Love And Respect – Book Review

A few weeks back, I finished the renown Christian book on marriage, Love and Respect, by Emerson Eggerichs. Until I picked up this book, I had yet to read a book on marriage, and maybe some would consider that a bad thing. So this was my first.

To be honest, I had mixed feelings about the book. There is no doubt that, reading this book, one can learn a few things about themselves and their spouse. There is much attention given to the nature of both male and female, helping each grow in their understanding of how the opposite sex thinks and functions, especially in the marriage relationship.

So, let me start out by saying I think there are some good and helpful pointers throughout the book, maybe even very enlightening points to consider if one wants to build towards a healthy marriage that honours God.

And I agree with the overall, major premise of the book: women need to know love from their husbands and men need to know respect from their wives.

Eggerichs bases this out of Ephesians 5:33:

However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

He probably did not even need to quote this passage to make his point. I think that after years of studies, most would agree that, in general, women need to know they are cherished and loved above all else. And, with men, we feel most loved from our wives when there is a strong sense of respect for our decisions, our ideas, our plans, etc.

What is unique is that most of the times men hear, ‘Love your wives.’ And, of course, we must be challenged with what that means and living it out. But, most times, we don’t really hear the importance of respect for a man’s life. I think Eggerichs has done well to bring this focus.

But there are also some things that I feel need critiquing, if you will. I have two major critiques to bring up:

1) Forcing Scripture Into the Concepts

I think one problem that evangelicals fall into is that we feel we have to make sure everything we do, say and teach somehow has a Scripture verse to back it up. Or, maybe we realise that such is not always necessary, but we still look for a proof-text to back up our thought so that we might appease others who might challenge us.

I know I’ve done this myself.

Now, please know that I believe that the Scripture is our starting place for our beliefs and practice of our faith. Evangelicals agree that it is the foundational place and standard for our revelation of God.

So I’m not negating that we should look to found our understanding of life and its varied aspects in Scripture. But, I also don’t believe Scripture is some kind of ‘how to manual’ with regards to every single aspect of life. Again, I’m not trying to take a cut at the importance of the Bible in the life of the Christian. But I believe it is also ok if, at times, we cannot provide chapter and verse number out of a particular book in the Bible to support a particular action or teaching.

Thus, when reading Love and Respect, it always felt odd when reading some of the little Scripture passages quoted off on the side of the page. They seemed to relate to the concept being espoused by Eggerichs, but the important word is seemed.

At times, if one considered what the verse actually said within its Biblical context, the verse was really taken out of context. And, at times, he would only quote a handful of words from a verse and that’s it.

Now, to be honest, I don’t believe that quoting one particular verse (even out of its original context) is an evil practise. Of course, we have to be careful. No, I don’t have a list of ten guidelines to follow for doing this (though there are guidelines to consider). But I would say that one could quote, say, Paul’s words in Romans 1:5, ‘the obedience of faith’, to teach about the importance of 1) faith as our obedience to God (John 6:29) and 2) obedience will flow out of faith (James 2:14-26).

At times, it can be weird to simply quote four words to springboard into a particular theological teaching. But this is not an evil practise, per se. Our favourite verse to quote out of context is Psalm 46:10 in regards to quiet times. What we teach about a devotional relationship with God is right, but I’m not sure Psalm 46:10 is the place to start, if we consider what the whole psalm is really about.

But I’m not too bothered.

Still, my problem with Eggerichs was that he would quote passages from Song of Solomon or the Psalms or a New Testament letter as if they supported what he was teaching. But the words were never meant to support what he was teaching. His teaching was the horse (coming first) and the Scripture became the cart (coming second).

I’m not questioning what Eggerichs was teaching in his book. I’m just saying that we don’t have to find a verse to back up everything we teach. Scripture doesn’t deal with the issue of marriage in an overly detailed measure. And that’s ok. There are some good things in Scripture to help as launching points in understanding this thing called marriage (Genesis 2:24 and Ephesians 5:22-33 being two helpful places). And there are some great accounts in Scripture to learn what not to do. But the Bible is not a manual on marriage.

So, I would have been fine for Eggerichs to have taught what he sees and has learned (from God) in marriage and never have quoted so many Bible passages. I would not have been offended in the least for less quotations.

I don’t know if he felt a pressure to quote Bible verses to appease the listeners (as I’ve said, I’ve been there before) or to make sure his message sounded Christian enough. I’m not sure. Maybe that’s not why he did it. But it felt that way.

So, for me, I would have said that authenticity would have been more present if he would have been honest that these are things he has learned from following Jesus rather than feeling the necessity to quote a Bible passage in the side margin on every third or fourth page.

Still, his thoughts on Ephesians 5:33, as his main premise on love and respect, are good.

2) Not Dealing With the Not-So-Positive

At times, the book felt like another best-selling self-help book for the Christian market. Do these things and your marriage will be A-okay. We have enough of those, right?!

Before I got to the final chapters of the book, it seemed he was trying to say that if a wife respects her husband, he will love her in return and if the husband loves his wife, she will respect him in return. In general, I would agree that this principle is true in life. But it’s not always so, as we can all testify to, or those who are honest with life. What about the many times where you love and no respect is reciprocated, or the wife respects and love is no where to be found from the husband?

Many, many a stories were shared of how the love and respect cycle helped marriages, even saving some. Yet very little was shared about how couples have continued to struggle even after trying the love and respect cycle.

Of course, when you are sharing a message, one you are convinced is good and right, you don’t share how things have continued to be difficult or failed in some marriages. If you do, you will probably find that your book is suddenly no longer on the best-seller list.

For me, this causes concern when we don’t address the issues of how to honestly deal with life (or whatever specific issue) when things don’t go as planned.

Now, by the end of the book, Eggerichs did hit on this more. He shared that it’s not about having your spouse reciprocate what you need, but rather it’s about honouring God no matter how the other responds. And, for me, that is important. But I’m not sure that kind of thinking came through the whole of the book. I would have liked to have seen more about how to deal with things when change does not come about.

Is it a good book? It’s ok. If people read it, I wouldn’t have a problem. I might even suggest it to some people that need to grow in their understanding of the marriage relationship. But I won’t jump at doing that.

I will say I am looking forward to reading through another book on marriage soon. I have coming to me in the next couple of weeks, Love and War, by John Eldredge. A little different title than Love and Respect. I have enjoyed John Eldredge’s books and I think he and his wife have some interesting thoughts on the male and female. And I think they will be a lot more honest and real about certain issues. So I look forward to reading through their book in the very near future.

And, as always, I have a lot to learn about what it means to be a faithful and loving husband. Teach me, Father, and help me to be open to what You are teaching.

7 thoughts on “Love And Respect – Book Review

  1. Our new church is doing this book as a ladies study, so I was looking for reviews. Thanks for the info – pretty much what I expected from a book using scripture but written by a “doctor”. “Created to Be His Helpmeet” is still the best book I have ever read on marriage for ladies. The men’s version is “Created to Need a Helpmeet”. I have not read that one. The Pearls do use scripture extensively and use it literally – convicting, life changing (saved my marriage) and great testimonials.

  2. Scott, Thanks for your comment on the Pearls. My comment is so long after yours I’m not sure you will even see this. Their teachings are disturbing to say the least. On the original subject, Love and Respect, I find the problem with this type of book is that it seems to have found ‘the’ fix for something, and as you seem to have said there are situations that this will not be a cure for. To make a point that men need respect, the book went a really long way. ‘Need’ is also an interesting choice. I would like to make a point after saying that I have the most wonderful husband a woman could have. The point I’d like to make is that Christ did not get our respect before he died for us. He died for us while we were still sinners. (RE; men loving their wives like Christ loved the church) There are lots of places in the Bible where God gives instructions to people of different genders and positions. Some of them are how to treat people of different genders or positions. Never anywhere does it say that in order for us to do an excellent job we need someone else to be doing their job well. In being a mother, I do not need my childrens honor in order to be an excellent mother. It makes my job easier if they honor me but I really shine when I show commitment to God and obey Him even when it is not easy. People need to stop trying to figure out how it would make their obedience easier if ‘so and so’ would just do whatever it is they should do. No one would be the best at what they did if that was their focus. I always tell people if they want to be a good wife, neighbor, friend, employee etc. they need to be a good Christian. What is that? That is striving to be fully devoted to being all that God wants you to be as revealed in His word. “If you love me keep my commandments” There is a strange emphasis in this book on a woman’s lack of respect as compared to the mans loving his wife as Christ loved the church. The emphasis seems to be with a flavor that he can’t do that well without her respect. This seems contradictory to the whole point of the example of how Christ loved the church and gave himself while we were yet sinners. It seems to have taken an idea in Ephesians and distorted the beauty of its essence. I get, in the most human way I could possibly get it, the sacrificial giving himself for me in my husbands behaviour. I thought I understood before but because of the way my husband does this I have a new understanding. None the less if he was not that way it would be my duty to respect him as it would be his duty to do his best to love me this way whether or not I was worthy. Elaborating on how one believer needs another believer to obey to make his job easier is riddled with problems and brings out aspects of human nature unfitting for Christians such as blame and resentment.

  3. “The point I’d like to make is that Christ did not get our respect before he died for us. He died for us while we were still sinners. (RE; men loving their wives like Christ loved the church)”…EXACTLY! I did not find this book helpful. Wish it had been the silver bullet needed to change my 28-year marriage. In the end, I just simply was not able to get past the infidelities and emotional abuse that the last decade of my marriage suffered. And this single scripture, had it been lived out, would have been the game changer in my opinion.

  4. This book was recommended to me when I started asking about exactly what that word respect means. My husband was always telling me that I was being disrespectful. It was disrespectful to offer to help. It was disrespectful to let him do it wrong. The inconsistencies were many, and it was an impossible task. At one point we lived in a very small house and had three kids. Our living area was kitchen and living room together. He would fall asleep on the couch and when something happened to wake him up he would fly into a rage. That was us being disrespectful. We all had to go to our rooms and do not much of anything so he could have his nap. Anything that made him mad was because we were disrespectful. Being respectful to him was impossible because there was always something else. Well, after 20 years of living like that I got help. I did not leave. However reading this book feels very much like what my husband would do to me.

    I truly believe that Dr. Eggerichs wants to help people. His generalizations are actually the crazy cycle. His broad statements about men being hard wired to be respectful and women being naturally loving are simply not true. I know this because if it was true men would not be disrespectful and women would not be unloving. Then there is the idea that men are the laid back, chilled out ones and wives are the control freaks. This can happen, but it is just as likely to be the opposite. I have never heard any other psychologist say that all women are… and all men are…. Most of the world knows that people are not that simple.

    The worst thing is that he seems to actually believe that if a woman is abused it is her fault. Yes, he says it is wrong for this to happen, and then he goes on to say that she should consider the possibility that if she was just quiet and respectful her husband might move towards her and be more loving. Well, I know what abuse does to people and a woman with an abusive husband will learn to be quiet and will do anything she can to keep there from being another episode. With time she will not stand up for herself. There may be peaceful times because she is complying, but there will always be something that will happen to anger him, and it may not actually have anything to do with her. He spends a lot of time in this book putting all the blame for men behaving badly right in the lap of women. I recognize this and it is wrong. See, I was told that my husband acted the way he did because I expected him to. This is such a twisted sick statement and is actually what pushed me to look for help.

    You know what helped my marriage? I learned about boundaries and that we all deserve respect and that we are responsible for us. I learned that his anger is his issue, and I learned to stand up for myself. The other things I did are things Dr. Eggerichs would not think I had any right to do. I told him I would not be participating in any more rage sessions. Then one day God made sure I noticed something in the Bible. Right before Paul talks about the fruit of the spirit he gives a list of the works of the flesh. Do you know that outbursts of anger are on that list? It surprised me. I knew proverbs talked about anger, but this lumped the fit- throwing up with other things he would certainly agree are wrong. One Saturday morning I asked him if he thought that the way he acted was right? We talked. Things have been better. I did exactly what is was supposed to do in the way it is intended to be done. I take issue with anyone who says a Christian woman should not be just as able to talk to her Christian husband about obvious sin as any one. In Christ we are equal. The direction does not say if a man knows a man is sinning he should go. It says if you know you go by yourself first. Then if they do not respond you go to someone else and go as a group. There is no instruction that says a wife should go to someone else first. And there is no instruction that says if a believer is doing something wrong he can keep doing it if only those who live with him know about it. There are so many people misusing a couple of scriptures to say that a woman should just let her believing husband continue in sin. It is one thing to let your life show a non-believer what living as a Christian is and praying that it will help win him to Christ, it is quite another when you both stand on the other side of the cross to say nothing when he is openly sinning. In fact a pretty good case could be made that it is wrong to say nothing if someone knows that something someone is habitually doing is wrong. I believe what is said should be said respectfully. My counselor told us to be firm, friendly, fair, cool, calm and collected. And the use of the passage in Timothy about women keeping silent… not about family life. Totally taken out of context and misused. The idea that a woman cannot know her Heavenly Father as well as a man because Eve was deceived is not what the Bible says. For all believer’s we are supposed to follow God first. I have just as much of the Holy Spirit living in me as he does. And I have the same right to be the person God created me to be as he does.

    If you cannot look at his descriptions of men, and women and understand that he does not respect women, even though he is “hard wired for respect” then maybe you have the same problem. A woman standing up to her abuser is not a godless feminist. And a man who thinks he has the right to control his wife is not just a misunderstood good-willed guy.

    I am not looking for reason to disrespect my husband. I read this book desperately hoping for definitions and examples of how to respect him- the way God means. He tells us exactly what love looks like. I have been searching for that with regards to respect. The fact that we are told to be respectful of each other tells me that there is a way to know what that is and how to do it. After doing a lot of reading I am getting the idea that if you follow the Golden Rule, do love right, and keep growing and exhibiting the fruit of the spirit, along with knowing that it is not your job to change anyone, If we treat all people the way Jesus expects us to, we will be acting in ways that are respectful.

    Something else has to be said here. Just because I feel like someone was disrespectful does not mean that they were. We have such a huge pride problem that no matter how the other person acts we can “feel” disrespected even when they were not acting in a disrespectful way at all. This is what is really crazy. If someone offers to help us with something, just out of kindness, we start thinking they don’t think we can handle it. The funny thing is that usually just before the offer of help comes we were actually thinking that it would be nice to have someone to help us get it done. The truth is no one can control what we tell ourselves. They did not do anything wrong, but we are mad. If you read this book this is what happened to him when he forgets his wife’s birthday. The truth is that he messed up. He has a whole list of excuses, but no matter what he messed up. He is a grown man who is able to use a calendar to make sure he remembers things like that. And if he is so good at being respectful it would be important to him because it is important to her. He would have fallen to his knees and apologized and asked for her forgiveness and promised to make it up to her. Instead his pride steps in and says that it is up to her to remind him, how disrespectful for her to expect him to remember on her own. Besides birthdays really aren’t a big deal to men so it was not even on his radar. Oh, plus he goes through life in a daze thinking his big thoughts. No!!! He is the one who was wrong. He can’t just admit it and apologize. He would expect her to remember an event that was important to him because that would be the respectful thing to do. So Mr. I know how to respect people without having to try- you are wrong.

    This book is very hurtful to someone trying to heal from abuse and be the kind of wife that honors God by treating her husband the way God wants. There were parts where it took me straight back to the middle of some very dark times.

    • Suzie, thank you for your comment. I am sorry to hear of the challenges and pain you have faced. Honestly, I’ve gone through many changes in my perspectives on marriage and would probably have reservations regarding Eggerichs’s perspective on the roles of men and women. I am now a full egalitarian and am thankful God has brought me to that place. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts here.

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