would I be hyperrespecful of him but not my daughter. That he wrote this parenting book in addition to the marriage. book suggests he has another agenda
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I can certainly understand why you have that perspective, and it’s important to add your thoughts to the conversation. Even I noted some of the issues you bring up, and I don’t think this was edited very well. Whether it was poor editing or lack of understanding, I expect a lot of people feel as you do. I haven’t read the other books, but I’m sad to hear the trend continued. I still feel a lot of this was a result of overemphasizing one theme against the other.
I agree that it wasn’t edited well. If you took away some of the anecdotal stuff and decreased the length of the book I think it would be better received.
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I completely agree.
I just read and reviewed this book too. I appreciate your words of caution about it. You are more diplomatic than me. My review on my wordpress blog here: https://lightenough.wordpress.com/2019/06/27/love-respect-by-dr-emerson-eggerichs-book-review/ At the end of my review I highly recommend a different book about marriage – it is Making Marriage Beautiful by Dorothy Greco.
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Thanks for your thoughts, Matt.
I totally agree with you that while he may have found some truth in discovering that men has a different brain language than women…. he did dig himself a deep hole by trying too much to overemphasize unconditional respect. To the point where it makes him look like advocating for men more than women.
I also agree there are people I would not recommend this book to. I wouldn’t recommend this book to people in an abusive relationship.
I think in his thought model, there’s only one tweak I would make to his analysis of respect towards husbands.
Showing someone respect does not mean giving up the right to complain. We complain when our personhood feels violated and it’s natural to do so.
To be fair, he writes many times that when a wife is criticizing or complaining, she isn’t trying to be disrespectful but just trying to fix the problem, be closer to her husband, and feel loved.
However, all that gets overshadowed by the emphasis that men hears complaints as contempt. I would argue that even the suggestions he gives in his appendix C is still a complaint, but just presented in a much softer/gentler way.
The solution almost sounds like “Don’t complain at all to him so he wont feel disrespected because he will see your unhappiness as disrespectful.”
I completely agree with him that nobody likes to be approached by being criticized or yelled at and therefore we should always watch how we express our frustrations. However, I would caution writing of complaints as all negative (from wives) and focus more on learning to see complaints as a human cry that something is hurting. Like others ahave noted, this just makes wives feel like they have to walk on eggshells and that they can’t express any discontent at all.
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By the way, to support my thoughts, I’d like to share that another blogger name Susanna Krizo (http://keepingthegood.blogspot.com/2011/09/love-and-respect-by-emerson-eggerich.html?m=1) reviewed the book too and shared Gottman’s real thoughts on complaining:
“According to Gottman, complaining is one of the best things a couple can do, for it allows the couple to deal with their problems instead of suppressing them. But the crucial difference between complaining and criticism is that whereas complaining is about airing grievances, criticism is an attack or an accusation which will quickly lead to contempt on both sides. “
Those are well thought and presented comments. I really appreciate it. I’m in complete agreement. He did indeed dig himself in a hole. I was in a very open frame of mind when I read that book, and even then I kept thinking, “Yeeeeah, I’m not going to hand this book to any of my sisters.”
I think I’d prefer to say communication is critical, but it must be done with as much love, respect and patience as possible.
I don’t care how I frame it. My wife loves me! If I say anything negative, she (because of previous relationships) hears it as accusation. So I have to work very hard, and we’re human. Sometime I lose my temper or she gets frustrated, and even a look can offer 1,000 words. So the truth we hold on to is that we love each other. That usually keeps the communication productive.
So I did learn from the book even if it wasn’t framed in a balanced manner.
Thanks again for sharing.