Faith & Spirituality

Love & Respect vs. Logic & Reality, Part 2

I have said that in my opinion, Emerson Eggerichs, author of Love and Respect, fails to provide us with a satisfactory definition for either love or respect, and also fails to demonstrate any sort of meaningful relationship or distinction between the two. Hence, his assertion that love is exclusively the need of wives and respect is exclusively the need of husbands is baseless.

If you ask me, these discrepancies are more than enough to disqualify his teaching as incoherent and self-repudiating. If that’s not enough, though, not to worry. There’s more. The real rottenness of the Love and Respect dynamic is found in its motivations.

Eggerichs repeats ad nauseum throughout the book that love is exclusively the domain of women. Men, however, must have respect. Respect is “blue.” Love is “pink.” Therefore, love isn’t “enough” for men.

Well, whether Dr. Eggerichs likes it or not, it’s love that’s all over the pages of Scripture, and it’s “good enough” for women and for men. (Real love also entails basic respect for every human being as an image bearer of God, as I have said elsewhere). Loving God and loving your neighbor (i.e., your spouse) as yourself are to be the primary motivations in marriage and the whole of life. By the way, this kind of love doesn’t look at all like the pale and pasty “greeting card” version of love that Eggerichs is willing to have his readers settle for (see 1 Corinthians 13 if you’re in any doubt).

Real love of the godly variety acts without being contingent upon the other person’s favorable response (i.e., it’s not the “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” deal that Eggerichs advocates). In Love and Respect, the ultimate motivation for showing “love” or “respect” is so that your spouse will give you “respect” or “love” in return. This is done via each spouse engaging in manipulation tactics that capitalize on the other’s weaknesses (fragile ego, need for approval).

In order to make this system work, Eggerichs takes for granted that both husband and wife are an exact match for certain male/female pop culture stereotypes. Because of this, his advice reads as if it’s aimed at sitcom-style caricatures of men and women, rather than real individuals — i.e., men are “oafs”, “clods”; women are “negative”, “touchy”, etc. (And if you don’t fit the stereotypes, well… you’re out of luck. You’ve probably been brainwashed by Satan’s minions, a.k.a. feminists.)

According to Eggerichs, a man should be loving so that his wife will give him respect. Unfortunately, by “respect”, he isn’t thinking of simple kindness and consideration. No, his idea of respect looks more like flattery, groveling, and a total lack of boundaries. He never explicitly says so, of course, but this is a conclusion one inevitably arrives at as the book progresses (and, in the absence of any clearly stated definition, I think it is a reasonable one).

For instance, husbands have the right not to be criticized or reminded of things they may have forgotten (p. 12). They have the right to be told that their wives admire them — whether or not this is actually the case (p. 212). They have the right to “call the shots” (p. 220). They have the right to sex whenever they feel like it, or else they will “come under satanic attack” (p. 252). (How’s that for a thought to put you “in the mood”?) They have the right to be sure that their wives make less money than they do, so that they never feel financially inadequate (p. 208). (No, I’m not making this up. I almost wish I were.)

Even more horrifyingly, men even have the right to be absolved of blame for extramarital affairs if they aren’t getting enough respect (or enough sex): “A man who strays is usually given total blame for his affair, but in many cases he is the victim of temptation that his wife helped bring upon him” (p. 253). (Which reminds me of a joke by egalitarian blogger Tim Fall: “When my right eye causes me to stumble, I tell the ladies to put on more clothes.”) Eggerichs quotes the wife of one cheating husband as saying: “She [the other woman] thought he hung the moon. Every remark he made to her was witty; everything he did was perfect. In her eyes he was the most handsome, intelligent, funny man in the world. He needed an ego boost, and she was ready and willing to be that for him” (p.68).

Here’s the truly confounding part. In all of this, it never crosses Dr. Eggerichs’ mind to question the legitimacy of men’s supposed “need” for an ego boost. It never occurs to him to consider that other factors, such as culturally-ingrained notions of machismo and bravado, or even a man’s own sinful nature, might be at least partially responsible for such a “need.” At the very least, you would expect him to condemn the sin of adultery.

But in Dr. Eggerichs’ eyes, such a sin is completely understandable — acceptable, even, because the man’s desire for respect originates with God. Hence, every man’s wife should be “admiring, ever-approving” of her husband (p. 17). If she fails to provide him with the “ego boost” that God created him to have, she must bear the consequences, because “husbands are made to be respected, want respect, and expect respect” (p. 8). To paraphrase: husbands are made to have their egos flattered, they want to have their egos flattered, and they should expect to have their egos flattered.

Hmm. Does this sound like a Biblical idea to you? Let’s take a look and see.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:3-8)

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. (Romans 12:3)

For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. (Matthew 23:12)

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)

Alright, now let’s look at the verses which say that men have a God-given right to expect to be treated like kings.

…Oh, wait. There aren’t any!

Seriously, people. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Go read the Gospels. Study the life of Jesus Christ — the most perfect Man there ever was or ever will be. Ponder His hearts’ desire for how His followers are to regard themselves, and how they are to relate to one another. And then come back and tell me if you really, truly believe that God’s ultimate goal for men is that they should seek to be respected.

What is “the husband’s ‘need’ for an ego boost” in this context, after all? I don’t think I would be missing the mark to say that it’s pride. Let that sink in for a moment. We are teaching husbands and wives that Pride, one of the seven deadly sins, has been “hardwired” into men by God Himself, and that they have the divinely granted right to expect women to cater to it.

I believe there will be a day of reckoning for everyone who teaches this utterly disgusting idea as good and God-honoring.

How could there not be?

More to come…

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