A Summary of the Issues with Love & Respect by Emerson Eggerichs (with Download)

by | Jan 18, 2023 | Theology of Marriage and Sex | 39 comments

Summary of the Problems with the Book Love & Respect by Emerson Eggerichs
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Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs is a best-selling, but problematic, book.

Love & Respect is the most-used marriage curriculum in North American churches. It came on our radar in 2019, and when we read it we saw some major problems. 

After posting about those problems, we received hundreds of emails from women who said that the book enabled abuse in their marriage, or made the abuse worse. We created a report of our findings and sent it to Focus on the Family (which publishes the book), but they ignored us.

Since then, we have surveyed over 32,000 people to find out which evangelical teachings lower marital and sexual satisfaction, and we are dedicated to calling the church to a more Jesus-centered view of marriage, and a healthier view of sex where it is not a female obligation and male entitlement, but instead something mutual, intimate, and pleasurable for both.

In the course of that research, we created a rubric of healthy sexuality teaching and applied it to evangelical best-sellers. Love & Respect scored the worst of any book we measured–0/48. When we asked open-ended questions on our surveys, asking women what resources they believed made things worse, Love & Respect was the most commonly named resource. 

Our findings show that the messages in Love & Respect about marriage and sex can make marRiages worse. 

While some may have found the book helpful, when it has hurt many others, it is best to choose a different book. There are other, better books to use that do not leave many of their readers harmed.

While I have written at length about the problems with Love & Respect (and links to other posts can be found at the bottom of this one), many have asked for a summary sheet that they can show others. 

This post is our summary of the issues. You can also download the information in this post as a pdf, which can be printed on two sides of one sheet of paper. 

 

A Summary of the Issues with Love & Respect

Synopsis

While most marriage books have focused on how to love one another, Love & Respect finds the missing piece: A woman’s respect for her husband. The book calls for wives to respect and husbands to love so as to avoid the Crazy Cycle in marriage.

 

Summary of Issues

  • Thesis isn’t supported. The book is based on a survey by Shaunti Feldhahn that found that 74% of men would choose respect over love. However, she failed to ask women the same question before drawing comparisons. When other researchers did ask women, a virtually identical number also chose respect.
  • Defines respect in a way that strips a wife of any agency, sexual or otherwise. Respect involves giving husbands sex, enforcing his authority and hierarchy over her, and listening to his insight rather than hers. Thus, she must provide sex on demand and acquiesce to his desires and plans, even if she feels God is saying something different (she can’t trust herself since women can be deceived, p. 230).
  • Creates lopsided marriage where the husband can label anything he doesn’t like as disrespectful, and the wife must defer or she isn’t showing respect (she is disrespectful for asking him to pick up wet towels off the bed, p. 242-243).
  • Does not allow any healthy way for a wife to address issues in the marriage. In the only example given where a wife is told how to speak up, a woman married to a workaholic husband may say 2-3 sentences every 10-20 days, but other than that must stay silent (p. 316). Rather than a marriage functioning as iron sharpening iron, the husband gets to do what he wants, even leaving candy wrappers on the floor (p. 243), and the wife must accept it.
  • Misuses Scripture to support his points. In the 208 Scripture references used, Jesus’ words are conspicuously rare. Yet Eggerichs positively quotes the words of pagans from the book of Esther to justify men’s need for respect (pp. 57-58). In another example (one of many), he deliberately omits multiple words in 1 Peter 2:17-18, claiming the verses tell women to show respect to harsh husbands, even though the word “harsh” only appears in regards to slave masters, not husbands (p. 43).

How Love & Respect Enables Abuse

  • Requires unconditional respect even in dangerous marriage situations. Says that a wife must give unconditional respect, which includes enforcing his hierarchical authority over her; deferring to his plans; and giving him sex on demand; even when a husband is drinking or straying (p. 88); is harsh (p. 43); has been physically abusive (p. 84); or has withering rage so that she wants to get away and hide (p. 283)
  • Ignores the dangers of abuse. Eggerichs reports that his father strangled his mother. Yet instead of acknowledging this abuse and warning others in similar situations to get to safety, he praises his mother for “seeking creative solutions” rather than victimhood (p. 283). In another anecdote when a husband is jailed for physical abuse, Eggerichs seems surprised that he was required to take anger management classes, since the man had repented (p. 84). He also praises a woman who let her abusive husband back into the house after he repented, and talks about how she learned to show respect rather than arguing (p. 278).
  • Though Eggerichs gives lip service to stopping abuse, the main takeaway in his anecdotes with abusive dynamics is for the wife to defer and submit.

How Love & Respect Handles Sex

  • Assigns the blame for men’s affairs mostly to women not giving enough sex (p. 253)
  • Claims sex is about a husband’s “physical release”, warning that without release he will “come under satanic attack” (p. 252).
  • Never mentions that women can and should feel pleasure, but instead says to women, “If your husband is typical, he has a need you don’t have” (p. 258), and claims a benefit of sex for women is that sex doesn’t take very long (p. 252).
  • Paints sex as a male entitlement and a female obligation, while ignoring intimacy.

Healthy Sexuality Score: 0/48

Infidelity and Lust:

0/16

Pleasure:

0/16

Mutuality:

0/16

For complete results, download our rubric and scorecard

What Women Are Saying about Love & Respect

“I can look back in my marriage and see that the abuse *greatly* escalated after the entrance of this book into my life, and its teaching trapped me in a vicious cycle where no matter how agreeable or even invisible I became, it was never enough.”

Facebook comment

“At marriage counseling at our church, this book was used. I admitted to feeling sexually assaulted (not having my “no” listened to, painful things continued, having my head forcefully held, etc) and was reprimanded by the counsellor. The message that respect and sex must be never-ending from me, or infidelity and/or the end of the marriage would be entirely my fault, was loud and clear.”

Blog Post Comment

“I, too, tried to respect a narcissistic, abusive man. The more I submitted, the happier he was, and I ended up being alone in a marriage. He didn’t love ME. He loved himself, and he loved the way I served him. That book, “Love and Respect”, did me great harm.”

Blog Post Comment

“I read this book when I was struggling to know how to confront my husband. I stopped “nagging” and I became a doormat for him. It drove me deeper into my dark mental health struggles cause no matter how much “respect” I gave him, he never responded with more love, just more taking advantage of. Our relationship is a mess. I am always fearful of bringing up things that need to be addressed. I feel broken and brain washed.”

Blog Post Comment

These are just a handfull of the testimonies we have received. We have collected over 1000. 

Summary of Findings

While superficial peace can be attained by telling women to ignore their needs and do what their husbands want, real intimacy will never be found. Focusing on a husband’s will rather than God’s will does not bring about a Jesus-centered marriage, but can too easily create a dangerous one. Emerson Eggerichs shows no understanding of abuse dynamics or the very common tactic of love bombing, and thus we strongly recommended purging it from church resources and shelves.

Instead of Love & Respect, Choose:

Created for Connection by Sue Johnson

Boundaries in Marriage by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

7 Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman (secular book)

Love and Respect

One Sheet

Everything Harmful with Love and Respect Summarized on One Sheet!

Subscribe today to get the free printout to share with your friends, family, and pastors

Download a Summary Sheet of the Problems with the Book Love & Respect

Do you have someone you want to give this resource to? Do you think it may help people see? What book would you like me to tackle next? 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:

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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39 Comments

  1. Kelly

    When I discovered my husbands affair in Dec 2011, I bought this book & many of the others from your blacklist on Amazon. To try & repair my marriage. Needless to say, it didn’t work. He stopped the affair but not his narcissistic ways.

    I went to work 40 hours a week while he was laid-off from work yet I was still expected to do laundry/cook/clean while he did little to nothing more to help lighten my load in our home. Best thing I did 9’years later was divorce him. I only stayed as long as I did for the sake of my young son.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so glad you’re in a better place now, Kelly!

      Reply
    • Jo R

      Pronoun trouble: “lighten ***my*** load in ***our*** home”!!!!

      https://youtu.be/XlzCPxxp8Ys

      🙄 🙄 🙄 (HIM, not you)

      Reply
  2. Mara R

    By the time “Love and Respect” came around, I already knew that my spouse had issues even though I didn’t understand them as being on the narcissistic spectrum.

    He had used “Wild at Heart” as a way to justify him being a jerk and used it make himself more of a jerk, saying that this is the way God made him and that I just needed to accept his wild heart. He used the book to define his sins and something other than sins. So when “Love and Respect” came out, I let it fly under his radar which was easy because he was actively backsliding into alcoholism and other problems.

    I can only imagine how much worse this book made life for woman married to a narcissists.
    I have been walking with my ex sister-in-law as she goes through her divorce to my ex’s brother. She did not dodge the “Love and Respect” bullet and her situation is far worse than mine because of it.

    Words cannot express how happy I am that you are taking on this Goliath that has been oppressing women for far too long. I am so glad the you are providing these tools to bring to light these warped teachings that have been destroying God’s people.

    I look forward to your other summaries.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thank you, Mara! I’m so sorry that both you and your sister-in-law were so hurt in marriage. It sounds as if your ex’s family had a major entitlement and abuse complex. That’s so sad, and there should never have been so much destruction.

      Our Fixed It For You book which launches February 8 has a Fixed It For You from Wild at Heart!

      Reply
    • Angharad

      Urgh, Wild at Heart is one the THE most dangerous books out there – dodgy theology, gender stereotyping and some seriously scary advice. For me, the worst bit is where he asks if women would prefer ‘a really sweet guy’ or one who’s ‘a dangerous man…in a good way’. WHAT?!!! He then goes on to say “Some women, hurt by masculinity gone bad, might argue for the ‘safe’ man…” like it’s a BAD thing if you don’t want to end up with someone dangerous. I know so many girls who have ended up with a ‘dangerous man’ (and let’s be clear, there is NO SUCH THING as being dangerous in ‘a good way’) and who have suffered terribly because of it. This kind of garbage enables young men to justify their bad behaviour and encourages young women to ignore huge red flags because they think there’s something wrong with preferring a ‘nice guy’ and that bad=good. So twisted.

      I think the ‘next worst’ would be Act of Marriage by LaHaye. But there are so many. How much time have you got, Sheila?! Writing summaries for all these books could end up being a full time job.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I know! I’m planning on doing one a month, and I’m going to let our patrons decide which one I tackle next. I had to do Love & Respect first of course. I’m thinking I’ll likely take on Every man’s Battle next? Or I might just do them in the order of how harmful they were on our rubric, so that all the harmful ones are done, which would look like:

        Love & Respect
        Every Man’s Battle
        For Women Only
        His Needs, Her Needs
        Power of a Praying Wife
        Act of Marriage
        Sheet Music

        I’m not sure! I’ll see what our patrons say. It may also be a good idea to go with the ones that sell the best, and add The Excellent Wife to the list earlier.

        Reply
        • Nessie

          My guess is there will be quite a lot to say about the new one driscoll is doing that someone here mentioned recently (maybe Mara)? I know it’d be a tall order but it sure would be great to have a page like this for newly-released books to kind of stop them in their tracks so they hopefully don’t become the next best seller.

          Adding my thanks with others to y’all for doing these lists! (Might be worth slipping a print off of them inside the books in libraries similar to the bookmark idea someone mentioned a while ago.)

          FWIW, I think the order you listed looks great! If the biggest offenders get done first, it might help increase discernment skills for people reading other resources.

          Reply
        • Codec

          Dangerous in a good way. This actually is a great way for me to bring up something that I have been wanting to talk about. The question of why their are characters that continue to be loved and admired. There are two characters in particular I am thinking of that are both masculine ideals in a way that have more depth to them then people give them credit for.

          Conan The Barbarian and one Mr. Darcy. These two characters in many ways are very different. Yet both characters are very much admired. Both characters have different vices Conan is a barbarian he does have a kind of chivalry but it is met with brutality. Darcy is literally the pride in Pride and Prejudice. Yet both of these characters are also intelligent, capable, resourceful, and oftentimes they wind up helping people. Darcy winds up helping Elizabeth and her family against a genuine scumbag. Conan has put to sword all kinds of monsters necromancers and eldritch beings.

          I think the idea of being “Dangerous in a good way” really means the ability to stand up against that which is dangerous with a willingness to deal with the problem. At least I hope that is what it means. What do you all think?

          Reply
          • Mara R

            I think you are right, Codec.

            And I think dangerous was a poor word choice for “Wild at Heart”. Such a poor word choice that it is, in fact, literally dangerous to impressionable young women (and men) who don’t get it.

            I don’t have a better word off the top of my head to use. But I think he meant someone strong, capable, and able to hold their own in conflicts where there needs to be justice done.

            I think Eldredge was trying to balance the word dangerous with the word good and tried to use Aslan from Narnia as a good example. He was not a ‘safe’ lion. But He was good.

            The problem is, this was completely lost on my ex. He spit out the straw and ate the sticks. He decided that he was wild and dangerous and could do what he wanted because he was a man! It’s like he and I didn’t even read the same book cause I ate the straw and spit out the sticks.

          • Hannah

            I want to put in a word for Darcy! The whole point of his story arc is that he changes and loses his pride. Jane Austen explicitly states this at the end of the novel. I love Mr. Bennett’s line along the lines of ‘Do not give me the pain of seeing you unable to respect your partner in life, Lizzy.’ In context this is about marrying someone who deserves respect, not respecting someone because you married them, regardless of character. Elizabeth falls in love with Darcy after she realises her prejudice against him was wrong and he addresses his flaws. Aware that in real life change isn’t guaranteed.

          • Codec

            Hannah you are right on the money for Darcy. As for Conan he also grows in the stories as he becomes a king he takes on responsibilities and finds out that sometimes you can not just hack away at a problem because some problems can not be solved that way.

            I think the word that this wild at heart guy is really looking for is something like “Fortitude” or “Grit” or ” Tenacity”. When he speaks about a strong dangerous man versus a weak but kind man it reminds me of the whole alpha vs beta male thing which really doesn’t make much sense.

            I said that both Conan and Darcy are masculine ideals and I stand by that. I stand by that because they can help teach men and women about both vices and virtue. Both are characters I admire and both can be held by me as admirable at the same time because they are admirable in different ways. It is held that way in the same way that I can say that smoked salmon and marmalade are both delicious or that Sherlock Holmes and Arsene Lupin are both masters of deduction and insight but in radically different ways as well as applications of their talents.

        • Mara R

          Yes, I’m the one that brought up Driscoll.

          Full disclosure. Until this year, I have avoided signing up for Patreon. Not because I didn’t want to be a part of it, but due to personal financial limitations that I won’t bore you all with.

          But because Driscoll is at it again, I signed up over the weekend because I’m wanting to support the work here to fight against whatever monstrosity he comes up with this time.

          He can’t just glide back onto the scene with no push back.

          He may have toned his new book way down. But he has never repented for the oppression he caused all the women at Mars Hill and with his stupid book “Real Marriage”.

          Here’s an old review of that book by a complementarian woman and her husband highlighting several things that were wrong with it:

          https://theologyforwomen.org/2012/02/our-review-of-real-marriage-by-mark-and-grace-driscoll.html

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            ACK! I’m so excited! I get to meet you in the Facebook group? I’m not even sure who you are but I’m so excited to get to actually talk to you!

          • Mara R

            I’m excited too! I’m not sure how long it takes to get invited to the Facebook page. But I’m waiting as patiently as I can.

        • Bri

          I’d love one on Power of a Praying Wife because it is running rampant in my Bible Study group right now even though I’ve spoken up about it.

          Reply
        • Anon

          How about adding “Created to Be His Helpmeet” by Debi Pearl to that list? Any book that flat-out says women should be demure little princesses should be run over by a lawn mower, but that’s just my opinion.

          Reply
        • Laura

          If you can stomach Mark Driscoll, how about his and his wife’s book Real Marriage? That would be a good one to tackle.

          Reply
        • PB

          I’m so glad that you are taking on this sort of work for the kingdom. I started reading Love and Respect but had trouble finishing. I also had trouble completing many of the books mentioned on your list because they didn’t sit well with me in spite of being raised during the purity movement, attending many of those conferences, and growing up listening to focus on the family (I’m not shaming focus on the family, just emphasizing the depths of influences.) I did read Every Man’s Battle and it did negatively impacted my marriage early on. I also read For Women Only, it would be good to have your take on that as well. And surprisingly, I recently began attending Houston’s First and had no idea of what was taught there in 2019. I will continue to pray for discernment during our visits there.

          Reply
          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            I’m glad you found me! It does sound like you have really good discernment! We are thinking of tackling For Women Only soon. Not sure what we’ll do next, but it is on our list.

      • Laura

        Captivating by the same author (Eldridge) and his wife Stasi is the female version of Wild at Heart and full of stereotypes of how they think a woman should be. According to the Eldridges, women should want to be rescued and pursued by a man and every little girl wants to be called beautiful. When I was a little girl, I never thought about such a thing, so I guess I’m not a “real” woman according to the Etheridges.

        Reply
        • Angharad

          Neither am I. I love being outdoors, doing practical jobs and working with animals and objects. My husband loves being indoors, doing desk-based stuff and working with people. According to Eldredge, my husband is female and I’m male! Maybe we should start an ‘Unreal Woman’ movement.

          A friend lent me ‘Captivating’ years ago, and I found it so infuriatingly drippy that I hurled it across the room! Unfortunately, it wasn’t my book so I couldn’t stick it in the bin, which is what I did with the ‘Wild at Heart’ copy that was in our church library.

          Reply
        • Anonymous305

          Meghan Tschanz did a HILARIOUS 4-part podcast critiquing “Captivating” and laughing at it with a friend.

          Reply
          • Laura

            I listened to Meghan’s podcast and loved it! It is so refreshing to know that I am not the only woman who found Captivating troubling and sexist.

  3. Natasha

    I haven’t read the book fortunately, but I had a theology teacher in my Christian high school who seemed to talk about how women should respect their husbands/boyfriends and men should love their girlfriends/wives, but what I always found weird was if you truly love someone, doesn’t that mean you automatically respect them so shouldn’t women deserve respect too? That always confused me and I am glad I took it with a grain of salt, though at the same time, that might be the reason why I kept making exceptions for bad behavior with the guys I dated did stuff like treat me like a child due to my disability or trying to push my sexual boundaries and why I had difficulty letting guys who were not good for me go when dating since I thought it was normal for guys to behave like that because of what I was taught in my Christian high school. It usually took the guys to leave me themselves because I wouldn’t “put out” rather than me leaving them myself.

    Luckily, the man I married was nothing like that to the point where I am the higher drive. He not only loves me, but also respects me and makes me feel safe and like I can be myself and I can talk to him about anything.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so glad you married a safe man!

      Reply
  4. Ruth

    Hi, I credit L&R with ending my marriage (blessing in disguise). My ex was a closet alcoholic who had a temper and used to threaten divorce to get me to do what he wanted. He blamed all our problems on me and my family. When things were getting really bad, I read that book and shared it with him thinking it would encourage him to be more loving. Not the case, he said he was already loving enough and that I needed to be more respectful. It all ended when I started getting my voice back and told him he could not tell me to not spend time with my family. He left me saying I didn’t respect him, and he was right. So thankful to God that I am no longer married to that man. Thank you, Sheila for advocating for the truth.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m glad you’re in a safe place now! I’m sorry you went through that.

      Reply
  5. Amy

    Have you ever critiqued Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages? I read that one while trying to maintain a relationship with my abusive now-ex husband. I tried talking to him about it and, despite never actually reading the book, he informed me that his love language was physical touch, ie. sex. I tried to explain to him that it was all supposed to be non-sexual stuff, but that didn’t matter. It just became yet another excuse for him to justify his demand for sex however and whenever he wanted it.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      We do have it in the rotation to talk about at some point. We have an interesting take on acts of service. And, yes, most men do say they want physical touch.

      Reply
    • Brambonius

      I can remember that the book explicitly says that the ‘physical touch’ isn’t about sex, so anyone who says it’s about sex is either misquoting or ignoring the actual book.
      (Physical touch is certainly a love language for me, and my ‘love tank’ can be filled with just cuddling sometimes. Sex is separate from that. Maybe there are people for whom sex is a love language, I don’t know, but that would be something completely different from the love language of physical touch, and from what they describe too, because it would be more reciprocal. This isn’t about love but about self-fulfillment)

      Reply
    • Sedge by the Lakeshore

      I started reading one of the books in the Love Language series (don’t remember which one, other than it wasn’t romantic). And he spoke about love like it was transactional, not a freely given gift.

      Reply
  6. Phil

    Sheila. I love your one sheet plan on these books. Dont know what your plans are but would love to have one on the Act of Marriage and Sheet Music. Those are the ones my Pastor recommends to newlyweds. I am glad you are doing this because my plan was to buy these books read em and then dig into your work to find what I missed. Then go present to my Pastor. My gosh thats a crap load of work!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, those are on my list too! So many to tackle…so little time!

      Reply
  7. Amy

    My fiancé is a pastor and he used to recommend this book. He’d never read it, but it was a best-selling Christian book that everyone seemed to recommend, so he did too. Now that he’s aware of the issues, he regrets that so much. Unfortunately, I think many busy, well-meaning pastors do the same.

    My fiancé will never again recommend a book he’s never read. We both actively talk against it and we’ll be sharing this blog post with others.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Tell your fiance that I used to do that too! I actually held it up at the podium when I spoke at marriage conferences! So he’s not alone.

      And I don’t recommend anything unless I’ve read it now too.

      Reply
  8. Allison

    Just wanted to say thank you for this. I first started reading your blog and listening to the podcast when you initially called out the harmful messages in “Love and Respect.” I had read the book in my first year of marriage and it caused some major damage, but I always thought I was the problem because the book was so highly promoted in my circles. I separated from my husband and thought my life in the church was over (that was thankfully not the case, I received support, and we have also since reconciled). It wasn’t until you started discussing the specific issues with the book that I was able to unpack some of the hurts I had experienced though. I’m still on a journey of understanding my value as a female, but I appreciate how much you’ve contributed to that healing process for me. Many thanks.

    Reply
  9. Cassia Dee

    What a wonderful resource! Thank you so much for all the diligent, hard, heartbreaking work you and your team do.

    I never read Love and Respect, but the title alone gives major red flags: love, for the woman, is just a “desire”, but respect, for the man, is a “desperate need.” That alone is frightening!

    Reply

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