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,