A Letter Explaining Concerns about Love & Respect

After writing my series on Love & Respect, many people asked how they should approach churches or organizations that offer the book as a resource.

How can they explain why the book is problematic?

To help, I’ve written a letter which you can use and adapt as you see fit.  I suggest that you copy and paste this text into an email, and then also attach the report on Love & Respect that we created, which gives voices to the women and couples who were hurt by the book.

(You may need to change the wording in the first few paragraphs to reflect who you’re sending the letter to).

If you share this with any big churches or big parachurch organizations or media companies and you get a response, I’d love to see it. Just email it to me here. Thank you!

I am writing to express some serious concerns about the Love & Respect resources that [THE CHURCH] is offering.

I want [OUR CHURCH] to be a place where marriages thrive, and where we “spur one another on to love and good deeds.” I want marriages to point people to Jesus.

Unfortunately, I believe that Love & Respect can be used to do the exact opposite. Though many say that they have been helped by the book, many also report that the book has made their marriages worse by taking away intimacy; enabling a husband’s selfishness; and even enabling abuse.

My concerns, while many, are threefold:

First, Emerson Eggerichs portrays sex in a very distorted way. He equates sex with “the husband’s physical release”, taking away the mutuality and intimacy that God designed for sex. He never says that sex is supposed to be for the woman’s pleasure as well. He also never gives any reason why a woman may be permitted to say no, including nausea during pregnancy, hurt after an affair, hurt after abuse, vaginismus or pain during sex. Indeed, he says that men experience sex as respect, and that women must give men unconditional respect, even when their husbands are “drinking or straying” (from page 88).

My second issue with the book was how Emerson Eggerichs defined respect—or rather how he didn’t. He says that men need unconditional respect, and that women must speak respectfully, but he never defines either thing, except to say that women respect their husbands in the way that you respect a boss. In his anecdotes about how a woman is allowed to confront her husband if he is in sin, Eggerichs makes it clear that a woman is only allowed to say 2-3 sentences, and then she must say nothing for 10-20 days (see the appendix). This is in violation of Matthew 18, which shows how to confront someone in sin. There is nothing in this book about healthy boundaries. Nothing about pointing your husband to Jesus. Nothing about ironing sharpening iron. In fact, the book gives husbands permission to define anything that they do not like their wives doing as “disrespectful” (and the examples that Emerson Eggerichs uses of his own marriage are very illuminating and distressing in this vein).

Thus, I believe that this book lends itself to enabling emotional and spiritual abuse of women.

Third, Eggerichs takes tells women that they must not listen to their own insight, since women are more easily deceived, but must instead listen and follow their husbands. This sets up the husband as the mediator between a wife and God, in direct violation of 1 Timothy 2:5.

All three issues are fleshed out more in the following blog posts:

Even if Eggerichs never intended for the book to cause harm, or never intended for his advice to enable abuse, this is exactly what has happened. I encourage you to also read this Open Letter to Focus on the Family about their support of Love & Respect, which details 10 very problematic things in the book. And then, please, prayerfully read the comments, where so many women have shared how the book harmed their marriage. Whether or not this was his intent, this book is hurting people, and those people matter. Until Eggerichs recants his book and rewrites it, no blog post, talk, or podcast can make up for it, because everything he writes and everything he says points to a book that enables abuse. Acknowledging abuse in blog posts or talks, without changing the clear message in the book that women need to submit to abusive husbands, is like a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

I understand that many couples have been helped by the book. But just because some have been helped does not compensate for those who have been hurt. In medicine, if a drug helped, say, 70% of people but seriously harmed 30%, that drug would be off the shelves in a heartbeat. There are many other good marriage books that build marriages up; we do not need one that harms so many.

Thank you for listening to my concerns,