Summary: 25 reviews of Emerson Eggerichs's book Love and Respect by people who read the book. Most found it to be harmful. Many women say the book made their husbands feel entitled to abuse them, even though the wives bent over backwards to be respectful.

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Hello, my name is Gretchen Baskerville and I’m the author of the Life-Saving Divorce: Hope for People Leaving Destructive Relationships. I’ve been a Christian divorce recovery leader in churches for more than 20 years. I also run an online group for separated and divorced Christians who needed life-saving divorces.

These aren’t “I’m bored” divorces or “I miss the party life “divorces or “I feel unfulfilled” divorces, or “you don’t squeeze the toothpaste correctly” divorces.

These are life-saving divorces. About half the divorces in the U.S. are for very serious reasons: a pattern of sexual immorality, physical violence, chronic emotional abuse, abandonment, life-altering addictions or serious neglect. God wanted marriage to be loving, undefiled, and life-long, but what happens when it’s the opposite? God wanted people to try, but if the behavior continued, he gave a way to escape.

 


Emerson Eggerichs’s Book Love and Respect

Makes Some Marriages Worse

 

I’m involved with Christian divorce recovery ministry. So, why am I talking about a marriage book like Emerson Eggerichs’s Love and Respect? Well, because some marriage advice actually can make marriages worse not better. And then people end up in my online divorce recovery group!

 

Love and Respect, one of the most popular Christian books on the market has a history of making marriages abusive, as you will see in the remarks below. It can set up win-lose marriages.  See the video version of this article here.

 

 

Real Stories from Real People Who Read Eggerichs's Love and Respect

 

 

Recently I asked women and men in my online Christian divorce recovery group what they thought of the book LOVE AND RESPECT by Emerson Eggerichs. I wanted their opinions because many of them read marriage books and tried to fix their painful marriages.

 

In just 24 hours a flood of responses came in. Many said they had read the book while they were married, in their Sunday school class or church small group or a marriage retreat or a copy was given to them by well-meaning friends.

 

Although there were some positive reviews (see below), the vast majority said the book harmed their marriage. Many said it turned their husbands into mean, self-centered people. (Some men chimed in too.) Here are many of the comments (anonymous of course, though I know who they are).

 

Based on the comments on the book, I don’t think Eggerichs understands domestic violence and emotional abuse.

 

And it’s not a fluke. Here's a link to a 2019 video of him on stage giving a talk at Houston’s First Baptist Church where he describes criminal assault—physical violence in his childhood—and doesn’t even call it abuse.

 

In a part of the video where Eggerichs is talking about the “crazy cycle” (when a couple’s relationship denigrates into sniping back and forth at each other, leading to emotional wounds), he describes a horrible physical incident from his own childhood.

 

Eggerichs's father tried to strangle his mother and she separated from him.

 

Strangulation is very serious as we all know, given recent events. Strangulation or putting a chokehold on someone is often considered felony domestic violence assault, on par with shootings, stabbings, kidnapping, arson, and serious bodily injury, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

 

This was not a “wound” similar to with the reactive “crazy cycle” Eggerichs is describing in the video. It’s criminal. But Eggerichs doesn’t make any distinction between the "wounding" from tense exchanges and genuine criminal behavior.

 

The seriousness of the incident is demonstrated by his mother separating for five years. And Eggerichs’s father sent him to military school for 5 years due to “family issues.”

 

Note that Eggerichs doesn’t condemn his father’s attack on his mother. He doesn’t call it criminal. He doesn’t call it domestic violence. He doesn’t even say it was abusive. He doesn’t talk about his mother’s safety. He doesn't suggest she was justified to get away, not even in this 2019 video.

 

Where is Eggerichs’s outrage at abuse? Or is it all okay as long as the wife is the victim?

 

If this doesn’t outrage him, does anything outrage him?

If Eggerichs doesn't recognize the strangling of his own mother as abuse, he really doesn't believe in abuse at all.

 

He doesn't mention any change in his father’s behavior that caused his mother to return 5 years later. He says the family came “to Christ,” nothing more, nothing about a change of attitude or behavior in the home. It suggests religious conversion is all you need. And yet the comments below are from people who had “come to Christ.” They were Christian church-going couples. There was abuse and/or betrayal in their marriage and they finally had to divorce to save their life and sanity.

 

Is this a Fluke, Or Does Eggerichs Downplay Abuse in His Book, Love and Respect, too?  

 

Apparently Eggerichs does downplay abuse in Love and Respect. Look at the comments below from people whose marriages became more abusive after reading his book. So if you're a pastor or a Bible study leader or in charge of marriage ministry, there are much better book study options for marriage enrichment. See the bottom of this article for a list of the BEST BOOKS on marriage for Christians according to the ranking in a 2020 analysis. (For a full review of the books, download the free rubric and comparison chart of the top 14 bestselling marriage and sex books for Christians.) Love and Respect is the worst ranked book in the list.

 

 

 

So what does a Christian marriage author have to do to earn that bottom slot in the harmful category?

 

How did Emerson Eggerichs and his book Love and Respect get there? Well, he got there because the survey of 20,000 Christian women put him there. They were asked an open-ended question, not multiple choice. They came up with the title. It wasn’t from a list given in the survey.

 

 

I wondered how the women and men in my Christian divorce recovery group view that book. So I put out two simple questions about Love and Respect:

 

1) Did you ever read it?

2) What was the effect on your marriage?

 

In just 24 hours I got a ton of responses. Most said they had actually read the book that it had been part of a Sunday school class or small group or a marriage retreat or just given to them by well-meaning friends. And the vast majority said the book harmed their marriage. Many said it turned their husband into a selfish, demanding, self-centered child. I've included a number of these comments (lightly edited).

 

 

POSITIVE COMMENTS about LOVE & RESPECT

I did get some positive comments

 

Here’s a woman who likes the book and leads studies on it.

 

“I read it several times and have led small groups through the book. It helped our marriage a lot. I don’t understand the negativity around the book…”

 

 

Another woman said:

 

“I think the premise is true, the problem is when men apply it one-sided, believing a wife should respect her husband, without doing the work to sacrificially love her as Christ did for the church. It’s a great book for struggling marriages…. But it is NOT a book for marriages that are abusive—verbally, mentally, emotionally, or physically, and definitely not when one party is a narcissist or has a behavior disorder.”

 

 

 

Here’s one from a man who is divorced from an abusive wife:

 

“I read the book and attended a couples group study. For two reasonable people the information was excellent. But narcissists don’t change, they are not capable of admitting fault and changing. It was a waste [for us].”

 

Here’s another comment from a woman who said it helped her – but not her husband:

 

“I did read it. It would be good for a non-abusive marriage. I became more respectful, and he became more entitled. It doesn't help a one-sided marriage.”

 

Or this woman who said the book seemed fine…at first:

 

“We read part of it. Our church did a Sunday morning class on it. At the time, I didn't think I had an issue with it. After all the abuse I've gone through in 20 years of marriage. Now it makes me puke. Respect needs to go both ways.”

 

NEGATIVE COMMENTS about LOVE & RESPECT

Now let’s get to the negative comments (and I’m not going to list them all or this blog post would get too long). The negative ones are really interesting. Some couples read the book together. But in other cases, the husband was given the book first, and he read it and was affected by its message in a destructive way.

 

Whether Eggerichs intends to hurt marriages or not, his book actually has done harm in many homes, according to his readers.

 

One woman who was brought up in the Mennonite culture.

 

“My husband and I read it and did the study. It increased the abuse in my marriage because my ex believed he now had a legitimate reason to blame even more things on me because ‘his need for respect wasn't being met.’ I remember that the public abuse increased after we did the study. It was like he genuinely felt biblically justified in what he was doing in order to get the respect he felt he needed.  It portrays the woman as needing mostly love and not as much respect. I remember thinking that I needed respect just as much as my husband, but the book told me that the Bible says I don't need that. I came away from the study once again persuaded that God really didn't care about me as a woman. Like many marriage books, it could be that this book is helpful for healthy people in already healthy relationships. But it is definitely destructive when abuse is involved.”

 

 

One woman hoped this book would fix her marriage, but it made it worse.

 

“I read it in desperation, clutching at any tool to help what I eventually realized was an impossible cause. It made me think his actions or reactions were reasonable when in truth they were abusive. I eventually realized I was the only one doing anything about 'our' issues, while he was the only one causing them and nothing and no amount of respect would make him happy. I very happily threw that book in the bin recently and praying for growth in understanding just how worthy of respect I am!”

 

 

Another wife went to a Love & Respect weekend marriage retreat

 

“I read the book and did a weekend retreat based on it. I thought there was a lot of good information, but it didn't help our marriage. I look back and thought it helped at the time, but I think it made things worse over time. He started using the phrase over and over that I needed to respect him while he continued to be mean to me and to do very little to help the marriage. I had to leave the marriage.”

 

 

Abuse increased after a marriage retreat featuring this book.

 

“We got the book at ‘A Weekend to Remember.’ Our marriage was already in bad shape, but I mark that weekend, and the study of those books as the point of no return. His abuse increased 100 fold and I believed more than ever that it was scriptural for me to just submit, suffer, and take it.”

 

 

She and her husband went to the Love & Respect seminar.

 

“We did the seminar over a weekend and he just used it to tell me how I’m always stepping on his air hose and not respecting him. He learned nothing about it for meeting my needs such as praising your wife especially to others.”

 

 

The promise that her husband would automatically love her didn’t work.

 

“I became much more of a doormat trying to please him. It seems like everything was my fault and I could just give him more respect. He told me if I would respect me more, he would love me more.”

 

 

A woman liked the topic, so she read the book.

“I read it a few years after a trusted pastor preached a sermon on love and respect. It was to date the best sermon ever. So I went into the book with an open mind and heart. The parts in the book related to sex made me so sick, but I trusted the advice would work. Most of the rest I really believed could work and I suppose a lot of it would, if both people loved God and actually had a conscience. I looked through the book a few months ago and I honestly could have thrown up. That book set me up to be abused so much worse than I already was. Especially sexually abused. It makes me physically ill to think that all I was to him was a dumpster. That book just pushed me in the alley.”

 

 

It was the featured book and video in this woman’s small group at church.

 

“I read it and we went to a Wednesday night small group to watch a video series based on the book. It led to an escalation in his entitled attitude, a decade of abuse, and a demand for respect which correlated with a decrease in behavior that would earn respect.”

 

 

 

Love and Respect created a culture of disrespect at her church.

 

“Yes, I read it and at the time we were pretty much told it was the Bible. You had to follow it no matter what. Looking back, it was not helpful in any way. One day a person at church mentioned something from the book and my husband said "See? You have to call me Lord." He thought he should have all the respect and I should just be the good listener.”

 

 

 

This woman showed more respect to her husband. Her husband got worse.

 

My ex accused me often of being disrespectful. I just couldn't see it. So I read the book and applied it. Nothing changed in my marriage. The more I attempted to show respect, the less I felt loved. The accusations of disrespect only increased. …My ex believed that respect for him didn't need to be earned. It was based on his position. After I left the marriage, one of the biggest surprises to me is how well I get along with men. Turns out they actually feel respect from me.

 

 

She followed the advice. He became abusive.

 

My soon-to-be-ex husband read it in one sitting, staying up all night, and then urged me to read it with great excitement that it would be the key to improving our marriage. I read it and did embrace the idea of choosing to treat him with respect regardless of how he’s acting or how I actually felt. He did not reciprocate and instead took every opportunity to berate me any time he felt disrespected. His abuse increased after we read that book and looking back, I see how it really fueled many unhealthy beliefs, like I just needed to try harder and “go first” in setting a more healthy tone. It’s terrible for abusive marriages.”

 

 

She followed Eggerichs’s advice and her husband became worse.

 

My husband brought home that book. I followed Eggerichs's practice of respect, even though I didn't agree with his definition. Eggerichs's definition included having a non-reactive facial expression and demeanor. My husband noticed the difference in my behavior, but his behavior got more outrageous.

 

 

Her husband decided that anything he didn’t like was “a lack of respect.”

 

“Awful book. I read the book and discussed it with my husband. He began to define everything he did not like as a lack of respect on my and the children’s part. It enabled his narcissistic behaviors.”

 

 

This book changed her husband’s view of respect — in a negative way:

 

“He was so stuck on respect after this book. One night he went into a rage simply because I disagreed with him on something—without raising my voice, or having an attitude, just having a different opinion than he did. He came at me while I was pregnant and tried to kick me out of the house in the middle of the night.”

 

 

A man speaks out:

 

“Our former Calvary Chapel church thought the book Love and Respect was wonderful and the used it as curriculum for married couples… Eventually my [new] wife and I started to laugh about the silly stereotypes it promoted. Once in the small group it was my wife's turn to read a section of Scripture. Her new study Bible was different than the approved NKJV and it did not read at all like what the leaders anticipated. Other women immediately asked her, "What version are you reading?" Leadership changed the subject. Honestly their embrace of that book was a big reason we found another church...”

 

 

She and her husband got 4 copies as wedding gifts…and tossed them.

 

“This book was very popular the year I got married. To the point that we got four copies as wedding gifts. I read it. Did NOT agree with it at all. And threw away all four copies.

 

 

She went to the seminar and ended up feeling beaten down:

 

“I read it and at the time throught it was a good book. I was brainwashed into thinking I had to make all the changes and then he would magically become the godly husband I needed. After reading the book and going to the seminar I just felt beaten down. I felt like I had to be a martyr in my marriage and blindly respect him despite being mistreated. I only had a sliver of hope that maybe he would love me in turn for respecting him even when he didn't deserve it. For a while it "worked" but it was only because I was showing my ex-husband respect even while he was in sin. I never questioned him. So of course, he was happy with that. It didn't actually fix anything in our marriage permanently.”

 

 

Husband considered breakfast cereal a sign of rebellion.

 

“Yep, I read the book. He told me I had no respect and that we were all in rebellion to him for not eating the breakfast cereal he grew up on. No freedom of choice for any of us…. We didn’t even have the right to choose breakfast cereal.”

 

 

They watched the DVDs but her husband just got more critical and started seeing women.

 

“A former pastor gave a set of the DVDs on loan to my ex and me as we were separated and going through counseling. My ex is very narcissistic and angry. I did watch and take notes on the videos, but all my ex learned from them was that I needed to respect him more. At the time, I thought if he'd just love me, maybe that would fix things. At that time, he was seeing other women in the church he started attending alone. I felt unloved through our whole marriage because he constantly paid more attention to prettier/smarter/more interesting women....And at that time, I didn't fully recognize that I'd been gaslit, verbally abused, emotionally abused, etc. It was a massive relief to leave him.”

 

 

License to abuse.

 

“I read it - and it just gave license to more abuse and entrapment- it’s horrid!”

 

 

Narcissistic ex-husband liked this book and used it against her.

 

I read it when it came out. My narcissistic ex read the parts he like and used it to demand respect he didn’t deserve, but never showed love. It was a completely one-sided application.

 

 

The only marriage book her abusive husband ever loved.

 

“It was given to us during one of our many counseling sessions. My husband read it first. Pretty sure that was the only marriage book he ever was enthusiastic about. I started to read it and did not get very far. This was long before I even had an inkling I was living in abuse or had any knowledge of abuse dynamics, but the book felt incredibly icky. I felt like I was being set up. I only read 30 pages or so and refused to read any more. Of course that made me look bad, but oh well.”

 

 

He wielded the book at her like a club.

 

“I was not respected at home but told I did not need respect, only love. But I was not loved either. The part about men getting 51% of the vote is decisions meant I had no chance because he had all the power. He wielded that book at me like a club. It only added to the abuse.”

 

 

She was blamed for his issues.

 

“I not only read it, I was forced to attend a face-to-face seminar with them. It just gave my partner an excuse to treat me poorly. His issues were my fault because I wasn’t readily available. And I never respected him enough.”

 

 

She got the message that respect was only for husbands.

 

Oh yes, we read it. It fit right into his narrative that I never respected him. For some reason, it never occurred to me that I was deserving of respect too…which of course was ultimately the problem. He could never really show me he loved me and I learned to live with that, but it was the deep lack of respect that was crushing. I really hate that book. I tried everything I could and it was never enough.

 

 

Wives want respect too.

 

"It was recommended for us in marriage counseling. I read part of it and it kept mentioning how men want respect. And I kept thinking, I want respect too, dammit. I want to be heard and my opinion to count... that's what I consider respect. I couldn't even offer a different opinion than my [husband], or that would be disrespectful."

 

 

After reading it, he wanted to be treated like the king.

"I read it and so did ex. He expected me to treat him like a king and it would solve all of our issues."

 

 

The book doesn’t utilize common sense.

 

"I never was a fan. Sorry, but I think that a loving couple should give both to each other. If one doesn’t respect the other, how loving is that? And what is a marriage without true, healthy love? Common sense."

 

 

This book was ... a nuclear weapon. Even how I breathed ... was "disrespectful."

 

"This book was gasoline, or Hell... a nuclear weapon. All of a sudden he went from terrifying to worse. Suddenly EVERYTHING I did, from how I breathed, the pause I took between words, even the fact that I made his meals gluten free... all of it was "disrespectful". It didn't matter that he could not articulate WHY. It lead to a six month tyraid where I walked on eggshells, admitted fault in ever situation before he could even accuse me, and handled postpartum everything entirely on my own." — Public comment on Facebook

 

 

 

WHEN THE HUSBAND READ IT FIRST:

 

Her husband read it and it changed him.

 

“I purchased the book and it arrived while I was away and my husband read it. He was ready for me when I got home. His first words were now he understands that it was my lack of respect that began to destroy our marriage. That's it. My marriage was downhill from there. That book was a death blow.”

 

 

Her husband read the book and it changed him for the worse

 

“I didn't read the book, but my husband did. He began telling me he didn't feel respected by me. Anytime I didn't agree with him, it was regarded as disrespect. He would characterize me as being disrespectful repeatedly. I believe that book gave my husband much ammunition to use against me.

 

 

Husband accused a respectful wife of being disrespectful.

 

“I refused to read it because he shoved it at me and told me to read it to see everything I was doing wrong. He demanded respect, bar none. I was never disrespectful to my ex, but always told that I was horrible and could do nothing right.”

 

 

Husband used the book to demean her.

 

“My ex-husband went to a love a respect conference by himself to save our marriage, brave soul that he was. I agreed to show up for dinner and when I showed up they were watching a video I sat down next to him and he said to me, "You showed up at just the right time. This part of the video is so you will quit screwing up."

 

 

 

CRAZY CYCLE

One of Eggrichs's teachings is about the “crazy cycle,” where the couple just reacts negatively to one another and it spirals downhill from there.  But somehow he just doesn’t seem to draw a line on what’s abusive. Here are two comments from Christian readers about Eggerichs’s “crazy cycle” teaching:

 

 

She tried to stop the “crazy cycle”; her husband didn’t.

 

“I read the book early in the marriage when I didn't realize that my husband was emotionally abusive. I begged him to stop neglecting me and my feelings. I knew he was damaged from childhood abuse and told him that I wanted to work on this together. He agreed. But in actuality he never worked on anything. So I required less of him, emotionally and made myself smaller in an effort to manage his moods. The positive side is that during this time I clung to God...that's what got me through and what's sustaining me now that I've gotten out. That book is a part of my story and I tried to be nice and stop the crazy cycle and it didn't help. I had a lot of empathy for him, but he didn't have any for me.”

 

 

The "crazy cycle" teaching just trapped her in abuse.

 

“I read it and instead of helping me find a way to truly get off the crazy cycle.... the book trapped me like a gerbil on a crazy wheel of abuse and toxicity.”

 

 

As I mentioned before, one of the problems is that Eggerichs doesn’t really appear to understand abuse, or to take it seriously. Even the most criminal behavior seems to be —in his mind—just part of the “crazy cycle” between two people. If he doesn't recognize strangling of his own mother as abuse, he really doesn't believe in abuse at all.

 

 

To Christians who were told to put up with abusive behavior, I say, I’m sorry. Some of our Christian marriage authors misled you. God loves you. You are precious to him and he never wanted marriage to be that way.  The Bible says you can love someone, forgive someone, and choose to walk away, in fact several years, including 1 Corinthians 5:11 say you must.

“But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people." (NIV)

 

And 2 Timothy 3:1-5:

"But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people." (NIV)

 

 

 

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