Even IF Women Want Love More than Respect–Is That a Good Thing?

by | Jul 16, 2021 | Connecting | 37 comments

Even If Men Need Respect More than Women, Is that a Good Thing?
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We’ve all heard the trope that men need respect while women need love.

It’s in the best-selling book Love & Respect, which I have critiqued copiously. 

And as we pointed out in a podcast on the problems with unconditional respect, the whole foundation for the “men need respect while women primarily need love” is based on a survey by Shaunti Feldhahn that she published in For Women Only, which Emerson Eggerichs references as support. That survey was highly problematic, but most importantly, they only asked men (when other researchers asked women the same question, women also chose respect).

This week, in our Patreon group, a reader gave another perspective that I felt was so interesting I wanted to share it.

For those of you who may not know, we have a Patreon that supports our research and knowledge dissemination. The money doesn’t go to me or the blog; they’re self-sufficient. They go to fund the things we can’t monetize, including Joanna (my co-author for The Great Sex Rescue) working to get our research in peer-reviewed journals, and Rebecca working on new social media channels that I have no way of monetizing.

When you become a supporter for even $5 a month, you get access to the Facebook group. And we have other perks, like unfiltered podcasts where Rebecca (and sometimes me) say what we really think; and merchandise; and autographed books; and more.

Anyway, in that group, a member wrote this:


I’ve been doing a lot of hard thinking. I’ve come to a conclusion.

It doesn’t even matter if Shaunti Feldhahn’s survey was performed properly, up to standard or not. It doesn’t even matter that she ignored the [survey expert]’s warning that her conclusions were invalid.

Suppose I took a survey. I ask 1,000 employees of Walmart, Target, or some other huge corporation, half black, half white. I ask black employees if they have a need to feel respected by their white co-workers, and ask white employees if they have a need to feel respected by their black co-workers.

Let’s say my results are:

  • 80% of white employees need to feel respected by their black co-workers.
  • 25% of black employees need to feel respected by their white co-workers.

Have I solved the problem of race relations?

Do I write a book telling black people that of course everyone needs to feel respected but white people really need it more? Do I start a massive industry, going around the country, speaking at corporate events, giving trainings to black and white people so they can learn to get along better at work by making sure black people show respect to white people? Because white people need it more and they haven’t been receiving it?

Of course not. We KNOW this would be utterly ridiculous and HARMFUL.

Many years ago, I taught at an inner city school, 98% black students, vast majority living below the US poverty line.

I think I learned more from them than they learned from me. If I had asked them if they needed the respect of the teaching staff (mostly white), they would’ve said, “hell no.” They were focused on avoiding peer humiliation (it was middle school), friendships, and safety. Does that mean they didn’t need my respect? Deserve my respect? Absolutely not. Even more, I NEEDED TO RESPECT THEM FOR MYSELF. I cannot bear to think what it would have done to me if I had believed that they didn’t need my respect as much as I needed respect from them. It was absolutely essential to the well being of my soul to know that those students NEEDED my respect far more than I needed theirs.

To say that an entire group of people (black teens and pre-teens) didn’t need respect as much as I did, that would have been a cancer inside of me.

And I’m terrified for the people who believe that half the planet doesn’t need respect as much as they do (men who believe the love & respect dichotomy).

Of course, it does matter that Shaunti Feldhahn’s survey was done to high school standards. Of course we should expect more from a professional book, published by a respected publishing company with funds to edit and fact check. Of course we should expect more from Focus on the Family, etc. But why are so many okay with a caste system in the church simply because of a SURVEY? We would never stand for this if the topic wasn’t gender, but race.

Lisa M.

Just because the world is one way does not mean that we need to conform to it.

Behind the scenes, Rebecca and I often have this conversation about the problems with the way all too many resources talk about gender relations.

As I’ve said before, I do not think that Shaunti Feldhahn’s research question accurately distilled men’s and women’s respective needs for respect vs. love. I don’t think we should take that survey question as authoritative at all.

But EVEN IF–as Lisa said, EVEN IF–it were true, where does this leave us?

Let’s say we did a survey that found that 80% of men had pedophilic tendencies (of course that’s not true; just using an example). What would our response be? That women and children need to understand that’s just how men are, and adapt to it?

Or would we say, “wow, there’s something seriously off with the way men are being conditioned to think of their sexuality, and we need to do something about that so children are protected.”

Passion 4 Dancing

The sense I get from a lot of Shaunti Feldhahn’s work, and from works like Every Man’s Battle, is that they feel that because this is the way men are, women need to understand it and adapt to it.

But is this the right approach?

Maybe the right approach would be to start at Christ, and realize that His desire is that we all be transformed into His likeness (Romans 8:29), and that the kingdom of God is about serving, not being served (Matthew 20:25-28). And if a survey finds that a particular group of people–be it a gender, an age group, a geographic group, an ethnic group, whatever–isn’t living up to that, then our response should be, “what can we do to make the kingdom of God more a reality here?”

It isn’t to conform to what fallen people want; it’s to say, “how can we enter into this dynamic and transform it for Christ?”

Now, I’m not saying it’s wrong for men to want respect. But to say that women don’t, and thus men need it more than women, is to set up a very unhealthy dynamic that does not reflect Christ. And it is not only about respect that we see this play out in Christian marriage books. These books (like HIs Needs, Her Needs) as well often give a laundry list of what men want, and what women want, but they don’t talk about the dynamic this creates, or that we should really be focusing on what God wants.

The goal of the Christian life is not to make everyone get what they naturally want; it’s to transform our relationships into kingdom ones.

When we did our research for The Great Sex Rescue, it wasn’t to say, “this is how women are, so everyone needs to adapt to it.” No, instead we started with the biblical truths about sex–that it should be mutual, pleasurable, and intimate–and then we looked at whether this was a reality in a woman’s life, and why not.

In other words, we started with the truth, and then we asked, “how can we get there?”

I feel like many other studies, and many other books, start with, “here’s what men want, so here’s what women should do.” They measure the reality on the ground (though, as I said, I don’t actually think many of these surveys are accurate), and then they want us to conform.

But we’re supposed to conform to Jesus. (Romans 12:1-2)

Personally, I think we should start with what God wants.

And if we do a survey that finds that our natural inclinations, if played out, would take us further away from that, then the question should not be, “how can we make everybody happy?” It should be instead, “How did we stray from what God wants? And how can we get back there?”

Even If Men Need Respect More than Women, Is that a Good thing?

What do you think? Does Lisa have a point? Let’s talk in the comments!

Other Posts about the Issues in Love & Respect by Emerson Eggerichs

Must Read Overall Synopsis:

Our Resources:

Basic Issues with Love & Respect:

Problems with How Emerson Eggerichs Handles Abuse:

Podcasts Discussing these Issues:

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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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  1. K

    Brilliant thought from the patreon commentator and beautifully fleshed out Sheila. I’m having a “duh” moment, when you realize you were the frog in the water slowly coming up to boiling. Because how on earth did we get to the point where this post is necessary? (and it is necessary!)

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I feel like I jumped out of some major boiling water about 2 years ago! It is a strange feeling.

    • Angela

      Women often trade respect for “love.” This is a common dynamic of abusive relationships, or serial problem relationships with guys. Plenty of psychologists have written about it, like “Women Who Love too Much” which helped open my eyes to my own contributions to my abusive relationship. A pathological need for romantic love or marriage is not healthy or according to Christ! Nor is it a recipe for a good relationship with anyone, much less family. And of course that longing or neediness to be loved is not real love for others, and needs to be filled/healed by Jesus.

      If women really value “love” more than respect, they should change. Women who value respect will probably not connect with toxic men.

  2. Lisa M

    Yes. When I was finally able to articulate this, I could no longer look at this from any other perspective.

    If a group of people believes they don’t need my respect, my question becomes, “what on earth has happened that they do not know their inherent worth and dignity?” My response is NOT “then clearly I need their respect more than they need mine, so they better respect me.”

    Thank you for sharing my thoughts, Sheila, and continuing to shine light on this.

  3. Nathan

    Even if men really really really really need respect and have a HUGE need for it, and our whole beings cry out that we simply MUST be respected, that’s no excuse to demand that women give us that respect unconditionally.

    If we want respect that badly, we should be willing to work to earn it not just sit back and demand that it be provided to us, free of charge, no matter what.

    • mtKatie

      I appreciate your point of view but I would add this: The easiest way to earn respect is to show respect to others.

    • Phil

      Nathan – I find your comment interesting. I do get what you are saying but for me I need to expand upon your comment by giving the opposite point of view. While I do agree with respect must be earned I do also believe that respect must be given. I should not have to earn someones respect before they give it to me. That is NOT the Fruit of the Spirit and that is NOT how JESUS operated. In fact Jesus gave respect even when he was being disrespected and he did it countless times. I certainly don’t have that ability…and or at least if I do it is short term….

      • Kya

        I think there are two kinds of respect. There is a certain basic level of unconditional respect that all people are due, simply because they are loved by God and made in His image. Giving someone more respect than this, though, is something that needs to be earned based on the behavior and merits of the person in question, and using the word “respect” for both levels causes confusion. For example, if I walked into a medical conference and wanted to give a talk, I would expect them to A) treat me with courtesy and kindness because I am a human and therefore worthy of those things, but I would also expect them to B) deny me the honor of being one of their speakers because I have no education or experience related to the medical field. I receive A because that is the basic level of respect that all people should always receive, but I do not receive B because B must be earned and I have not earned it.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          That’s a great analogy, Kya! I think it’s one of those occasions where it’s sad that English only has one word for two very different things.

      • Bek

        There are two kinds of respect:
        There is respecting someone’s human dignity and worth. Everyone deserves this by simply existing.
        Secondly, there’s esteem and deference. This respect is earned.
        I believe Nathan, and I’m sure Emerson Eggerichs, are referring to the second. In fact, I would also say that E.E. is referring to the second kind of respect with the added element of the respect we give authority figures such as children to parents. To demand that form of respect, especially unconditionally, is wrong, and a little abusive.

    • Phil

      This is such an interesting conversation. I agree with all that is being said…I really do…as an example Sheila has earned my respect. I didnt not respect her when I arrived here. I just respect her more now because of the long standing history of what I have learned about her and what she stands for etc etc. However I think of what was mentioned about 2 types of respect and I would more categorize it as different levels of respect and I would also say that not only must you earn respect it is also yours to loose.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Yes, exactly. And the problem I have with the love/respect dichotomy is not that men want respect; it’s that you don’t have to give it to women. I think respect needs to go both ways. As Lisa says, what would it do to a person’s character to think that they DON’T have to give respect to those around them? How would that shape them and mar them? How toxic!

    • RS

      Reminds me of the saying, “respect is earned, not given.”

  4. Kya

    My husband and I received a free copy of Love and Respect, so we are reading and critiquing it together (which is fun, but also quite sad sometimes). For those who haven’t read it, Eggerichs has 2 acronyms, COUPLE and CHAIRS, that describe what women need from a relationship (the former) and what men need from a relationship (the latter). The first three letters of CHAIRS stand for: Conquest, Hierarchy, and Authority. The first time I read that I put the book down in shock and said, “How on earth is this a Christian best-seller? How is saying that men are made by God to need conquest, hierarchy, and authority–and women MUST give these to them–anything like the Kingdom of God? Where does Jesus ever say anything like this? How have church leaders read this for years and said, “Yep, sounds about right?” It was a very sobering moment. This Facebook commenter nailed it–the church has too long tried to conform the Bible to man instead of the other way around.

    • Bek

      Agreed! That was my reaction as well. Such a toxic ideology!

    • Wild Honey

      And the E for the women stands for “esteem.” Esteem is just another word for respect! Even Emerson can’t get around the fact that women need respect, too.

    • Laura


      I was also appalled when I saw Eggerichs’ acronym for what he believes men need. Conquest, Hierarchy, and Authority sound very chauvinistic and he must think men like himself need their egos boosted. I’ve heard people in church (even women) say that when a wife tries to be equal to her husband, the husband feels emasculated so she needs to build him up by submitting to him. This method just causes the needs of one person (the woman) to no longer matter.

      Thankfully, the copy of Love and Respect I have was free. Someone from church gave it to me when I was engaged to my ex-fiance (now friend) three years ago. We never got around to reading it when we were together which is such a great thing. Recently after hearing Sheila’s podcasts about this book, I discovered I still had this book on my shelf and skimmed through it. Yep, I’m flabbergasted that FOF endorses this misogynistic garbage. When I told my friend about this book, he was appalled to hear what was in there. I told him that I will throw it in the trash when I’m done reading through this book.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Yes, do throw it out! And it is terrible that men think they can’t be decent without being in charge.

        Also, it shows that they have no concept of what real intimacy is, which is terribly sad.

  5. Phil

    Good morning Sheila, I have been waiting for the right time to share this but since this Love and Respect issue became such a big issue, I have come to learn that I do command respect from people. Yes I just used the word command. It doesn’t matter who you are, black, white, rich poor, ect I command respect. Respect vrs Love is not really relatable to me. The 2 are separate. For example: When my kids leave a chair up against the wall and jump into it as some sort of fun activity and the wall gets damaged, that is total disrespect to me. I still love them. However, when someone let’s say at work disrespects me repeatedly with their words, that is disrespectful. I can still love them as a person but that doesn’t mean I have to hang out with them. However, what I was thinking here is that this Love and Respect thing and woman vrs man thing is IDENTICAL to the men want sex more than women thing that we have been talking about around here for ages. Sure there are stereotypical things that are present in our society but it is not about accepting the way things are it is about being equal. EVERYONE SHOULD BE RESPECTED! Maybe we can break it down to the common phrase of treat others like you want to be treated. I see this topic as Respect being a result of the Fruit of the Spirit. If we live like HIM and we live the Fruit of the Spirit then we will be respectful human beings. I am a man and I need love. PERIOD. To say that I want respect more than love is laughable. Yes I command respect. Respect is a result of LOVE, JOY, PEACE, KINDNESS, GOODNESS, FAITHFULNESS, GENTLENESS, SELF-CONTROL. I am thinking of the towel story from Eggrich and the way that was handled by him was actually disrespectful by him!….in the past year my wife decided to pick up this weird habit. I would go in the bathroom and find the empty toilet paper roll on the bathroom floor. It went on for many many months….it wasn’t something that was a standard practice for the past 20 some years…so one day I finally said what’s up with that? She said oh I don’t know….I will stop doing that….I said ok and then end. It was just a simple exchange. A respectful discussion and a respectful change in behavior. While not earth shattering I call that the Fruit of the Spirit!

    • Lisa M

      Every human needs respect and to be treated with dignity.

      Every human fails in this at times. Hopefully less and less as we grow.

      Your examples are spot on.

      Beyond this, we need to look at why certain groups of people have lost touch with their inherent worth. If an individual or group of people have convinced themselves they don’t really need respect, we have to look at why. And work to help restore them.

  6. Nathan

    I like the concept of the two levels of respect. Basic human dignity and a higher level of personal respect.

  7. Wild Honey

    I was JUST having a conversation with my (male) dental hygienist (who is old enough to be my father), of all people, about something that dovetails into this. He was relaying a conversation with his wife, in which he said men struggle with pride more than women. His wife said, “Women struggle with pride, too!” He responded that, yeah sure, but not to the extent men do.

    [Personally, I think both genders struggle with pride, it just tends to manifest differently, but that’s neither here nor there.]

    I told him, I think part of the reason men struggle with pride more is that they are told “men are born to be leaders” and “all men should lead,”’etc, withOUT the accompanying message that leadership is something to be worked toward and something to be earned. And so it turns into an entitlement.

    There was a long pause while he loquaciously hemmed and hawed. I think he wanted to agree, but wasn’t quite sure what kind of repercussions agreeing might have.

  8. Jane Eyre

    That analogy to a survey on race relations is amazing. Thank you for that, Lisa.

    One of my problems with these survey questions is what people feel comfortable expressing. Are women going to feel comfortable saying “never climaxing makes sex a really sucky experience”? Will men feel comfortable saying ” I need to feel special to my wife”? Or will women and men fall into the stereotypes as a way of explaining uncomfortable, complex emotions? The stereotype is close enough and it explains that you are upset and that is good enough.

    Even if they are, will other people police them into the “accepted” stereotype? Will the researcher accept what they are hearing? I have had this happen numerous times. Someone literally told me that I needed a sex accountability partner because I just needed to be encouraged to do it, because I was forgetting how awesome it feels at the end. Um, I save for retirement, go to the gym, clean, and do projects and pay bills ahead of schedule because I am really really good at doing things now for gratification later. But we have this bizarre social insistence on shoving people into rigid sex roles, so people just mentally find the nearest box to shove the problem into.

    • Lisa

      Yes, this is very true. It is suspected that the incidence of boys and men being sexually harassed and assaulted is largely underreported because “real men never say no to sex” so of course it’s not possible for them to be raped. (And women are not sexual or visual so it’s not possible for women to objectify men, either.) It is also very likely that women who use pornography are underreported because it’s a “man’s issue” and women are less likely to acknowledge it, even to themselves. Men with eating disorders is also a problem. If someone is male and needs residential treatment for an eating disorder, good luck! Most of the residential programs are for girls and women. There’s this idea that some problems exist only for women and others only for men. Most problems occur in PEOPLE, not a specific gender. Once we get beyond body parts that only exist in one or the other, of course.

  9. EOF

    This is such a good example of why the premise of that book is so horrible!

    I remember reading Shaunti’s book years ago and feeling like I was flawed fundamentally because I desperately wanted respect in my marriage. (At the time, we were following the damaging teachings of L&R and similar books, and I was being disrespected daily, and it was killing me inside.)

    I’m so glad the lies of these books are being exposed! I suffered through those false teachings for far too long. I was young and naive, believing that if the church it was so, it was.

    No more.

  10. L Johnson Scott

    Yes! It’s a big error to describe how things are and say “this is unchangeable and how God designed it to be”

    The whole point of Christianity is to CHANGE and be transformed to become more like Jesus.

  11. Charlene

    Many years ago, my husband and I started reading L&R together. I didn’t know how to explain what was wrong with the book at the time, but I knew I didn’t agree with it. I do know I felt uncomfortable with many of the author’s examples and teachings. There was a passage about how his wife was “not friendly” because she wanted the house clean and tidy. I remember thinking how strange it was that he thought that was unfriendly or unreasonable. I thought it was very unreasonable and disrespectful of him to expect (and to teach his sons) to leave things lying around anywhere and everywhere, to eat whenever they wanted, etc. And then he told her that they did that while she was gone on a trip. Now I know that I was discerning his lack of respect for his wife. It is so terrible that he teaches this to other people! Thankfully, I realized that I need and want respect also. I totally disagree that women need love vs. respect and men need respect vs. love. In fact, it says in Titus 2 for older women to teach the younger women to love their husbands.
    Needless to say, we never finished the book. I did not want my husband thinking it was okay to behave that way.
    Many thanks to Lisa for the analogy and to Kya for the explanation of the two different levels of respect. I totally agree with that.

  12. Dani

    Yep. I too have been applying this same logic to men and women in the church. All people are equal in Christ but only white people can hold leadership positions in our churches and only white people can teach white people from the Bible because white people and other ethnicities are created equal but with different roles. I’m sure I could find some proof texts to back that up because it’s been done in the past but we KNOW this is wrong and utterly faulty logic. Yet we continue to apply it to gender.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Exactly. We’re perfectly comfortable with a sexist God (because denying people opportunity solely based on their gender is the very definition of sexism).

  13. Laura

    Respect goes BOTH ways. Recently, Rick Warren, senior pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California and author of The Purpose Driven Life, gave a sermon about respect. He believes respect needs to be earned and never once did he mention that respect is gender exclusive like Eggerichs thinks. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMpNGqau09Y

    The problem with some Christian organizations like FOF (Focus on the Family) is that they want to maintain the status quo. Why they endorsed Love and Respect is beyond me? From what I’ve heard, FOF doesn’t seem very open to acknowledging different Christian views (like gender equality) because they want to hold onto the idea of the traditional family (two-parent household) and will fight hard to make sure couples stay married (even if there’s abuse).

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I used to love Focus on the Family, but after seeing how they treat abuse victims, and how they refuse to look at harm done, I’m so dismayed. Their main focus is two-parent households with a stay at home mom where the husband is in charge and divorce never happens.

      Our focus should be Jesus.

      • Lisa

        FotF has a new counseling program for married couples on the brink of divorce. I’m actually sick at the thought of what kind of counsel they will offer. I have no doubt that reconciliation and preventing divorce is the ultimate goal, no matter the cost.

  14. Connie

    I don’t know if this is the right place for this comment, but it’s all related, isn’t it? I was thinking about how complimentarians say that we are almost equal but someone has to have the last word, break the tie, take the fial responsibility. My husband was offered a partnership where he would have 49%, and the other party 51%. Sounds like an almost equal partnership, right? He said no, it’s really no better than if he had 1%.


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