Love and Respect: Why Unconditional Respect Can’t Work

by | Jan 15, 2019 | Resolving Conflict, Theology of Marriage and Sex | 152 comments

Emerson Eggerichs Love and Respect and Unconditional Respect
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Should you have unconditional respect for your husband, as Emerson Eggerichs claims in the book Love & Respect?

I was overwhelmed by the response to my review of Love & Respect’s sex chapter yesterday. Many of you asked for my take on the whole book, and not just the sex chapter. So that’s what I’d like to give today.

You know, the super embarrassing thing is that I actually gave this book a 4-star review on Goodreads a few years ago. Didn’t even remember that, except a commenter mentioned it yesterday (I changed the review). I did skim the book when it first came out, and to be honest, I assumed it was good. It was a best seller; it was put out by Focus on the Family. It was sent to me in a huge package of books when I started speaking at marriage conferences. I trusted the Christian publishers. I trusted the conferences. But now I realize that we all need to use a little more discernment. So let’s do that today.

Love and Respect: What does Unconditional Respect Look Like to Emerson Eggerichs?

As I looked at the book anew, the subtitle on the cover itself jolted me: The Love She Most Desires, the Respect He Desperately Needs.

It’s saying that men need respect–desperately–whereas women merely desire love. Whether intended or not, right from the start, the man’s interests in marriage are elevated over the woman’s. This continues into how Eggerichs frames the book (from the first paragraph):

Even though the book is written for couples, Eggerichs explicitly states that the aim of the book is to teach the wife to change to respect her husband so that her husband will love her. Changing her behavior is his focus.

I have much I could say about how we should never act one way in marriage for the purpose of getting someone to do something else. That’s manipulation, and it’s wrong. I could also comment on his premise that women really only need love and men really only need respect. He does give a caveat that both spouses need both love and respect (p. 47), but he gives no examples or instructions to husbands on how to respect their wives (he seems to imply that husbands do this naturally, going against all of human history). He also makes fun of the idea that women need respect, noting that the Aretha Franklin R-E-S-P-E-C-T song was actually written by a man, since a woman would never have thought of it, so I’m not sure how much his caveat he actually believes. 

I don’t have room to address everything today, so I’d like to focus just on the idea that women should be giving men unconditional respect.

Again, I do know that many people have read this book and found it helpful. Likely it reminded them that they should be thinking about what their spouse needed, and stop being so selfish. That’s always a good thing to learn. However, there are enough underlying problems with the book that I’d like people to reconsider it. While I already talked about my problems with how Love & Respect portrays sex, I’m also troubled by its take on respect.

How does Eggerichs define respect?

He doesn’t, actually. In the whole book, he never gives any succinct definition of respect. So let’s build up a definition using the illustrations and teachings that Love & Respect gives.

First, Eggerichs teaches that respect in marriage means allowing him to make the decisions.

He says love and respect are not the same thing; you respect your boss, for instance, but you don’t love your boss. (68). So the way we treat our boss is analagous to the way we should treat our husbands–we should do what they say.

Though he never defines respect, he does tell us what respect feels like to a husband. To do so, Love & Respect uses the acronym CHAIRS:

  • Conquest (appreciate his need to work and achieve)
  • Hierarchy (appreciate his desire to protect and provide
  • Authority (appreciate his desire to serve and to lead)
  • Insight (appreciate his desire to analyze and counsel
  • Relationship (appreciate his desire for shoulder-to-shoulder friendship)
  • Sexuality (appreciate his desire for sexual intimacy)

A big part of respect, then, is recognizing that your husband is in authority over you.

“How should a wife act if she strongly disagrees with her husband about some issue? 1 Timothy 2:12 has some advice. Paul writes, “I do not allow a woman to exercise authority over a man but to remain quiet.” (220)

You must allow him to make decisions and trust his intuition, rather than your own. Indeed, we have to do this for our own good, because women are far more easily deceived than men. The Serpent deceived Eve, and then Eve went and got Adam and gave him the fruit. (230).

Eggerichs completely misrepresented the Genesis story here, by the way, since the Bible clearly says that Adam was with Eve the whole time:

She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. (Genesis 3:6).

But nevertheless, Eggerichs feels that husbands are uniquely called to be responsible for the family, and thus we must allow them to make the decisions and defer to them, especially since we cannot trust ourselves.

Second, you respect your husband by giving them sexual release.

I talked about Love & Respect’s take on sex yesterday at great length. Men need physical release. They experience this as respect. If you don’t give it to them, they will be tempted to have affairs or to ogle other women.

Third, you respect someone by being quiet–no matter what

How you speak to your husband determines whether you are being respectful or not.

Look at these dichotomies Love & Respect sets up (these are just a few; throughout the book women are warned not to nag, scold, belittle, criticize, etc.):

“If you’re in a conflict and you remain respectful and quiet as you distance yourself a bit instead of preaching, lecturing or criticizing, what will he do?” (70)

“She can try to make personal adjustments and treat her husband respectfully according to what Scripture says, or she can continue with a sour look and a negative, disrespectful attitude.” (88)

So she’s either:

  • preaching, lecturing, criticizing, giving a sour look, or having a negative attitude; or she’s
  • treating her husband respectfully and remaining respectful and quiet.

Those are our only two options. And he uses expressions like “remaining respectful” or “speaking respectfully” throughout the book, over and over again, without ever explicitly explaining what they mean, as if that were just self-evident.

Now, maybe part of speaking respectfully is standing firm for what’s right, or refusing to enable sin, or expressing your concerns if you think he’s wrong. The only way we can know is to look at some stories and see what he instructs women to actually say. So let’s do that.

In the Appendix, Eggerichs helps a woman who is married to a workaholic deal with his hours away from home.

To influence him directly, respectfully say, “Your son (daughter, children) needs you at home more. You have a unique influence on him. In certain areas, nobody matters to him as much as you do. It may not appear that way to you, but your positive presence has the power to mold him. I know you are swamped and have little time, but I also know that you want to give him that part of you that no one else can give to him. Thanks.”

After delivering your “we need you at home more” message, don’t repeat it for anywhere from ten to twenty days. Then mention it again, quietly and positively with the general tone of “just a positive reminder because of your importance”….

Quietness shouts loudly. (316)

So in the Love & Respect world, “speaking respectfully” means that you may  very briefly state what you want, but you must then be quiet for several weeks before you can repeat anything like that again. And speaking a few sentences every few weeks are the only tools you have at your disposal to address your husband’s issues.

Fourth, you respect your husband by allowing him to do what he wants in your house.

There are instances when a woman may want something that is perfectly reasonable–something that, if a husband and children listened to her, would cause them to be less selfish, better people–something like not being slobs.

But in this case, it is better for a wife to continue to let her husband and sons be selfish than it is for her to allow them to “reap what they sow” and speak up about their selfishness and/or laziness.

We know this from Emerson Eggerichs’ own marriage, and I’m going to quote this story at length because it needs it. Speaking about his wife Sarah, Eggerichs writes:

As Sarah will readily admit, she recalls this time of tension between us and realizes that she had grown very negative, trying to change everyone to conform to her standards, particularly of neatness. She complained about every crumb on the counter, every shoe on the floor, every wet towel left on a bed, every candy wrapper that missed the wastebasket. She was trying to help all of us, especially me and my two sons, to realize we would be happier if we were neater and more organized. Frankly, it wasn’t working too well. (emphasis mine)

It so happened that Sarah decided to take a trip to another city to see her mother, and she took along our daughter, Joy. I stayed home with our two sons, Jonathan and David. A week went by, and Sarah and Joy returned from their trip. When I picked them up at the airport, her first question was, “Well, how was your time?”

I replied, “Oh, it was good.”

“Did you miss me?” she wanted to know.

I couldn’t lie, so I said, “You know, we had a wonderful time. We just ate where we wanted to eat. We made forts when we wanted to make forts. We made the beds when we wanted to make the beds.”

Sarah got my message. She realized that we had made the beds for the first time that week just before coming to the airport. And she also realized that we hadn’t really missed her that much. Oh, we still loved her as wife and mother, but we hadn’t missed all the badgering and criticizing.

Right there Sarah made a choice that she would like me and our sons despite our sloppiness. (pages 242-243)

I am so overwhelmed by how horrid this story is that I barely have words. Eggerichs pays lip service to how husbands should love their wives, but here’s a perfect example of how he withholds love simply because she speaks up about not wanting wet towels on the bed. 

The resolution to this issue? Once again, as it is with the vast majority of illustrations in the book, the wife decides to do what the husband wants, and stops wanting or expecting anything else. 

Now, if he were using this illustration to say, “her tone was off and was very disrespectful, so once she spoke differently I felt respected, so I listened to her and instructed my boys to as well” that would be one thing. But the resolution here is not that she spoke in a different tone; it’s that she stopped speaking or asking for anything at all. 

I don’t know this couple personally, and I can’t comment on their particular marriage. But I will say this: withholding love when your spouse makes reasonable requests of you, and then stating that making any reasonable request is a sign that you are disrespectful and thus means that you are being disobedient to God, is classic emotional abuse with a spiritual component. He is not describing a healthy marriage; he is describing an emotionally abusive one, and I don’t use that term lightly. This illustration is used as an example of HER disrespect. To me, when I read that story, all I can see is the husband’s blatant disrespect of the wife, and the husband empowering the sons to disrespect her as well. Indeed, her husband isn’t even supporting Sarah in trying to teach her sons crucial life skills! My son-in-law Connor’s response to this story was to say:

I feel so much sympathy for those kids, because twenty years later, they’re going to grow into the kind of men we won’t have sympathy for.

This example, along with many, many more, give the impression that if a wife ever speaks up about something that she doesn’t like her husband doing, she is being disrespectful and is thus going against God, no matter how in the right she is (wet towels on the bed are seriously horrible, people). In the Love & Respect world, a woman’s opinion, feelings, or even well-being no longer matter.

Finally, this respect must be unconditional–even if the husband is doing something really wrong.

“This is not about the husband deserving respect; it is about the wife being willing to treat her husband respectfully without conditions.” (18, emphasis mine)

“Obviously, wives can go on “winning the battles” by attacking, criticizing, or lecturing husbands who are drinking, straying, or whatever their problems may be, but they will eventually lose the war.” (88, emphasis mine)

So whether our husbands are having affairs or drinking excessively, we must always be quiet and respectful. He does say in some places that you don’t need to defer to a husband who sins terribly against you, but then he throws in lines like this which show that even in the case of adultery, we’re supposed to have unconditional respect. So his disclaimers ring hollow.

He uses the example of an abusive spouse to drill this lesson in:

Another wife who had suffered physical and verbal abuse from her husband (which I absolutely condemn as wicked and urge a wife to seek protection and help for) and had gone back to him after he repented, realized she had not completely forgiven him and certainly wasn’t showing him respect. After coming across our materials, she began showing him respect, mostly by remaining quiet and dignified instead of arguing. (278)

Now, anyone who knows anything about abuse knows that “repentance” is part of the abuse cycle and means nothing, in and of itself. A guy is abusive; he gets called on it and she sets up boundaries; then he apologizes, love bombs her, and convinces others that he never meant it and that he’s changed. So the relationship is restored, and he can now begin abusing her again.

This happens over and over again, until she finally says, “no more!”, or until she at least says “you must show me that you are safe by seeking counselling, taking responsibility for your actions, and acting appropriately for a very long time before we can consider resuming a relationship.” After there has been abuse, a man must show that he is trustworthy through his actions, not just his words. And this should be demonstrated over an extended period of time.

But that’s not what Eggerichs portrays. Instead, Eggerichs approvingly reports that the man repented and he’s back home!

Then the relationship improves–not because he stops abusing her, but because she stops reacting to his anger. She was to blame for the conflict in their marriage after all.

Unconditional respect doesn’t help a relationship; it hurts a relationship.

Some situations do not need for us to be “quiet”. They need us to pick up a whip of cords and turn over some money changers’ tables! But Eggerichs includes nothing from Ecclesiastes 3 about how there are times to speak up. He includes nothing from Proverbs about how to deal with fools or someone who is acting badly. It is as if he believes all of the advice in the Bible about how to handle those who are doing wrong does not matter if the person doing wrong is your husband.

And I find that highly problematic.

While unconditional love can involve standing up to these types of behaviours and enacting boundaries, unconditional respect, in Eggerichs’ conception of respect, cannot. I explained this problem in another post I wrote:

From 10 Signs You're Respecting Your Husband Too Much:

While you can unconditionally love someone but still offer “tough love”, there’s no equivalent for “tough respect”.

For instance, if your drug addicted sister comes to you and asks for $500, it’s showing her love to refuse. But how do you offer respect to someone addicted to porn, or with anger management issues? I’ve argued that respect cannot mean respecting what they do, but rather respecting their right to make their own choices, free of manipulation from you. However, that also means that you have a right to make your own choices in return.

Eggerichs, though, never gives women any of these choices–any room to draw any boundaries or stand up for what’s right.
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Instead, taken together, here’s how I would describe the Love & Respect model of a respectful wife:

She honors her husband’s authority in the marriage, allowing him to make the decisions. She does not speak up when she disagrees with him, even if he is being selfish and seriously burdening her. When he is doing something really wrong that hurts the family and children, she remains quiet and speaks only briefly. She may mention what she is upset about once, but then she does not bring it up again for several weeks. This is true even in cases where he is a workaholic; drinking too much; or having an affair. If he is angry or abusive, she is respectful by not speaking up when he has angry outbursts, but instead by remaining quiet. No matter what, in all of these cases, she regularly gives him sexual release, without any regard for her own feelings, understanding that this is a need that he has, and that he cannot show her love without it.

Everything in this book shows women how to make sure they’re doing what their husbands want. And that, apparently, is how we please Jesus–by doing whatever our husbands want.

There is so much more I want to say, but perhaps I’ll just leave it at that, and come back tomorrow to talk about the real underlying flaw in marriage books like Love & Respect.

I’m seriously emotionally exhausted after reading all of this over the last few days and then writing it up. I look forward to your comments.

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I’ve received hundreds of comments over the last week about the harm Love & Respect did to people’s marriages.

I was going to post a whole bunch of them, but here’s just one, which I hope is helpful because it shows how a different way of seeing marriage actually helped.

Facebook Comment About 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage

Love & Respect was gifted to us as a wedding present by some elders in our church that we still love to this day. Our relationship was bad from the start, but I truly believed it was because I wasn’t dealing with situations right. I thought I just didn’t know how to speak his language. I finally picked up the book, and tried to work through it. It kept getting worse, and I kept thinking it was because the enemy was just fighting our marriage. My husband would get so angry and would be so relentless with his fighting, and as soon as I cried (like bawling my eyes eyes, yelling crying) he would finally stop. But it was like there was a release in him, a kind of peace that could only occur if I finally cried.

I couldn’t make it through the book. I even tried a different set of books by Emerson’s wife, but I never could make it through. Over and over and over I thought it was ME doing something wrong. If I just did this or did that or could speak a certain way, it could change everything.

I FINALLY heard God say to work on myself. I heard it before, but misinterpreted it to mean work on my part in the marriage. No, He meant literally don’t even think of my husband, work on me and my health and my relationship with Him. So I tried, but since I still had to deal with my husband every day, it was monumentally difficult.

I don’t remember how, but I finally found Sheila’s 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, and Thought 5 just brought everything into clear, sharp focus. In that moment I was released from every ounce of guilt I’d built up over the years. I thought my marriage falling apart was my fault, I just couldn’t find the right combination of things. All the times I spent standing up for myself and my kids WEREN’T wrong. They were RIGHT. And the problem was my husband’s!

I won’t pretend I now believe I was perfect or above reproach. There are always things that can be better. But I can now see my HEART was always in the right place. I am not a typical abused wife. I never “submitted” to his abuse nor did I ever just let it happen. I stood my ground every time and put myself in between him and the kids whenever he got out of hand (he was not physical, but was angry and verbal and physically imposing). But I ALWAYS felt guilty afterwards. I beat myself up for not responding more kindly or respectfully. But I could not figure out how to be kind and respectful in those situations. The ideas in this book kept me in an unhealthy spiral for years. Sheila’s book set me free. It set off the most amazing journey over this last year. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever been through, but it’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever been through. THANK YOU!!

If you want a healthier way to act respectfully and lovingly in marriage, please see 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage instead. 

Like this post?

Since posting these reviews of Love and Respect, many people have asked me how they can share their concerns with their churches and community.

We created a report of the hundreds of comments we received (including good and bad reviews) which is available to download together with a sample letter to send to churches.

You can download both and send them to whoever you think needs to read them here:

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. 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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152 Comments

  1. Laura

    I’m blown away. I read this book early in my marriage and took it all in, along with “Created to be His Helpmeet”. I can see now that it was only by the grace of God I didn’t end up in an abusive marriage. But I can also see why I enabled my husband in some very bad sin habits for years. These books weren’t taught from the front of church, but they were sure touted amongst the congregation- a church that ended up being spiritually abusive.
    How easily we are deceived! Lord forgive us!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s what I’ve been crying out all week–“How can this happen? How can people believe this? Lord help us!”

    • Judy

      Me to! But I ended up divorced. My them husband turned his family into flying monkeys and they were my only support. I had to leave it or die.

  2. Lauren A

    I bought this book several months ago after it was recommended to my husband and I as a great tool for couples. I was so confused after reading the first couple of chapters, wondering why I felt like the book was written as an instruction only to the wife. It’s so sad that someone can use spiritually as a coverup for emotional abuse, and turn it into a best-seller.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s it exactly! That’s how I’m feeling! ” It’s so sad that someone can use spiritually as a coverup for emotional abuse, and turn it into a best-seller.”

      You all seriously have no idea how worn down I am by all of this. I really am encouraged by your comments. Many of you are putting words to things that I couldn’t say myself after being steeped in this. Thank you.

      • Dana

        I think part of it is because women are hungry for better relationships and there has been a lot of bad teaching out there that promotes selfishness in men and women. And then look! Here is a book that she has all this power to change the relationship if she only gives up that power.

        If you really look at it, the teaching seems as much Buddhist as it does Christian. Consider the four Noble truths:

        1. Life is suffering.
        2. The cause of suffering is desire.
        3. You can eliminate suffering by eliminating desire.
        4. This is achieved by the eightfold path, which is a series of attitudes and habits we develop in ourselves.

        I have seen a lot of teaching recently on women remaining in bad situations because she was suffering for the gospel, it was ordained by God and she should bear it with humility and grace and see it as an opportunity to improve herself. It all starts to feel very Buddhist when you look at it in those terms.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Oh, that is so insightful! So interesting. Yet Jesus doesn’t call us to empty ourselves of that; He calls us to fill Himself with Him and be passionate! Eggerichs is calling for what could be a very empty life for so many women.

  3. LaToya

    Thank you for this Sheila!!! I 100% agree, this is very dangerous teaching. It belittles women and can break their spirits especially in abusive situations. This is how I felt when given this book to read during my abusive marriage. It simply reaffirm what my abuser preached from sun up to sundown… I was the problem and the one walking in sin.

    Thankfully, a dear friend walked with me through leaving and healing. She helped understand that I mattered, that my feelings, thoughts and voice mattered.

    Sadly, I still hear this faulty teaching in churches. Someone close to me recently encouraged me to keep quiet about my concerns with my (new) husband because I was blocking what God was trying to do in his life. She told me that even though I had valid points and hurts I needed to put those aside for the “bigger picture” (that my husband is supposed to be the head and lead, so that my family will be blessed).

    I’m sure this person meant well. But I could not reconcile the notion that speaking up about hurtful things (being out down, having my feelings being dismissed as not important, etc) could be out of the will of God.

    After reading this post I see what bothered me so much. The advice given was very much what comes from Love and Respect– keep quiet and show respect. *Sigh*

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Latoya, I’ve been following your journey for years from afar, and I’m so glad that you’re in a new marriage now! I know that it takes some adjustments, but honestly, I’ve found that by communicating clearly and humbly right from the start, you can stop some bad patterns from developing. It’s hard to address things. It will cause conflict. But when you express what you need, and allow him space to express what he needs, you can get on the same page again. I talk about this in Thoughts 5-7 of 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, and I hope that it can give a new perspective!

      • LaToya

        Thanks Sheila, I got your book. It’s next on my list to read 🙂

  4. Heather S.

    10 years ago I attended a L&R conference in an attempt to help restore my marriage with a negligent husband. We had been married 2 years, I was early in our first pregnancy, and he was staying out until 4am four nights a week.
    What he got out of their conference was “Men and women are made differently and have different needs, therefore I am just fine the way I am. It’s wrong to tell me that my behaviour is wrong for a married man, because as a man I don’t need to conform to what women think is appropriate behaviour. If we are going to stay married, we don’t have to fit our marriage into a box, it can be whatever works for us.”
    So I had to leave, 5 months pregnant, and we were never able to reconcile.
    I had totally forgotten until now what role that L&R teaching played in our marriage deterioration. Like you said, a healthy marriage could read the book and understand the point is to be unselfish, but in our case it just affirmed his selfishness.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thanks for sharing your story, Heather. I do hope that you’re in a good place now! Being a single parent is difficult, but my mom did an amazing job, and I turned out pretty well :).

      • Heather S.

        Thank you! I am happy to report that I have been remarried to an amazing man for almost 7 years, we gave my daughter our last name and have gone on to have 3 more children. He is exactly what I always knew a husband and father should be. All glory to God for the beautiful redemption story here!

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Oh, that’s so wonderful! I’m glad, Heather. God does bring beauty from ashes, and He is our Redeemer.

  5. Lisa

    My church regularly offers marriage classes based on Love & Respect because, “husband’s really enjoy the course.” I left with some insight on how I can be unintentionally disrespectful, but mostly feeling an inch tall. Shortly after the last class, in the middle of an argument my husband said (kindly), “I feel like you don’t respect me.” I had been working hard to use a nice tone and focus on the issue at hand, so I asked back, “Do you really feel disrespected, or are you just upset you’re not getting your own way?” He thought about this for a few days and decided it was the latter. I grew up with my mother being a doormat in the name of respect and my father walking all over her in return, and so my husband knew before we married I would not tolerate being in a marriage like that.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, I love that! Good for you. We should point people to Jesus, not enable selfishness.

    • G

      Just wanted to note that “I feel like you aren’t being respectful” isn’t a feeling statement. If he said “I’m feeling disrespected right now.” Then you could ask why he feels disrespected and offer validation and help. Even if he didn’t have a good reason to feel disrespected – you could care about his feelings.

      But when someone starts by saying “I feel like YOU” it ceases being a statement about their feelings and is instead a masked accusation about the other person’s behavior. And it can be manipulative.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Very good point.

  6. Holly Massie

    Thanks for another great article! Spot.on. …. The first time I tried reading this it made me truly angry because it was just another book telling me any issues in my marriage were all my fault! When I talked to friends they didn’t see it that way.

    Women need respect too, and men need love they just present differently. While I think you can glean some good things from the book on the whole it’s a very skewed view of scripture by taking one passage and extrapolating that love and respect are the ONLY things each sex needs.

    He seems to forget that Paul writes in paragraphs and pages not sentences (LOL) Eph 5:15 -6:9 is about how to walk in Christ for all of us. Now yes part of the curse was skewed relationships between us and that we (both men and women) are now striving for our “place” quite often but that still doesn’t mean women have no say in anything! …. The word often translated this way (Hupotaso) is actually a military term meaning to rank oneself under – not because I am lesser – I liken it to the rank structure in the military, a wise commander doesn’t look down on his teammates but listens to his sergeant major before making any decisions! A toxic one is demanding and demeaning.

    I would be interested in your take on Mark Gungor’s materials especially Butt Kicking Woman

    Thanks again!

    I would be interested to know

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I honestly haven’t looked at Gungor. I saw a YouTube clip once that was pretty funny, but that’s it! Maybe I’ll delve deeper soon.

  7. Lois

    “In the Love & Respect world, a woman’s opinion, feelings, or even well-being no longer matter.”

    YES. This is what I came away with every night of tge L&R study we did. It was so so very discouraging.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      CHURCHES, ARE YOU LISTENING?!? IS IT OKAY THAT WOMEN ARE BEATEN DOWN LIKE THIS?!?

  8. Jodi

    Thanks for writing such an honest and difficult review. I have this book sitting in a box somewhere because I just couldn’t seem to pick it up and read it. Thank you Lord that I couldn’t!!
    I’m horrified that this book is being sold, and recommended by certain persons who ppl automatically trust.
    I pray the right women will read this review BEFORE it’s accepted as truth. May they be protected because of your words!!!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Jodi!

  9. Fletch

    I have good friends that loved this curriculum and teaching. My gut response when they shared it with me was this: You know what men need? Love AND respect (and sometimes a good kick in the ass with solid boundaries). You know what women need? Love AND RESPECT (and sometimes the same reminder and boundaries). In other words, it’s not either/or, it’s both/and.
    We are brothers and sisters (and “one another”) before we are husband and wife. Let’s not ignore the totality of scripture that teaches us how to love God and one another in order to focus on one or two verses to develop a modern marriage curriculum.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Amen! I love it.

  10. Lea

    I don’t care how many books people like this guy write, I don’t see how it is even *possible* to ‘unconditionally’ respect someone. I could never respect a man who abused me. Period.

    (although, not to get definitiony, but I see two definitions and one is admiration based on actual accomplishments or person, and the other is more consideration, and so I can kind of see the second one in non-abusive situations – but it should go both ways!).

    Quote: “you respect your boss, for instance, but you don’t love your boss. (68). So the way we treat our boss is analagous to the way we should treat our husbands–we should do what they say.”

    I have to say, I’ve had plenty of bosses I did NOT respect. Can I say it’s really weird how often Christian authors seem to equate marital relationships with work relationships/bosses? Maybe this is only in certain circles but it’s weird. A lot of people act like employees only ever obey bosses and never push back, call them on anything, etc. That has not been my experience, although sometimes you do things because they are required. But then again, if you hate your job, you can look for another.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think to unconditionally respect anyone is a sin. There MUST be conditions. “We must obey God, rather than man.” To say there are no conditions is to put the husband in the place of God (but more on that tomorrow!)

      • Lea

        I think in a lot of cases they are asking you to pretend you respect a man that you really do not. Which is rich coming from a man who said he couldn’t tell his wife he missed her because he didn’t want to ‘lie’.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Yep. Yep. Yep.

      • Paul

        Sheila, that verse you quote doesn’t imply a lack of respect for the authorities. They were entirely willing and ready to take the punishment threatened–they just couldn’t disobey God to not do that. There was respect in how they approached the authorities in this situation.

        I’m not really sure about this “unconditional respect” thing myself. That is, I have this instinctive sense that respect for worldly authority–that is all God-given–is something God expects from us. On the other hand, I have my own mother, whom I cannot respect at a human level (because of her disrespect for her husband, my dad), and there are church leaders one cannot respect, due to their blatant sins, etc. I suspect, however, that sometimes, an individual can trash their office (used broadly here), and out of respect towards their office one must deal with the individual.

        There is also the concept of unconditional love with which Christ loves us. None of us is perfect, and all of us abuse or take advantage of others sooner or later. It’s our nature. Only Christ did not do that. But then, there are people who have a pattern of abuse of authority–and I think that this may be where the crux lies–in the abuse of authority–where one must step back and say that, due to this abuse of the position/office, and in order to preserve it, we must either remove ourselves from the situation, or remove that individual from his or her office…. These are thoughts, and not conclusions, of course. I have so much I could say on this, though–possibly a book’s worth. I’m so glad you are talking about this. Somebody needs to. IMO, the situation is reaching a breaking point, where the entire concept of church and family are about to be undermined. hm….

        • Kimberly

          Yeah, I see Sheila’s points, but I also see the point Eggerich is trying to make. What I got out of the book when I read it many years ago, was that the focus in marriage should be what God has said. He has told husbands to love their wives. He has told wives to respect their husbands. God has not given conditions for these, so love and respect should be given unconditionally. The author’s examples may not be the best, but that does not change what God has required. The answers for godly marriage are in God’s Word. What does He required of us? How does this apply to me and my marriage? If you are seeking to please God and be in deep intimacy with Him first and then also your spouse, God will reveal to you what love and respect should look like in your specific relationship Where you and your spouse are doing great and where there is room for improvement. That is who the Holy Spitit is and what He does. So respectfully to both writers, to me it’s more about what has God said? Not what has Emerson or Sheila said. Again, He has told husbands to love their wives. And He has told wives to respect their husbands. I don’t see any conditions around these commands in Scripture.

    • Alexandra

      This is also used in the stay at home daughter movement, that a woman can’t have a job because she would “be under the authority of another man” and she would be “serving another man” like she would her father. Now, six years out of it, I’m just like…how many of these people comparing relationships to work environments actually have real jobs?! I have rarely had bosses I respected, and my boss never dictated what I wore, who I hung out with, my life choices, the way that authoritarian fathers in that movement did. I have never worked with the goal of “serving” my boss. If anything, they are there to help me do the best at my job that I can, and to do their best to make sure I achieve that. It’s mind boggling that such a structure is constantly being compared to relationships in these circles.

      • Susanna

        Also, the implicit assumption that the boss will be a man… 🙄

      • Dave

        Alexandria, you are absolutely correct. If you read Eggerich’s other works, you’ll see him delineate the wills of God. He cites two categories – universal and unique. Here, God has spelled out His universal will. He instructs/commands that husbands are to love their wives sacrificial as Jesus loves His bride, and wives are to reverence/respect their husbands through a heart of submission that is first to God (otherwise they’ll be no submission to the husband). This is universal. God wills this for every husband and every wife.

        But if either or both are not willing to follow God’s clearly stated universal will, why would they expect God to reveal His unique will regarding their marriage? If we won’t obey in what God has already spoken, we cannot expect to hear from God on those things that aren’t spoken of in His Word.

  11. Hopeful

    I often feel like a lot of marriage books are fine if they are read by a “normal couple”, two good intentioned , unselfish people who look out for each other. They get a totally different meaning out of it, because the husband wouldn’t dream of treating his wife inappropriately, so the wife thinks that these books are ok.
    I was in an emotionally abusive marriage, I read ALL THE MARRIAGE books, including love and respect. (My husband and I took the course together as well).
    Nothing helped. I tried to be quiet, submissive and respectful and yet I KNEW how awful he was treating me, so then we would often have big arguments where I would try to explain how I felt. And it never ended well.
    Blogs like this and eventually Leslie vernicks “emotionally destructive marriage” is what finally changed our marriage. I needed to work on myself , but that was only to become stronger in my faith, to spend more time in the word and to not treat my husband like he was going to fulfill/ complete me. I had to separate from him emotionally to be able to see what needed to be done. I started SPEAKING UP! I started kindly saying my own opinion, what I wanted , stopped letting him taking advantage of me, and more importantly STOPPED FEELING GUILTY ABOUT IT. I stopped engaging / arguing but I also stopped being a door mat.
    In our marriage , all the typical Christian marriage advice Damaged us greatly, because there was never any incentive for my husband to change, it was always me trying to fix everything.
    Anyways, after counselling etc, we are doing very well, we are in love again, we are experiencing a marriage like God intended. I feel hopeful, and I wish more people in the church could understand and encourage couples to mutually love/respect each other.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      What a wonderful story, Hopeful! Thank you for sharing. So much truth there. And I’m so glad that I could play a small part in your marriage improving. Keep standing up for what’s right!

    • Ashley

      Hopeful,

      I agree with you. I read the book when I was in a better place in my marriage. Well, actually, I just didn’t understand how wrong things were. But anyway, I thought the book was fine. I probably identified with the ways it lists for a woman to feel loved. But now, after leaving my abusive marriage, I can see how the ideas in the book can be so harmful. I’m glad for posts like this to point people to!

    • EM

      I had a similar experience in my marriage. My husband is a wonderful man, but like so many he has a selfish streak and struggles with anger. I read L&R early in our marriage. I am by nature a compliant person and I had never been rude to him or belittled him, but any time I brought up an issue in our marriage it would just upset him and he would end up blaming me. According to L&R this must be my fault because I wasn’t being respectful
      enough. We have always had a fulfilling sex life, so I thought according to L&R that my husband could never struggle with porn. Well 11 years in I discovered that he did occasionally view porn. Of course I was devastated, but I also realized something hugely important – my husband’s sin was not only not my fault, but I couldn’t control the outcome of my marriage by being the perfect wife. I had to leave that up to the Holy Spirit to change my husband, and put our future in God’s hands, not my own. Things improved quite a bit from there, but something was still missing. Fast forward to this year, when we moved with 4 kids and remodeled our new house. Everyone was stressed, and hubby was increasingly angry. And I found myself feeling fearful of him and incredibly guilty. It finally reached the point that I knew something was seriously wrong in our marriage and I went to counseling. He wouldn’t go with me but I did it anyway. At our first session she recommended I read Boundaries. I sobbed through the first chapter. Everything I thought about what it means to be a godly, submissive wife was so backwards. I decided I wasn’t going to fear my husbands anger anymore. That was HIS issue, not mine! And like I said, he is a good man and I knew he would never hurt me. What was I so afraid of anyway? It was such a huge turning point the first time I stood up to him. He was ranting about something I did, and I just told him he wasn’t going to make me cry, not this time. He kept blustering and I held my ground, fighting back tears. Finally he said, “you probably feel like I’m trying to break you, don’t you.” And he calmed down and apologized. The next time he got upset with the kids for some mess, I didn’t step in and fix it for him. I just calmly said, “If this is really important to you, you can come talk to me about it when you’ve calmed down” and I walked away. You know what he did? Cleaned it up himself, came back in and apologized! Once I set up boundaries, stopped shielding him from the consequences of his actions, and started speaking my heart, our marriage has been completely transformed. I no longer feel afraid to share my heart with him, or get nervous about upsetting him. We are able to talk about things we couldn’t before. And you know what the difference is? HE is respecting ME!! He is enjoying me more because I am the woman he fell in love with, not some sad doormat version. It has been a bit bumpy with more conflict than we are used to as he is adjusting to the new “rules,” but I am feeling more hopeful than ever about our future. I think I am going to be writing Mr. Eggerichs a letter soon. His advice was the opposite of what a woman married to a husband like mine should do. He is a strong man, and he needs someone strong enough to call him out (lovingly, of course) when he needs it.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        That’s such a wonderful story, EM! Thank you so much for sharing! And what you’re saying is exactly right. The advice from Love & Respect often makes marriages worse, not better. I love this: ” Everything I thought about what it means to be a godly, submissive wife was so backwards. ” Yep.

        A godly, submissive wife looks out for her husband’s best interests and points him to Jesus. She doesn’t just be quiet and nice all the time. She’s concerned about truly loving and helping him, and that means not enabling him. Exactly!

      • Kimberly

        It seems to me that you “called him out” respectfully. That is to me, what the book teaches. If we are all honest, we have to admit that there are more of us that struggle with being respectful when communicating with our husbands. We’ve all observed it! When we do things with the guidance of the Holy Spirit with gentleness and respect, even lovingly correcting if needed, that IS showing respect.

  12. AJ

    And yet, this is many Pastors go-to marriage counseling book. I have read it hoping to solve some problems, but it was just depressing. Another thing that was all my own fault. I am amazed by the amount of spiritual abuse I’ve encountered in my life and I don’t know what to do to end it or how to escape from it. And how do I protect my daughters from it?

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Honestly, I think sometimes we need to find new churches. I am in a church where the pastor would disagree with everything in Love & Respect, and where women are valued. If you are not in a church like that–just know that other churches do exist. We don’t have to stay in the same Christian bubble, if that bubble is harmful. I will pray that you find a good place!

      • Rebecca Lindenbach

        (Sheila’s daughter here) I think another point to make when it comes to protecting your kids is that the church’s belief only have as much power in your family as you let them. I grew up going to churches that my parents disagreed with on many counts, but we knew what they were. We understood that our parents didn’t agree with some of the things they were teaching, but we went to the church because it’s good to be in community. Obviously I was affected by what the church was teaching, but I didn’t internalize much of it because of these conversations.

        So if there is a better church opportunity in your area that is more in line with who Jesus is, GO THERE! By all means! We need to support churches that are doing good in our neighbourhoods. But if there isn’t, then BE that church at home.

        I think sometimes people look for the “right” church so that they won’t have to get into the weird situation of explaining to their kids why sometimes the pastor says things or the other people in the church say things that mom and dad think are damaging or hurtful to people. But no matter what church you’re in, it’s important to have those conversations with kids so that they know that being a Christian is about more than belonging to a particular denomination or finding “your people”–it’s about being wise and discerning everything so that you can walk the path that Christ has set out for you, even if you never look like other Christians.

    • Logan

      I think that one solid way to protect our children from this terrible marriage advice is rooting them in who they are in Christ. They are beloved, chosen, called, redeemed, etc. Or as the Jesus Storybook Bible says, “They were lovely, because he loved them.”

      If one understands who they truly are in Christ, they are less likely to put up with behavior that does not honor their dignity.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Very, very true! I would just add that it’s very hard to do that if you are also in a Christian environment that works to dismantle a girl’s identity. If you are telling your girls one thing, but the church is actively teaching another, then you do need a new church.

        That’s one reason that we switched churches when our girls were 12 and 10. Best thing we ever did for their faith!

  13. Logan

    You know, I have started now to take Focus on the Family broadcasts with a grain of salt. Too many times I have tuned in for a barrage of what was clearly a culture war broadcast. I feel like Christians have lost that battle because we have not been speaking the truth in love. I believe homosexuality is a sin, but is a sin like other sexual sins, not the unforgiveable sin. I fear that if someone was just looking for hope, say a homosexual tuned in, wanting to hear about Jesus, all they would find is condemnation and more culture war jargon. I want to be someone that points EVERYONE to Jesus, all they have to do is turn from sin and repent and embrace Jesus as Lord and Savior.

    So a bit off topic for today, but I think we should all be more discerning now at what Christian teachers are promoting.

  14. Lea

    Also, reading the rest of your article and that awful story about towels, it appears this book promotes unconditional respect from women, but highly conditional *love* from men. He can’t even be bothered to ‘lie’ that he missed his own wife????

    Awful!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yep. Just manipulated her into shutting up about a perfectly reasonable request.

  15. Melissa W

    I have never read this book because the premise just seemed so off to me and my husband. But as I am hearing more about it it really just seems to me like a man trying to spiritualize and justify his idolatry. To say that woman needs to ultimately find love and identity in God not her husband but then turn around and say that a man must be respected in order for the marriage to be good and for him to be a loving husband is really just making an spiritual excuse for the respect idol in his life. Respect isn’t a bad thing and neither is love. Both persons in a marriage need both and should be giving both but to make it an ultimate thing that you have to have is idolatry. There is so much I could say as this backwards and scripture twisting type teachings just makes my blood boil. And unfortunately there are people making lots of money on false promises of what can happen in your life if you just do A, B & C from the Bible exactly as I tell you to. It’s no different than the prosperity gospel that preys on the poor and makes smooth tongued, wolves in sheep’s clothing rich. Just makes me sick to my stomach and sad for those so easily deceived by it. As you say repeatedly, point people to Jesus. That is where the answer to living this life is found.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Love that, Melissa! And that “idol” is idea is exactly what I’m talking about tomorrow.

  16. anonymous

    Emmerson: Women want love, men need respect.

    Bible: “Be devoted to *one another* in brotherly love. Outdo yourselves in honoring *one another.*” Romans 12:10 (emphasis mine)

    Emmerson: Kind of recommends men to love their wives, but actually teaches women to respect their husbands (and not argue, even if he is intemperate).

    Bible: “Teach the older men to be temperate, *worthy of respect*…” (Titus 2:2, emphasis mine) and “teach younger women to love their husbands…” (Titus 2:4) (my point is that E.E. has things reversed in his book)

  17. Danielle

    Hi! You bring such a good perspective to all the posts you’ve made over the years, and this is no exception. I have the book on my shelf, but my “spidey” sense has been tingling about it for quite some time. If I remember correctly, when my husband and I tried to read it, we didn’t finish. Reading marriage books together is difficult to begin with for us. Hearing my thoughts clarified by you and commenters has been very helpful! As a coincidence (or not?) when I just opened my email moments ago, one from FOTF offers help with communication skills with a copy of L&R for a donation! I want to forward the link to all this discussion to them but am hesitant – but they still don’t see the issues with their offering! Suggestions?

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Definitely forward this link to them! When Love and Respect was first published, FOTF was under different leadership. I have a very hard time believing that the current leadership would support a book that portrays sex the way that it does or that condones such abusive relationships. I think if more people speak up, they may revisit their support and publication of the book (or at least I would hope so!).

  18. TS

    I too was given this book because they felt it really helped them understand their husband’s needs…. ..but I never could finish it all the way, and was left feeling guilty and completely hopeless. I can not tell you what a relief it is to read these posts you’ve done on it. I know some people might feel like its nitpicking, but I so badly wish I had seen this back when I was feeling so hopeless, so full of guilt and sadness! I do want to say my husband has never been abusive and has always been loving and supportive, willing to try anything I thought would help…I think though, marriage retreats, and books I read fed me so many lies and I consumed them all, and allowed them ALL to be placed on me. I remember going to a marriage retreat once…and just crying and crying because I was filled with so much guilt and pressure to be “perfect “. We haven’t been to another one since. The thing that is so sad to me…is it is the women who WANT to be great wives who pick up those books, who take the advice to heart…and I feel in my case anyway..it does exactly opposite. I gave up on ALL books and advice for a long while before I accidentally stumbled on your FB page. They have been so helpful, and healing(along with other authors) and so totally mind blowing for both me and my husband. So thank you so much for being willing to take on the hard stuff!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, TS, thank you for encouraging me today!

  19. Holly Jaska

    Hi there, I was wondering what your thoughts were on whenever a husband and wife are not on the same page with family planning? Maybe when they both thought one way at the beginning of marriage and then one spouse feels differently later on?

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I wrote a series on birth control back in October I think. You can look at the first post here. In that post I link to all the others, and there may be some help there for your question. Thanks!

  20. Bethany

    This book has always bothered me. The dichotomy has always seemed kind of bonkers to me (though I had never read the book in detail). Doesn’t everyone want to be loved and respected by their spouse?? Anyway, thanks for doing the good hard work. These articles have been great.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Glad you’ve enjoyed them!

  21. Matt

    The o ly thing that I found helpful from the book Love and Respect was the concept of the “crazy cycle” and the corresponding idea that one partner can do something to disrupt the continuous nature of the cycle.

    I found this very empowering in that my actions or reactions could move the relationship to the better.

    I agree that both the husband and wife have deep needs for love and respect in marriage. I agree that harming the other in the relationship is always wrong.

    One aspect I would disagree with the unconditional respect nature of this article is that I highly desire my bride to be a safe space. If I am struggling at work, I want her to listen and help. If I am having a problem with a friendship,I want her to listen and give advice without crushing me or calling me names. I see the concept of “unconditional respect” as one of being gentle with my many flaws. Correcting without crushing. I see it as a wife understanding the power she has in her husband’s life and choosing to use it for the betterment of both of them.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I do believe that we can get in cycles in marriage, and that one person can decide to be the one to break that cycle. I talk about that a lot in my sex talk at churches, too.

      I really have no problem with that part of the book. The problem really comes in HOW he tells the wife to break the Crazy cycle, by saying essentially that she must do what her husband wants. No, we should always do what God wants. That will mean serving the other, but it will never enable sin or selfishness. Yet he has no problem with a wife enabling selfishness, and that’s where he goes astray. But more on that tomorrow!

    • EM

      I agree with you on that. I think the book took it too far though, in that a wife should basically accept any and all behavior from her husband and not speak up. It was incredibly damaging to our marriage. After counseling I have finally found the freedom to confront my husband, and guess what? He is finally starting to mature in some areas that I let slide for far too long because of advice like this. But when I confront him I am still careful to be kind and respectful in how I speak to him. I do agree that it is important to let him know I still think he’s a great guy, even if there’s something he needs to work on.

  22. Amy

    Wow Sheila thank you thank you thank you for this post today!! I wish I could’ve read this post years ago when the message of the book caused so much pain and damage to me in my emotionally abusive marriage. God did show me over time how so much in this book was false. He used things like your blog or your book Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage etc. He strengthened me with truth over the years so I could eventually leave a marriage filled with alcoholism, emotional abuse, and adultery.

    But you know what’s amazing? Someone is going to read this blog post and your links, and they are going to have the truth all upfront! Books like this, and the lies throughout it, won’t be able to hurt them and their families. Thank you Sheila for shining the light of God’s truth in the world. This is SO needed.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Amy, I am printing out this comment and framing it! 🙂

  23. Emma

    Several Christian couples I know and respect have this book, so I am horrified to learn what it actually teaches!!

    The phrase about “desiring love” and “needing respect” stood out to me when I was reading your previous post, and you are exactly right: intentionally or not, the author was putting respect and men above love and women.

    When I think of the phrase “unconditional respect”, I think of the general respect I give to all human beings as beings made in the image of God. But that is for everyone, good or evil. It says nothing about a person and their role in my life. And it certainly isn’t the only type of respect I want to give to my husband.

    My husband and I were actually just talking about your previous post, and how the dynamic of low-high sex drive looks like in our marriage. I have hormone issues that have contributed to my lower sex drive, my husband understands this and gives me grace, but I push myself to have sex more often out of recognition for his desire for sex. Both of us are doing so out of love and a desire for what is best for the other.

    On a different note, Sheila, my husband and I both loved A Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex! I ended up reading it because I noticed that all the sex and marriage books we were having recommended to us (pre-wedding) were written by men. There is nothing wrong with that, but I realized that the writers could only conceptually understand sex for me as a woman, but I wanted to hear from someone who experiencially understood! So, I found your book. Read it, love it. Then-fiance read it too, and he told me that it helped him understand aspects of my sexuality that he hadn’t previously. Now he recommends it more that I do! So thank you!!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s so cool, Emma! Thank your husband for me. 🙂

  24. Paula

    I read the towel story to my husband out loud. He said “that man is so wrong, I would suggest you move on to another book”. I love him so much 😘

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yep. My husband was like, “WHAAAAATTTT?”

      • Lindsey

        That is hilarious! My husband who is the neat one in the family totally on the wife’s side and got the most disgusted look on his face when he heard about towels being left on the bed! Lol
        He also couldn’t imagine that a husband would tell his wife that he didn’t miss her! My husband said that it sounded like the guy was taking the opportunity to make a passive-agressive dig at his wife, rather than bringing it up for actual discussion.

        • Susanna

          That story is really harsh and problematic. But I do think it’s possible that we are over looking just *how* nitpicking the mother (Sarah?) has become. If someone complains about *everything,* it can become hard to separate out the bad habits we’re practicing (wet towels on the bed) to a mere difference of tidiness standards or life habits or whatever.
          If someone is that critical, it might be a bit refreshing to be able to do things “your way,” for once, even if you still miss her as a wife and mother.
          Not sticking up for the book at all, just wondering if we’re getting the whole picture.

  25. Kristina

    I wonder how much of the “women just need love” stems from a deep-set, overarching, narrative in our churches and society at large that women are just not worthy of respect. When a woman gets overt and subtle messages that women aren’t respected for her entire life, then it’s not unexpected that she will reach adulthood and marriage just having given up on that as an expectation. So we tell women that they don’t get to be respected, and then we turn around and look at them and say “See? Respect isn’t important to women.”

    I think that’s what bothered me most when I read the book (many years ago), coming away with the idea that the author really believed a woman had zero need to be show respect as a person. That some warm fuzzies and emotional connection were the totality of her desire in relationships. I knew I wanted a man who would respect me (and I had one, he’s a great catch still!), but according to this book it meant I wasn’t in the category of “women.” I also have a higher sex drive, and that was apparently not in the needs I was allowed to have either. So I chunked the whole concept, which, it seems, was the far better choice.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think you’re really onto something there! So true, Kristina.

  26. Jessica

    We did this book in my SS class with a responsible, godly, non-patriarchal pastor & wife when we were engaged about thirteen years ago and I don’t remember ANY of this crazy stuff! Guess I need to go back and re-read….. I also gave this book to my sister and BIL when they got married 4 years ago and now am vaguely wondering if that led to the communication issues they’ve apparently had. I’d hazard a guess that it falls into that category of when two people are already functional and caring human beings and just want to be a bit better, the acronyms and advice are helpful, but if there’s an imbalance or dysfunction, it is NOT a help.

    Now related: when my (imperfect but generally caring and considerate) husband wants to, cough, hold hands, and I don’t really feel like it, I do often think about the quote on that chapter, why deny him something that makes him so happy. It would be more complete if it also included, that you almost always enjoy too. And of course, because our marriage has always been functional, I project that in there too.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, I hope that your sister and BIL are okay! And I think it’s okay to say to your sister, ‘you know, if that book hurt you, there are other ones out there!’

      I do think that being more giving and sacrificial in the sex department is always a good idea. I’m not against that at all! But, like you, I think it’s important to add that last part–because it’s good for you, too!

  27. Alicia

    Sheila! Don’t ever stop doing this ministry that God has given you!! I thank you from the bottom of my heart and praise God that He has lifted you up to bring healing and biblical wisdom to so many! I know you’re exhausted, I can feel it in your writing, but the rewards you will receive will be without measure <3 we love you and encourage you to keep running this difficult race of helping others out of the pit. There may be potential for starting a counseling ministry in my church, and if God so chooses to use me, I most certainly plan to use your materials and resources to help anyone who needs them. God bless you, sister!

  28. Barbara

    I read something to the effect that if relationship advice isn’t appropriate for those in unhealthy relationships, it isn’t really good advice at all. (I wish I could find an exact quote.) So saying that this advice is okay for those in a good marriage is unwise & gives this book far too much credit.
    This book was first published in 2004 & it just goes to show how far we’ve come that this book is being looked at with a more critical eye within a Christian context. Thanks for your thoughtful critique!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, I would definitely agree. I think that if a book hurts some of those who read it, then we shouldn’t hang on to it just because some have gotten something out of it. That’s the stance that Josh Harris took when he disavowed his book I Kissed Dating Goodbye, too.

      I know some have been helped by the book; but I don’t think that negates the harm it’s done at all.

      And I know! We have come so far since 2004. Now we just need the publishers to see that what they’re offering is not meeting people’s needs, and is actually making things worse.

  29. Lyndall Cave

    I wish there had been a video camera watching me as I read this article, because I’m sure I made some. . . interesting. . . faces when I heard what Love and Respect teaches. My face of recoiling outrage and disgust over the wet towel on the bed story must have been a sight to behold. I’ve never read the book, and I don’t think I want to.

    Thank you for speaking up and calling emotional and spiritual abuse for what it is. I’m so glad to see this shift in the Church.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Lyndall! When I first read the towel story I called my daughter and said, “I have to read you something!” As soon as my mom came home I read it to her. Read it to my husband first thing this morning (he was on call all night last night). We were all just flabbergasted.

  30. Natalie

    Wow! I am so happy I never read this book or had it given to me by our premarital counselor or someone else we respected spiritually!!! I’m also SOOO thankful that (despite his shortcomings, as we all have) my husband values and respects my thoughts and what I have to say! He may not always follow them (like the health advice I give him, or my daily requests to pick up the clothes and shoes he leaves scattered around the house when he gets home), but he does listen to me and knows I’m right about them. There are times when I’m quiet and listen to him, and there are times when he’s quiet and listens to me. We always discuss and have excellent communication most of the time, and value the other person’s thoughts, feelings and concerns. While I do need to work more on having a respectful tone and manner of speaking with him when I’m upset or frustrated (taming my tongue has been one of my greatest struggles my whole life), I’m SO thankful I don’t feel like I need to shut up and let him take the lead on everything! How unequal a marriage would that be?! If we focus on loving our spouse and building the other up, I find that’s far more effective than trying to make yourself more submissive to your husband’s wishes (which may not even be wise or biblical). That just leads to resentment and feelings of worthlessness, which are definitely NOT of God!!!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Exactly, Natalie! The focus should be on being godly and following Jesus, which will include speaking well to someone, listening to someone, taming your tongue, all of those things. But it will also mean standing up for what’s right. I can’t imagine being in a marriage where my opinion was not important.

  31. Emily Hope

    Thank you, Shiela. As a biblical counselor, my husband has been warning couples about this book since it first came out. He wrote a lengthy review on it after we saw many marriages actually get worse or be destroyed altogether by following the decidedly *unbiblical* advice it gives to both husbands and wives.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      So glad your husband has been speaking up! We all need to do that more.

    • Lin

      Can you link to the review? I’d love to read that one too.

  32. Old Man Winter

    Shiela, wow!!! I have been through a L&R conference when I was newly engaged. Even then I didn’t t get it. As a man I didn’t want my wife’s (fiance then) respect, I wanted her love. Even to this day I want her respect for who I am and what I do, not just because I am a man.
    Thank you for this honest review. I really enjoyed how thurogh you were. I would appreciate it if you would do more in-depth book reviews like this, where you break down the main points. Like always, you rock!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, thank you so much!

  33. Kacey

    I’m glad I read The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex before I was married, and not this book. Sheila, I think your book helped to contribute to a great start to our sex life (three and a half years married).

    I also read a post on a different blog today about discerning Biblical truth in what we read. I think it’s worth a look: http://christianmomthoughts.com/10-signs-the-christian-authors-youre-following-are-subtly-teaching-unbiblical-ideas/?fbclid=IwAR0iNyHjoHVAVaXrvNILAnusyjSMP8Z79-aN9FJ4ozcU9zgIPBh26xDCmeU

  34. Joel Horst

    I’m just going to post this here because it explains a critical dynamic when we talk about “respect” in relation to abusive marriages:

    “One of the main allegations that narcissists, sociopaths, and psychopaths make against survivors is that they accuse survivors of being disrespectful. Why is this complaint so common for toxic people? It is because their grossly over-inflated egos make them believe that even the most minor correction, or disagreement, with the toxic person’s opinion is a huge sign of disrespect. Survivors are wise not to fall into the trap of second guessing all of their actions because it is likely they could never show enough agreement to please a truly toxic person. Survivors in recovery come to realize that just because an abuser says the survivor’s actions are disrespectful, it does not mean it is true. even the most non-confrontational discussions can be twisted on the survivor. Only in the mind of a psychological abuser does a regular conversation of sharing opinions equate to disrespect. They live in their own distorted worlds where they are king and queen of all opinions.”

    Healing from Hidden Abuse by Shannon Thomas, pp. 49-50

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, what a great quote! Thank you. That’s spot on!

      “Survivors in recovery come to realize that just because an abuser says the survivor’s actions are disrespectful, it does not mean it is true.”

      Yep. Wanting your husband and kids to pick wet towels up off of the bed is not disrespectful.

      • Lea

        I heard a quote once that said “Sometimes people use “respect” to mean “treating someone like a person” and sometimes they use “respect” to mean “treating someone like an authority” and sometimes people who are used to being treated like an authority say “if you won’t respect me I won’t respect you” and they mean “if you won’t treat me like an authority I won’t treat you like a person”

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Oh, my gosh. That’s so good! Thank you. I’m keeping a file of all these amazing insights and I may use them later!

  35. E

    Thank you so much for writing this. I must have read the book back in like 2005 or 2006 while I was dating/engaged. I believe we both read the book. He definitely took it as an excuse for all sorts of awful behavior, including justifying cheating. Thankfully I ended that relationship before it got way worse and before we got married! But the book never set right with me. I think I attempted to read it again once I was happily married (not same guy! My husband is amazing!!) and it didn’t sit right with me still. You expressed everything that didn’t sit right about it with me in these articles you have written. You can bet I make my 6 yr old SON pick up his towel and hang it up!! Haha! The towel thing is over the top!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yep. Pick up your stupid towel!

      You know what else I couldn’t figure out? WHY WAS THE TOWEL ON THE BED? Like, who leaves a towel on the bed? Why not the floor? Not that you should leave it on the floor either, but it’s better than the bed.

      Seriously, if they weren’t going to pick up the darn towel, couldn’t they at least drop it on the floor instead of the bed? Is that so much to ask?

      It’s just a bizarre story any way you look at it.

  36. Jennifer

    Wow! I’m so thankful I never read this book, and I’m so thankful I found your blog over a year before I got married. I can’t even imagine what my marriage would be like if I had not come across your blog or if I had read books like Love and Respect. My husband comes from SE Asia where culturally wives are expected to submit at all costs to their husbands otherwise they’re being disobedient to God/the Bible. My opinionated American self had a thing or two about that idea! It took quite a number of (sometimes heated) conversations about what marriage SHOULD look like and how respect to him and his leadership does not automatically mean we do whatever he says. (It’s so easy to cherry pick one verse out the Bible to support a skewed belief rather than looking at the whole context of the passage and the whole arching themes of the Bible)

    Your blog gave me the tools to have those tough conversations and our marriage is in such a better place than when it first began! Thank you for this!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, I’m so glad, Jennifer! Thank you!

      • Jennifer

        And I would like to clarify that my husband was a product of a culture that skewed relationships as the man has all authority and the woman has nothing, and then Bible verses are used to back it up. So it was over coming cultural teachings as well as addressing the Biblical meaning of Ephesians. My husband is a wonderful person, but we had to overcome a lot in the beginning of our marriage. 😊

  37. AMM

    I first read Love and Respect back in 2011 after a pastor provided the book and DVD to me and my then-boyfriend while we sought counseling for our troubled relationship. He was emotionally demeaning and physically abusive toward me, and often used Love and Respect as a weapon against me when he felt I was being disrespectful. He claimed since he was the man (and the spiritual leader of the relationship should we marry) and I was the woman (and therefore easily deceived), that I should respect him and his desires even if that meant I lost something of myself in the process. He had rules for everything, and if I broke them, he would claim I was being disrespectful and withhold his love and affection as punishment (and even report to his family and friends that I was causing problems in the relationship). It was a highly abusive situation, and I’m so glad that God gave me the discernment and strength not to marry him!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, that’s wonderful! I’m glad you got away, too. And I do hope that pastors stop using this book.

  38. Dana

    I really wish they would define respect. To me, it something that is earned, not granted. Sure, we treat everyone with dignity, recognizing they are created in the image of God. But “deep admiration based on their achievements, abilities and qualities” as the dictionary defines it? That doesn’t even sound Christian. The word used in the Bible translated as respect actually means to prize, honor or value. I can value you regardless of how you treat me. Bit if you want my respect, don’t tell me you don’t miss me because you got to be a slob for a week. Don’t belittle me, undermine my authority or make decisions without getting my input. Be predictable, stable and honor your commitments. Love is unconditional, dignity is recognizing your value, but respect is earned and can be lost much more quickly than love

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Totally agree, Dana! I think respect should be allowing others to make their own decisions without manipulation. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t also have the right to react to those decisions and enact boundaries ourselves. So ridiculous.

  39. Alley

    Outstanding review of this book! I was given this book by a woman at my previous church years ago. I found it difficult to read. In fact I gave up. My heart aches for those who follow these teachings. Thank you for such a thorough and eye opening review. I pray many are able to see truth.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I pray that, too! And I hope that we all start to speak up when the book is recommended from now on. I know I will!

  40. Gina

    Respect must be earned. If a man’s character is not deserving of respect why should They expect a woman to treat them like a king? If your spouse is doing something disrespectful (to, your children, the marriage or the church) they are not deserving of your unconditional respect (as a spouse, I’m not talking about respect for others as a God’s creation). I see this every day with some ladies I work with. Their husbands are lazy, don’t work, don’t help around the home, drink, gamble, watch porn, sleep around or excessively spend money they do not earn yet the wife puts up with this because she feels she has to or a “good wife doesn’t complain”. How do these men deserve respect? I say it would be better to be single. These are men who refuse to do anything to help their marriage or relationship. Often they are emotionally abusive toward their wives as well. This is the kind of relationship condoned in books of this ilk and this is wrong in so many ways. I wish I could help these women feel better about themselves and stand up for themselves. Thank you for your honest opinion and discussion of this subject.

  41. Sarah

    I haven’t read the book, but reading your summary and the quotes included made me think about the part of the Curse where God tells Eve that her desire will he for her husband and he will rule over her. Sounds kind of like Eggerich’s description of marriage, sadly.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I honestly think a lot of pastors and authors like these don’t think of that as a curse, but rather God’s will for humanity now. They don’t realize that Jesus came to reverse the curse!

  42. A

    Thank you so much for this Sheila, your message is so important and I agree 100%! I am reading your book “9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage” and it is just amazing and so life giving. After reading about 20 books to make my marriage better, I was getting so depressed because many of them said things that just didnt feel right at all and seemed abusive. And now that I’m reading your book, I just feel so much better and I realize that I am not crazy for rejecting some of the advice I have read before. Thank you for all that you do❤

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so glad, A!

  43. Paul

    I doubt it, but I hope that if there is a man here, reading this, who espouses the thinking of this book, that he will read and ponder this.

    One passage that never seems to be mentioned is Eph 5, 25-33, where we husbands are commanded to love our wives as Christ does the church. Paul even tells us somewhat what that means, “and gave himself up for her” and “In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church”

    This is the admonition to husbands. What it does is sort of ask this question: What if Christ loved you as much as, or in the same way that you “love” you wife”? How happy would you be?

    The attitude amongst some men, it seems, is that somehow, all Christ’s admonitions to believers on how to live and behave somehow all go out the window when it comes to how husbands can treat their wives (and children). No respect, no cherishing, no submission (yes, we are to submit to our wives by doing what the verses mentioned above say, loving and cherishing her as much as we love and cherish our own bodies–think of our nice cars, fishing or audio or computer equipment, or lavish man cave, or whatever our “thing” is, and much, much more).

    I could go on. There’s 1 Cor 13, and its description of what love looks like: “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

    Husbands, are you listening? Imagine if you loved your wife (and children) like that?

  44. BJ

    Only a fool goes to build a rope of three cords, and deliberately weakens one of the cords, and lets a second cord go to rot, thinking it will make the rope stronger.

    In a collective faith where the ropes are breaking more often than amongst those with no faith at all…
    I know it’s mixing metaphors but, sorry folks, the proof is in the pudding.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, BJ. That’s very insightful, too.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I tweeted out a thread regarding this. You can see the first tweet here. Just scroll down to see the whole thread.

  45. Paul Byerly

    Your attack seems to be based on cherry picking. Dr E said this:

    “Again, Ephesians 5:33 is not about a husband earning his wife’s respect by being more loving any more than it is about a wife earning her husband’s love by being more respectful.”

    I see a lot more balance there than you are giving him credit for.

    The same post says:

    “Unconditional respect, like unconditional love, is all about how one sounds (tone of voice and word choice) and appears (facial expressions and physical actions).”

    • Lea

      Asking someone to control their ‘facial expressions’ is not reasonable.

      You are asking someone to suppress their every response in word, deed or even expression? In response to sometimes exceedingly mean and hurtful behavior?

      Yeah. that doesn’t sound healthy at all. It’s NOT respect. It’s lies.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        To be fair, John Gottmann (whose work I very much admire, because it is scientifically based) does say that rolling one’s eyes is a sign of contempt.

        However, the solution is not to stop rolling the eyes but to address the underlying thoughts and feelings. That’s far healthier. And he points you to how to live out that. I talked about this in 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, too.

        • Lea

          I wasn’t really thinking of eye rolling… more like I have no poker face, if I am feeling a thing it is going to show. I just don’t think the answer is to pretend not to feel a thing, and it wouldn’t even be possible for me really.

          I completely agree with you that contempt is a bad thing, and that addressing underlying reasons behind it is a better solution.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Totally agree, Lea! I was just trying to give Love & Respect credit in the few places where they did say something that was backed by some research. But I agree with your broader point, too–it’s authenticity and vulnerability and honesty that are important in marriage. Addressing body language without addressing the underlying cause does nothing.

  46. Rebecca Lindenbach

    I’m just wondering where the nice facial expressions are going to help a woman whose husband has a porn addiction or who is a serial cheater (like men who were used as examples in his book). I’m pretty sure that Jesus said pretty harsh truths to people who were living in sin. And women are called to live like Jesus did, too. Find me a single verse that says otherwise.

    As well, you’re talking about a blog post that he wrote after Sheila had already posted her critiques. You’re not quoting from the book, which is what the critique is based on. Far more people read the book than the blog–that’s why we’re not talking about his blog.

    Paul, just take a minute and read the comments on these posts and the facebook posts with an open heart. And ask yourself: if that many women are saying that this book was used as a weapon by emotionally abusive husbands that caused them great pain and led them down a dark road, do we really think it’s not worth seriously reconsidering this work? Do these women’s voices matter?

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think that last bit is really important that Rebecca said.

      It really doesn’t matter whether I misunderstood what he said or not. It is not just me; it is all of these women, who have had the same story, again and again and again.

      If this many women are saying the exact same thing, the problem is not that I am misunderstanding something or cherry picking. The problem is that this book has been toxic. And if it’s toxic to that large a percentage of people who read it, then we must reconsider it–for the safety of those who have not read it yet, but may be hurt by it.

      There are enough other good books to point to. You don’t need this one to have a healthy marriage. But this one does hurt, and let’s not discount that.

    • Paul Byerly

      @Rebecca – The fact that something is used as a weapon does not make that thing bad. If it did, the Bible would be one of the most horrible books ever produced!

      I’ve had blog posts I wrote twisted to be used against people, and I know the same has been done with things Sheila wrote. How something is twisted doesn’t define the person who wrote it!

      The book in question was published 14 years ago. If it were written now I suspect it would be different. If nothing else it would have some clarification to try to prevent it from being twisted. If you read Eggerichs’ blog you will see things that are the exact opposite of what Sheila has suggested he means. I would guess much of this is him dealing with the way his words have been twisted.

      All of that said, I really don’t want to spend a lot of time here defending the man. Plenty of people say the book improved or saved their marriage. He doesn’t need my help! I just wanted to show that the situaiton is not as one-sided as has been suggested.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Again, Paul, if his views have changed in the last 14 years, then I invite him to pull the book and rewrite it. The way it is right now it hurts people. Really doesn’t matter what he writes on his blog saying “I didn’t mean that.” That is what the book says. So I just invite him to pull it, because it really does hurt women and marriages.

        • Sarah

          I am currently listening to the Audible version of the book in March 2019. The quotes Paul uses ARE in the book, many many times! He does explain that his principal of “unconditional respect” be used ONLY when you can trust in the “goodwill” of your husband. To me this says I should strive to provide my husband with the respect he desires, provided that he is not sinning.

          My husband is/was a porn/sex addict. We suffered through 17 years of his active addiction. I tried for 17 years to reach him, through lovingly correction, heartfelt discussions, condemnation, anger, sadness, dejection, apathy and finally almost complete detachment. For this entire time my husband has repeatedly asked me to “help him”, I did not understand what he meant until now. Despite the counselors, books, and articles on porn addiction and all the talks everywhere now, I still wasn’t hearing my husband and he certainly was not hearing me.

          This book helped me understand how I have been pushing my husband away, even while I thought I was drawing him closer. It gave me a glimpse into what my husband views as a healthy and strong relationship. Providing him a glimpse into my view as well. Since we both are “well meaning” and have “goodwill” towards one another we both choose to serve the other by providing what the other needs.

          Emerson strongly emphasizes that when he states the man needs respect and the woman desires love he is emphasizing the aspects that does not come naturally to each spouse. Women will offer love naturally, men will offer respect naturally… thus there is no need to tell women to love their husbands just as there is no reason to remind husbands that respect is important. Husbands need love too just as wives need respect! This is in the book, again and again!

          While I initially had the reactions you’re portraying here, as well as so many other’s. I’ve chosen to look at this in a different less intimidated or reactive place. Allowing it to speak to me about my husbands weaknesses and deepest desires. Which I honestly think is the point of the whole book.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Thanks for your perspective, Sarah. I’m curious about one thing, though. Do you think that respecting women comes naturally to men? That’s the premise of his entire book, and yet in blog posts lately he’s acknowledged that men don’t naturally respect. If your husband is using pornography, he is not respecting you. He is not loving you. And in history, respect has NOT come naturally to men towards women.

            I’m very glad that your relationship is being restored! That’s wonderful. I would just ask that you honour the stories of women here whose relationships were not restored. I’m very aware that there are many, many couples who have been helped by Love & Respect. But I’m also very aware that there are many who have been hurt. And I think those hurt people matter.

  47. Lisa

    Spot on. Keep it up.

  48. Jenny N

    I have hated this book for years and I’m the one who bought it way back when it was first published. But my now ex-husband LOVED the book and even bought it as an additional wedding gift for one of his best friends from high school.

    Long story short, I was married to a pathological liar and serial cheater/adulterer; for sure a narcissist. I finally caught him out on a date with a newly divorced woman that he’d been grooming behind my back for nine years. She was finally “free” and he took their behind-my-back coffee dates to the next level — a late night drinks date, so he could be a good “friend” to her after her divorce. Yeah, right. So like I said, it’s a long story. In the end he said to me and I quote, “not trusting him is not respecting him.” Any single time (and it wasn’t very often because I had been ground down to not speak up for myself or keep my needs very, very small) I’d bring up his women “friends”, he’d turn it around that I was being disrespectful to him.

    So if you are married to a very selfish person, this book will be used as a weapon against you. Every single time I see a picture of this book, I’m like, “grrrrrrr”.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you for your story, Jenny. It matters. You matter. I’ll be sure that others hear this, too.

  49. Rachel R.

    For what it’s worth, I was NOT crazy about this book. It came across to me as manipulative and just fundamentally flawed, although it had some good ideas…but his next book is, in my opinion, much better. (I think it’s called The Language of Love and Respect.) The principles (husbands, love your wives; wives, respect your husbands) are similar, but the tone is very different. (It also stands alone. No need to read Love and Respect before reading The Language of Love and Respect.) I’m hopeful this one was the victim of poor writing and not a truly overbearing husband/author.

    (I’m not saying either is necessary, and I have some concerns about the universality of the idea that women “primarily want love” and men “primarily want respect,” but if someone really wants to read Eggerichs, the second book is a better bet.)

  50. Jo

    Great discussion! Thanks, all! Now here’s a twist to love/respect/submit: Hubby thinks that “wives submit” in the Bible should be translated that wives should “encourage”. Never mind that he knows not a syllable of Greek or any other language. So I said, “OK, if I encourage you, who encourages me?” And I truly do try to encourage him, “pump him up”, all in a sincere and positive way. He said that OTHER WOMEN are the ones who would encourage me. Wow.

  51. Ariel

    Ok, so I admit nagging can sometimes be out of hand, but I just have to wonder… if in the story about the wet towels, the husband were the one asking the wife to clean up after herself, not leave shoes on the floor, etc. (which is 100% plausible because some women aren’t naturally neat and some men are neat freaks!) …. I’m pretty sure the consensus would have been that OF COURSE the wife should learn to clean up after herself because she should *respect* the husband’s wishes. I have an inkling that in the story we were supposed to go, “Oh wow, isn’t she just so unreasonable?” Yet if it were reversed, it wouldn’t be seen as unreasonable at all, and if so then Oh Well because she should still respect his wishes.

    Strange that loving her wouldn’t include respecting her wishes.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That was my thinking exactly.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Great article, Heather! Thank you.

  52. Heron

    Thank you thank you thank you, Sheila, for tackling this!! Just reading this post seriously made my stomach clench (that story about the wet towels…I MEAN WHAT?!?) What a sad, sickening distortion of marriage! This post sparked a nice discussion between my husband and me as we were folding laundry *gasp* together. If I owned Love & Respect it would undoubtedly go for a dunk in my bathtub. You do a great work with your blog, books, everything! I recommend them to all my married/engaged friends.

  53. Lenny

    It makes me realise a lot of second hand teachings I’ve absorbed that are probably from that book. Led me to read a lot of other helpful articles on your blog, including the ‘rape in marriage’ one.
    Thanks for all your helpful clarifications and also acknowledging where there may be room to disagree but also some sections of the book that seem can’t be misinterpreted.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Lenny.

  54. Anonymous A

    I am having a really hard time with the title of this post “Love and Respect: Why Unconditional Respect Can’t Work”

    Multiple versions of the New Testament translate Paul’s words as “wife must respect her husband” or slight variations of that phrasing.

    Just seems like the title is contradicting scripture.

    And yes, Paul did not use the word unconditional, but by not adding any conditions to the word respect, it would seem to me that the respect to which Paul refers has no conditions.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I hear what you’re saying.

      My issue was really what Emerson Eggerichs meant by “respect”. If we’re meaning “give people the honour to make their own choices and be adults”, then, yes it should be unconditional. If we mean “allow them to make the decisions and do not speak up if you disagree, except for a few sentences” then no, it should not be unconditional. Similarly, if we mean “admire them and what they do” then it should also not be unconditional either.

      The problem is that there are several definitions of respect. While it’s okay to have unconditional respect using one definition, authors like Eggerichs expand that to encompass the others, which should not be unconditional. In our Christian life, our moral decisions should be conditional, based on what the Holy Spirit wants. Yet that is not what he says.

      I hope that makes sense!

  55. Anonymous A

    I have finally gotten through re reading Love and Respect.

    I have a major concern with this sentence that your wrote above. ” I could also comment on his premise that women only really need love and men only really need respect. But I don’t have room to address everything today, so I’d like to focus just on the idea that women should be giving men unconditional respect.”

    On page 47 of Love and Respect Emerson wrote ” “I sometimes get the question “You say women need love and men need respect. Isn’t the opposite just as true? Don’t gals need respect and guys need love?” My answer is, of course women need respect and guys need love, but I am talking about the primary drive in each sex.”

    Your sentence above appears to be almost the opposite of what Emerson said, and that concerns me.

    I have to wonder- “Did you completely read the book this time from cover to cover?” or “Did you just get in a hurry when you wrote your response and you forgot some of the details of what Emerson wrote?” or another logical question in my mind is ” Are you distorting what he wrote?” Or is there another explanation of that I have not thought about.

    I have read your writings for a long time and based on your character, I really don’t think it is your style to deliberately distort other’s writings. At the same time, I have read Love and Respect multiple times, and been to his seminar with him in person and one on DVD and I really do not think Emerson is meaning to endorse abusing women nor that he is likely to be an emotionally abusive spouse.

    Will be interested in what your response to my concerns.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s a great question, and I’d put it this way.

      Let’s say that in a book that I wrote I had a sentence in there about how men really do experience intimacy during sex, but then I spend the entire rest of the book showing that what men really want and need is physical release.

      You can point to that one sentence and say, “see, she really does believe that men need intimacy!”

      But if everything else that I wrote shows the exact opposite, and if all of the action steps that I leave focus on accomplishing the exact opposite, then would you say it’s true that that’s really what I believe?

      He says that both need both, but he also says that our primary need is for love, and his is for respect. And he gives all kinds of examples of how women choose love and men choose respect. And then his whole book is set up to teach women how to respect (not to love) and men how to love (not respect). The reason he gives is that men already naturally know how to respect and women naturally know how to love, so we don’t need to be taught these things. However, in the examples that he gives of his own marriage, it’s quite clear that he does not treat his wife with respect (the towels on the bed; the fact that whenever she expresses something she doesn’t like he tells her she is being disrespectful; the fact that he doesn’t like her putting pepper on his eggs and feels the need to actually put this in the book instead of just making his own scrambled eggs).

      It’s like what he did with abuse. He said that abuse is wrong, and you should call the authorities, but then in the examples he gives where there is abuse going on, he tells the woman to stay. Even in cases of adultery or alcohol addiction.

      It’s important not to just look at individual sentences that he may write but at the thrust of what the book says. And the book is very concerning. Just read all of the comments on the posts this week and see how it has had horrible results on people’s marriages. There are much better books for couples that teach them to be selfless towards each other but also how to enact boundaries and act right when your spouse acts wrong. The end result of people following his advice is that sin is enabled and bad behaviour is encouraged. That’s not pointing people to Christ.

      • Anonymous A

        Thanks for sharing your perspective

      • Sarah

        No, he does not tell them to stay in an abusive relationship! He states simply that using the “love and respect” model their relationship model can be changed. In fact he says at least 6 times that I can specifically remember that if you’re in an abusive situation you should first get safe. Nowhere in this book does he encourage women to remain with a husband caught up in sin. He simply encourages us to treat our husbands with respect!

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Sarah,

          He also says that you should provide unconditional respect to men who are drinking, straying, and angry. The fact is that you can tell women to leave an abusive situation, but then, if, in your anecdotes, men are abusive and you tell women to stay, you’re not really getting the message across. Many of his examples were of abusive relationships (he just didn’t name them that way). And that is the problem. If I say “leave an abusive situation!”, but then say, “a wife of an abusive husband learned how not to react to his anger”, what message am I really giving? That abuse is bad and you should leave?

  56. ikp

    I have to add my 2 cents here. I too did some research online and purchased this book. I even shared some of the “principles” with my hubby and in total I was absolutely sickened and angry with the messages in this book. Per the comments of many here, both genders need Love and Respect equally. How you ratio this out in your relationships is between the 2 of you. I told my husband that I was so sick to death of the arrogance spewing from this book and that woman are inferior and men should rule. I hope that women have more sense and confidence in themselves to disregard these teachings, and for those who are disgusted by the book, to write a review for other women to read prior to purchasing.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Very good point about the review! Please, people, write reviews of what you’ve found!

  57. Irina

    Would a healthy male really thrive, if given Respect unconditionally? Wouldn’t that mean to disrespecting him by treating him like an emotionally unstable disabled child? I know, at least my man would be creeped out if I respected him without him being respectable, because it wouldn’t be worth anything.
    I wouldn’t respect him. If he can act like a drunk monkey and still get’s “respect” it’s… not for “him” not for his soul or personality or achievements. It’s for his job title “husband”, never for him.
    I am pretty sure my man would be severly depressed if he never could be sure that he is respectworthy or if I am just “dutiful”.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s a really interesting take, Irina! I think that’s very true.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s a really interesting take, Irina. I think that’s really true.

  58. Adam Campbell

    This article is awesome. It perfectly illustrates why everyone SHOULD read the book.

    This crazy ass must have clearly not had a good evening in the RV with her hubby.

    Nothing in the book isolates the woman into being the only one responsible for the marriage. The word respect is unique in its application when counseling those in LOVE. The entire book clearly defines that respect for a man is his love.

    This article is perfect the selfish women who want to undermine their husbands.

    The reviewer plainly misrepresents the author in her discussion of the wet towels. Just read the passage the reviewer put in here. Not a single word indicates the husband is withholding love. However, the passage does present a perfect scenario where the woman humbly realized that her complaining did no good for anyone.

    It’s amazing these people have a platform. You should be ashamed of yourself.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      This perfectly illustrates the kind of men and followers that Eggerichs is growing.

      He calls me a “crazy ass” and he says that the reason that I don’t like the book is because I had a terrible night in the RV with my husband–insinuating that because I’m not getting good sex, I’m incapable of reading anything with logic.

      It’s clear how he thinks women work, and I’m grateful that he showed us, because now we have an example of why this sort of teaching is toxic.

      And I will not let any more comments through by him just because of the inappropriate nature of his response. I just thought it was worth you all seeing what comes in, and seeing what Eggerichs’ teaching does.

      (Incidentally, I think it’s funny that you don’t think Eggerichs withheld love when he clearly told her “I didn’t miss you”. So he TELLS her he doesn’t want to be with her, but that’s not withholding love. Perhaps these men should figure out what love is).

      Oh, and while I was in the RV with my husband we were coming up with all our ideas for our new Sexy Dares product! So I’m pretty sure I’m in the clear on that one. 🙂

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      One other thing–it seems as if some men do not understand the significance of leaving wet towels on the bed, so I’m going to spell it out.

      When you put a wet towel on the bed, not only does that towel need to be picked up–quite likely all the sheets have to be changed too. Not just that, but if they have an expensive down comforter or bedspread, you may have to air it out to prevent it from getting moldy. So when he leaves his wet towels on the bed, he is then costing her a lot of time. She has to change the sheets. She has to do extra laundry. She has to air out comforters.

      That’s a significant amount of time for something that is completely unnecessary. He could have hung up the towel. He could have put it in the hamper. He could even have LEFT IT ON THE FLOOR. While not ideal, the latter takes absolutely no more time than leaving it on the bed, but at least it doesn’t cause all of these problems for his wife.

      But he doesn’t even do that. No, he wants the right to leave it on the bed. Why? Because he’s the man.

      And somehow, in that whole story, Adam thinks that he is still showing her love.

      It is not showing your wife love to do something that requires her to do a ton of work, when you could just as easily have left the towel somewhere else. That completely takes her for granted. That communicates to her: “You are not even worth considering. I get to do what I want, even if it causes you a lot of work. You don’t even register in my decision-making process.”

      How is that love?

      That is acting like a petulant child. He is saying that a man gets to do what he wants, and if a woman objects, she is being disrespectful.

      Yet nowhere does it occur to him that by taking his wife for granted like that, and by dropping his towel ON THE BED instead of ON THE FLOOR he is causing her a ton of work. And that this, perhaps, is not exactly love, to put it mildly.

      This shows me that Eggerichs has no idea what women think. He has no idea what real love is. And he also has no idea what being a Christ-like servant is (Jesus would not have left wet towels on the bed and thus cause someone else a ton of work when He could just as easily left them somewhere else.)

      I still find it astounding that I have to explain this. Read the comments–women picked up on this immediately. Yet some men still don’t. Obviously Eggerichs doesn’t. And if he thinks that her wanting him to put wet towels ANYWHERE but on the bed is unreasonable, then he has a lot to learn about marriage.