Summary of Problems with the Book Love & Respect by Emerson Eggerichs

A History of Our Interaction with Love & Respect

Love & Respect has been the second best-selling Christian marriage book since it was published in 2004, second only to The 5 Love Languages. Author Emerson Eggerichs has produced video teaching series to use with the book; runs Love & Respect conferences; and frequently appears in media interviews.

In January of 2019, after reading the book Love & Respect for the first time, Bare Marriage blogger Sheila Wray Gregoire wrote a long critique of the way Eggerichs handled sex in the book–how he made sex solely out to be about a husband’s physical release, and completely ignored the wife’s experience or the greater purpose of a deeper “knowing”. That post went viral, and Sheila then followed with more posts showing more flaws in the book–specifically how Eggerichs sets marriage up to be a hierarchy where the husband steps in as the wife’s mediator with God, and where the wife cannot confront her husband in sin without being labelled as “disrespectful”.

Over the next  year, Sheila continued to share information about how women have been harmed by the book, and how Emerson Eggerichs routinely ignores pleas from women who say that the book is harmful, often treating such pleas with disdain and derision.

Below are links to all the pertinent information.

Initial Love & Respect Blog Posts

A Summary of All of the Issues with Love & Respect

In attempting to alert other ministries to the problems with Love & Respect, we sent a 5,500 word email to Focus on the Family, who supports, promotes, and partners with Eggerichs, detailing all the issues with the book and the issues with the way that Eggerichs has handled critiques of his work. That letter includes summaries of all the information that is below::

An Open Letter to Focus on the Family About Your Support for Love & Respect

If you have concerns about Love & Respect, and want to bring them to your church’s attention, your church librarian’s attention, your women’s Bible study leader’s attention, or whomever promotes Love & Respect near you, feel free to use this:

A sample letter outlining concerns with Love & Respect for general use of those concerned

How Love & Respect Has Hurt Those Who Read It

Our Survey Results:

In November and December of 2019, we surveyed 22,000 primarily Christian women about their sexual and marital satisfaction. In that survey, we asked several open-ended questions, including: “Are there any books, ministries or resources that have hurt your marriage?” We did not list any resources in the survey; the women volunteered them.

Love & Respect was the most frequently cited resource that hurt people’s marriages. In fact, 15% of women who filled out that question named Love & Respect as a resource that harmed their marriage. For every 10 women who said that Love & Respect helped them, 15 said that it harmed them. 

To give some context, please read this blog post: Is it Okay if Christian Books Do a Little Bit of Harm?

Emerson Eggerichs’ Response to Those Who Critique his Work

We are not the first to bring up concerns with Eggerichs’ work or with how his book enables abuse. As outlined in the letter to Focus on the Family, in the book itself Eggerichs recounts the story of a woman who claimed that the “respect” message made her husband worse, but he dismisses her.

In this blog post on the Love & Respect website, a woman writes in telling that after doing a Love & Respect DVD series with their small group, the wives are finding that the husbands are now being condescending and worse towards them. Eggerichs tells the woman that it must be because they are not being godly, and then quotes all the “do not nag” verses from Proverbs and tells them to be silent.

Please also note the disdainful way he handles his critics in the video posted below.

Problems with How Emerson Eggerichs Deals with Abuse

In these twitter thread, with video clips, Sheila analyzes how Eggerichs downplays and dismisses emotional abuse in a sermon at Houston First Baptist, turning emotional abuse into the butt of jokes, and telling women who think their husbands are abusive that they are wrong.

Here are the video clips put together in one longer video, with some commentary:

In the book Love & Respect, Eggerichs gives examples of women in abusive marriages allowing men back into the home after they have repented, and never mentions the common phenomenon of “love bombing”, where husbands say what is necessary to reconcile, and then the abuse cycle begins again. He also ends the anecdote about abuse with the conclusion that the wife needs to respect her husband and not react to his anger. In the second segment in this podcast, Keith Gregoire (Sheila’s husband) talks about the problems with Eggerichs’ treatment of abuse in his book, and the survey responses that detail the abuse that was enabled by the theology undergirding Love & Respect.

Problems with How Love & Respect Calls A Wife Confronting Her Husband in Sin “Disrespectful”

One of the main problems in the book Love & Respect is that the husband can label anything he doesn’t like as the wife being disrespectful. We have several examples of this in the letter to Focus on the Family.

In addition, Rebecca (Sheila’s daughter) was engaged in an email thread with the Love And Respect website, where they were conflating confronting your husband in sin with showing contempt and disdain, not acknowledging that confronting one’s husband in sin, and being firm, is not the same as being disrespectful.

Concerning email thread with Love and Respect regarding confronting one’s husband if he’s in sin

Focus on the Family’s Support of Love & Respect

After sending in the original report with the harm done by Love & Respect, we received no response. However, readers who wrote in did receive a response from Focus, hinting that Focus on the Family acknowledges that the book is not for those who are in difficult marriages.

Sheila then wrote back to Focus on the Family, using screen shots from the book where Emerson Eggerichs specifically says that the book IS for those in difficult marriages, including those contemplating divorce and dealing with affairs, and in the book he uses examples of alcoholics and those in abusive marriages as well. After sending that in, Focus on the Family did finally reply to Sheila, contradicting their previous email, and saying that they do stand behind the book and its message.

What Should You Do in Response About Love & Respect?

This book is sells so well because pastors recommend it; churches do Bible studies on it; and people aren’t don’t speak up and say, “this is bad advice and highly problematic.”

Our hope is that these resources can give you tools to explain why you have problems with the book. Next time you see it on a friend’s shelf; your pastor’s shelf; in your church library–speak up! When you see a Love & Respect conference organized, speak up! Many people don’t realize what the book really preaches, and when it is brought to their attention, they find other resources to promote instead. Use this sample letter if you don’t know what to say:

A letter outlining concerns with Love & Respect

Church, we can do better. But it’s in your hands now. I’m passing the torch. I hope you pick it up!