Giving our men their balls back? How old-school misogyny is still thriving among Christians.

Old-school misogyny is alive and well. Except now it’s dressed in hip clothing. It probably blogs. It probably gets its ideas from books rife with harmful gender stereotypes. And it probably uses edgy language like “giving our men their balls back…one day at a time.” OK, see. Let’s stop right there. I have questions.

  1. If you’re gonna give the balls back, why do it one day at a time?
  2. Why not give BOTH balls back on the SAME day?

I also need an explanation for this statement: “The Love & Respect book had a lot of sexist stereotypes about women but hey! Let’s talk about how awesome this book is!”

Well, that’s a paraphrase. Here’s the real quote:

I’m not going to promote or bash this book… it had some good points that have been eye opening and some HUGE stereotypes that made me crazy mad.

You know what makes me crazy SAD? I get so discouraged when, instead of refuting those HUGE, harmful stereotypes, Christian women promote those ideas by asserting that We Women–and I quote–”have essentially castrated our men.”

Well, thank goodness we haven’t literally castrated our men, amen? Because, ew. Also, messy.

My real problem, here, is that harmful books like these are still popular in Christian circles. What REALLY breaks my heart is that women who are sincerely trying to improve their marriages fall prey to harmful teaching mainly because the most popular Christian books on marriage are harmful!

Heck, this book has spawned Love & Respect-themed retreat$! There are workbook$!


Is this book really about helping people?

Because here’s the thing: any Christian book that claims to have discovered “THE SINGLE GREATEST SECRET to a successful marriage”  is highly suspect. It makes all my fundamentalist triggers go on high alert. It’s formulaic! If you follow steps 1-2-3, you, too, can have a Successful Marriage!

I mean, dude. How did couples ever manage to stay married before this book was published? THEY DIDN’T KNOW THE SINGLE GREATEST SECRET!

Just in case you’re wondering, the Single Greatest Secret for Marriage Success is that women need unconditional love and men desperately need unconditional respect. Yes, men desperately neeeeeeeed respect. It’s in the title. Love & Respect: the love she most desires, the respect he desperately needs.

I don’t know about you, but a man who desperately needs anything from me is also highly suspect. I don’t like neediness. Neither does my therapist. She has this fancy word for it: co-dependent.

Also, what is unconditional respect? To me, that sounds like a huge loophole for tolerating abuse. Like, hey, woman. NO MATTER HOW BAD I TREAT YOU, YOU MUST RESPECT ME!

Why is respect gender exclusive, anyway? Women need respect, too, yes? I mean, are we calling Aretha Franklin a liar??

R-E-S-P-E-C-T! Find out what it means to me! 

Ahem. I digress.

Point: I have a hard time believing there’s any Biblical support for “unconditional respect.” I COULD be wrong. Feel free to correct, exhort and rebuke me in the comment section. I will listen. Or delete you. Depends on whether you desperately neeeeed me to respect you. Mwah-ha-ha.

Multiple reviewers have noted that the book is ‘incredibly sexist“. So, why are Christians still propagating this stuff?

I just don’t get it.

Oh, wait. I do.

It’s all Eve’s fault!


  • Lynne Tait

    I couldn’t agree more. Every human being needs to be treated with respect. Honouring one another doesn’t come in pink and blue versions. And where are all these symbolically castrated men, anyway? Can’t say I’ve seen many

  • Elena Johnston

    Oh, you have me laughing so hard I might just have the baby right now! =)

    One of the (many) ironies with that book is that most of the men he interviews don’t say that they feel disrepected–they say that they feel like their wives hate them. Eggerich is right to hone in on disrespect as the root problem in these stories, but he’s wrong when he credits those wives with being loving.

    “Love” without respect isn’t love at all… it’s sacharrine-coated poison and manipulation.

    Respect is a basic pre-condition of love, and women and children neeeeeeeeeed it too. =)

  • jen

    One of my husband’s former parishioners gave the book to us. Did I read it? Not a chance! One of my spidey senses gets triggered whenever anyone gives me something to read that smacks of pop-culture Christianity. I think I probably would have ripped the book apart and used it to light one of our trash barrels on fire… after I finished throwing it against the wall repeatedly. (We lived in rural Montana at the time and didn’t have trash pick-up.)

    • Jeanne

      My kinda gal!

  • Pedro M. Rosario Barbosa

    I have to confess that one of my biggest obstacles to struggle against sexist stereotypes against women has been Christian women themselves (especially conservative Christian women). Being male and preaching to (not “preaching at”) women about their value as image and likeness of God has not been easy, precisely because I am male and,as I am often told, I am not woman, so I “don’t understand”. I think that women themselves should stand up against these stereotypes, and I admire you for doing that, but a lot more women need to do it.

    • Anonymous

      Wow, that’s interesting, Pedro. I never thought about it that way but it totally makes sense. Thanks for the insight.

    • sarahlcc

      SO, I guess Jesus didn’t understand either, given that he was, um MALE.

  • KatR

    The whole “men need respect, women need love” trope is the bedrock of most of these Christian marital “counseling” books. “If the husband will just buy his wife flowers and tell her she’s pretty, and the wife will just never ever voice another contradictory thought as long as she lives, ALL WILL BE BLISS. Whee!”

    You know what? Men need love. Women need respect. And what those words mean in real life differ greatly from what the Christian Industrial Complex says they mean.

  • Matt @ The Church of No People

    It’s propagated by Christians because the sexism (toward women and men) usually flies over their heads. If it’s in the Christian inspiration section at the bookstore, then it might as well be gospel truth. Most people don’t “test everything” as scripture encourages us to. We just assume that if it’s in a book, it must be infallible.

    Incidentally, all the things you describe send my radar off too. :)

    • Anonymous

      We have highly honed radars, Matt! p.s. good to see you in my comment box again. I’ve missed ya!

  • Sheila Siler

    The best marriage advice my husband and I got when we married was from my mother. She said marriage is not 50/50 – it’s 100/100. If we both give 100% to each other – it’ll work fine. My parents were married for 56 years when my mother passed away. It worked for them.

  • Rob

    My guess is that this type of nonsense is still propagated in christian circles, of which I used to be a member, because of literal readings of Paul’s letter as guidelines for a successful life. I mean, doesn’t Ephesians tell us that the woman should submit (which carries the thought of respect) to her husband, and the husband should love the wife? It’s just that simple right? I mean, of course women don’t need respect and men don’t need love, because that’s what Paul said. Ever hear of mutual love and respect???

  • Rebecca @ The Road Home

    I think it’s interesting that no one is concerned that wives don’t need respect and husbands don’t need love…
    Oh, and even more interesting is that it claims to have “the secret” to a successful marriage, when research shows us that successful marriages are all different, unique. What works for one couple doesn’t automatically work for another.
    Ugh, it’s things like this that make my job 10x harder :(.

  • irws

    Call me silly and old fashioned, but when I was growing up “respect” was something a person earned?!?! Giving someone my “respect” because they think they deserve it sounds like giving my money away to someone who has not earned it!

    • Anonymous

      Word to the mother bird.

    • Erin Adams

      I do think that all humans should be offered a measure of respect. Just respect for human life. Respect of others, as image bearers of God.
      Sure that is one level of respect, though. Respect is much deeper and maybe even a whole other thing when a person has earned our respect.
      What really ruffles my feathers is when I hear that people should be given respect just for their position they hold. e.g. respect a husband for his position, respect your boss for his position, respect a police officer for their position… Um, no. Just offer other people respect, regardless of their position or gender or whatever.

  • Ben Emerson

    To be fair, Otis Redding wrote “Respect.”

    • Anonymous

      Oopsie-daisy! My bad! :) Thanks for the correction, Ben!

  • Kristi

    I think many people can read the Bible and see sexism there, so they assume that’s how it should be. They truly think that is Biblical.

  • Hännah

    Hahaha. I adore this side of you.

    And, seriously, yes. It’s stupid.

  • Chad Jones

    I have been to Eggerich’s conference; he goes out of his way to point out that he’s not empowering abuse. The book is called “Love & Respect,” but it’s about grace–about spouses giving each other grace in the midst of this crazy thing called “life.” It’s about volition–choosing to walk in love, rather than fighting. About assuming the best of one’s spouse, and trusting them to God.

    Anyway, that something can be abused, a message twisted, doesn’t mean the message is wrong–it means that our foolish hearts are darkened, and we are selfish. I find daily prayer helps combat this.

    Btw, misandry is just as wrong as misogyny.

    • Anonymous

      No matter HOW far out of his way Mr. Eggerich goes to say he’s not empowering abuse, if his message is sexist then it’s inherently abusive. And me saying so doesn’t mean my “foolish heart is darkened” (nice Biblical reference, btw!), it just means I’m sounding the alarm on harmful teaching. Thanks for your input, Chad. :)

    • Patricia

      I haven’t been to the conference or read the book [or even heard of it before today! :)], but I can say that grace has been one of the most amazing parts of my marriage, and my husband’s grace toward me is one of the many things I so appreciate about him.
      Perhaps the author needs to re-work the book in a new edition with a new title, so that his message about grace is more prominent…?

  • Luke Harms

    “Why not give BOTH balls back on the SAME day?”
    A fair question indeed. :)

    But seriously, I think your point on unconditional respect->abuse is an important one. The cynical person in me wonders if that little nugget isn’t the whole point of this enterprise. “RESPECT MY AU-THOR-I-TIE!!”

    • Anonymous


  • ThatGuyKC

    My wife, LK, and I both participated in a growth group (bible study, small group, etc) that used the Love & Respect DVD of the author and his wife speaking live along w/ a workbook.

    DISCLAIMER: I’ve only read the gift book version. And the workbooks we got were poorly designed from a visual and content perspective (redundant questions, plain black & white, etc.)

    I haven’t read the Love & Respect book so I can’t really speak to whether or not it’s sexist.

    However, I can say that going through the study helped LK and I better understand each other and how to communicate more effectively. You should know I’m married to a fiery, opinionated and independent red head who feels free to call me on my BS. And yes, I love AND respect her.

    The author repeatedly calls on the men to take the first step and stop the “crazy cycle” because it’s not all Eve’s fault. Personally, I think it’s all Adam’s fault because he stood right next to Eve and did nothing while the serpent deceived her.

    Lastly, of course men and women need BOTH love and respect. In his talks the author never implies men should not respect their wives. That would be absurd.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for this, KC. I can appreciate that. :) I guess I’m just concerned with the overall message—I think equality and MUTUAL respect is more beneficial to marriage than a one-size-fits-all approach. When ANY author claims to have found The Secret, I’m suspicious, especially if that secret assigns different roles to each gender. Still, I’m glad YOU found value there.
      Wait. There’s a “gift book” version, too?! :)

      • ThatGuyKC

        Heck yeah there’s a gift book. Keep it short and sweet I say.

        I’m suspect when someone claims to have found “the Secret” too, but my wife and I both thought the content was really good. And he never says women don’t need respect or that men don’t need love.

  • Heathershodgepodge

    YES. I have come to view all Christian marriage (and parenting) books with suspicion. Which is sad, because Christians should be the go-to source for things like this. But it’s not like secular people have this figured out either…
    Glad to have you blogging again!

  • Sarah

    I totally agree with your review. I can’t recommend or bash the book too much. While I agree I need to show my husband more respect than I do, I also know I need him to earn my respect, and I need just as much respect from him as I do unconditional love (which he also needs). Way too many stereotypes for me here as well.

  • Kara Murano

    I am so glad you are back to blogging :) I so related to this post, thanks for writing. Also, I just finished Rachel Evans book (I saw you post about it) and I loved it!

  • Rachel

    Laughed out loud several times while reading this and it made me think of a quote I recently read and thought was interesting: “The greatest lesson Mom ever taught me, though, was this one: She told me there would be times in your life when you have to choose between being loved and being respected,” he said. “She said to always pick being respected, that love without respect was always fleeting — but that respect could grow into real, lasting love.” Chris Christie

  • Awol

    My observation has been that there are no pink and blue versions of the descriptions of the fruit of the Spirit nor of the ‘Love chapter’ characteristics.

    If men or women need ‘more’ of this or that, love, respect, etc., just how exactly are we supposed to measure such things? Is there a respectometer or a love-ometer out there somewhere that will tell us just how much a person needs?

  • the Blah Blah Blahger

    I like posts about balls. That is all.

  • Susan

    Oh yes. Someone who agrees with me about that whole program. I actually sat through (most) of the video lessons. I went because my husband thought it might be helpful. Neither of us found it all that helpful. When will evangelicals realize that it’s not a program that saves us, our kids, our marriages. All that programs do is get people working hard to make it happen – and that’s not how it happens. Yes, Elizabeth, you did push my button today. :)

    • Anonymous


  • Su

    When my husband brought Love and Respect home (which I said I didn’t want), I was afraid it was just another book to club the idea that problems in marriage are due to wives not respecting their husbands. I didn’t even make it through the first paragraph of the introduction before I was ready to throw the book. I read this: “This book is about how the wife can fulfill her need to be loved by giving her husband what he needs – respect.” Not a good start. I couldn’t read the rest when it started with that premise.

    • Anonymous

      Ugh. I’ll scratch your back if you scratch my desperate neeeeeeed for respect! blargh. Thanks for including textual evidence, Su.

  • Courtney

    I don’t know that I can muster up any more frustration over this book. My anger has cooled to some puttering coals, but fortunately my laughter response is still totally intact. Thanks for pointing out the absurd. Also, your skinny jeans post is hysterical. I chuckled at least 6 times. Then I couldn’t stop picturing myself in the dressing room mirror the first time I tried a pair of them on. Horrifying.

  • Sari

    Annnnnnnnnnnnnddddd, she’s back! :-) I’m headed to SoCAL in the next few days to visit my sister and her new baby. By myself. Without my husband. My ENTIRE family drinks this koolaid , and also worships at the feet of Driscoll and his AWESOME book “Real Marriage”. Should be fun. I’ll just talk to the baby. :-)

  • Anna

    Books about Biblical Womanhood and Marriage (and also some non-Christian marriage books) messed up my brain enough to mess up my sex life, lol. Ugh.

  • sarahlcc

    I think many people interpret scripture through the lense of their own preconceived notions / past experience / the way the were raised and they truly think that it is Biblical. If you can’t find a church that agrees with you, then go get a seminary degree, get hands laid on you and make your own.

    I for one am sick of churches that propagate misogyny. I have found them full of depressed, misandric women desperately trying to obey God according to the teachings of their ‘one true church.’ These women also feverishly propogate these beliefs because otherwise their entire lifestyle would be at risk. BUT they hate men. How is that loving God?

    Personally, if I were going to cut my husbands balls off, I sure as heck wouldn’t keep them to give back to him at some future date. He’d never find them again. Just sayin’.

  • Laura Ortberg Turner

    This seems like a straw man argument to me. As a feminist, I don’t believe in any kind of gendered dichotomy between love and respect, and I wouldn’t agree with the roles set up in the book of that title. However, I think there is something to what the authors say (and they also say that women need respect and men need love; they never posit a zero-sum game where those attributes are concerned). We need to integrate the differences between men and women into a healthy feminism, and if some men thrive off of respect for their personality and women thrive off of unconditional love (not only one or the other!), we should pay attention to those patterns and learn from them, rather than label them bad bad bad. They are not prescriptive, but are descriptive of real ways of life–even my feminist husband craves respect in a way that I do not. Acknowledging that this is sometimes the case will only give us more common ground to work together.

    • Anonymous

      Such a great point! Thanks, Laura! I’m thinking about a followup post discussing this!

      • Laura Ortberg Turner

        That would be super interesting!

        • Anonymous

          Hey, if you have time, email me more of your thoughts on this? Specifically as they relate to “healthy feminism.” I need the springboard!

    • Ellie

      I appreciate your post. Contemporary Christian feminism is unattractive to me because it won’t acknowledge gender differences.

      I think that one profitable starting point would be to revisit Mary Stewart Van Lewellan’s (sp) early book on gender. Her insights about the Fall are consistent with the point Laura makes. A male desire for respect ties into struggles/toil in the field; a female desire for love ties into relational struggles after the Fall.

      • Ellie

        Quick follow up – Mary Stewart Leweeun’s book is titled Gender and Grace.

  • Sara

    Finally! You put into words how I felt about that book. Every time I come across that title (and it seems like it’s everywhere) I say to myself “well I want respect too…why does it have to be just for the guys?” I guess respect shouldn’t be assigned a gender. :) Thanks for writing this post. I have read your blog for a few months and enjoy reading your POV on legalistic Christian lifestyles.

  • Anonymous

    I haven’t read that one. Marriage books, in general, bore me or anger me. Rarely is there an in-between. The only one I can remember really loving was The 5 Love Languages, and that book (and all its offshoots) is really a bunch of common sense framed in such a way that I got it. Re-framing ideas is sometimes all I need. There is no one great secret, because marriage is made up of two people (polygamy excluded here) and people are so vastly different that one size of bandaid cannot cover every wound.

  • Mara

    The only thing that amazes me more than men believing that women have any control over whether a man is masculine or not is the women who buy into the lie that they have that much control.

    When have women ever been able to emotionally castrate grown men?

    When have women ever been able to emotionally uncastrate grown men?

    In other words, how did women ever have the power to swipe men’s balls? And how did they ever have the ability to return men’s balls back to the men that have had them stolen?

  • jgdisch

    to be honest, I don’t think the bible has anything to say in regards to today’s therapeutic culture if attempting to use it as a basis for ‘therapy’…I also don’t think therapist do either…. Our western post enlightenment culture is built on assumptions that simply are not rooted in reality… our supposed needs and wants are basically self serving… I do agree that most marriage seminars that are from a supposed biblical view should be trashed. Any attempt to import family codes from Paul that were in place in the first century and it’s culture to today’s cultural insanity is an exercise in wrongheadedness. As with any relationship one might be involved in Jesus stated that Love towards each other, self sacrificing love for one another is the way of the kingdom.. whether that is in marriage, friendship and even our enemies… anything other than that is missing the point.

  • auctioneerist

    Elizabeth, I’m a huge fan. I follow your articles because you’re such a thoughtful person… and because we don’t always agree. I like that and I generally appreciate your perspective.

    I’m just surprised that you’re basing your opinion of Love and Respect based on a blog post that someone else wrote. I’ve read the book and been to several conferences and can tell that you aren’t at all familiar with what Dr. Eggerichs actually teaches (a quick search on their website and the “about us” page refutes much of the erroneous assumptions in your post). It just disappoints me that you chose to expound on your (very negative) opinion of Love and Respect without even reading it. Even if you disagree with something, it would hold more weight with me if it was an informed dissent.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for this. I think that’s a fair criticism. Here are my thoughts: I’ve read excerpts, text and reviews in order to form my opinion. Do I need to read the ENTIRE book to form an “informed” opinion? I don’t think so. I understand the premise. I’ve also read SO MANY other similar books that I’m pretty familiar with these kinds of teachings. I also read enough reviews to assure myself that I wasn’t jumping to conclusions. I’m sure this book makes some great, valid points. So do a lot of books. But any book that contains stereotypical assumptions is enough to convince me NOT to buy the book or read it in its entirety. My conclusions about this book remain the same.

      • auctioneerist

        That’s sad to hear:(

        My marriage was most certainly transformed by the book and I know many others who have found it quite helpful as well. None of us are “old-school mysoginists”. Your article linked to a negative review on Amazon, but there are 730 reviews averaging almost 5 stars. I don’t believe that the majority of those who like the book are mysoginists and I think you are out of line by calling the book “harmful”.

        To answer some of your questions: yes, the book really is about helping people; no, there’s absolutely no sanctioning of any abuse and Dr. Eggerichs teaches repeatedly that men and women both need love and respect equally… If only you’d read the book or heard him speak, perhaps your opinion would be more informed, if not changed.

        • Anonymous

          I’m glad your marriage was transformed. That’s good news! And you certainly are entitled to celebrate that. However, there are others here (right here in the comment thread) who were exposed to the book and found it harmful. Your experience isn’t the rule.

          • Evelyn

            And I want to note that churches (including my former church) present this program with DVDs, and can put their own spin on it. What EE writes is *exactly* what I heard. My abusive now-xh wanted me to go with him to fix our marriage “together,” and I bailed after the first session.

  • Kara @ The Chuppies

    Seems to me that love & respect are intertwined…difficult to have one without the other and all Christ-followers are called by God to live out that love-respect-in-action regardless of their gender (though I do believe God’s Word gives a description of differing roles within the family…not better, not worse, not lesser, not greater, not without boundaries, not for covering evil, not smarter, not important-er…just different).

    The book is on a shelf somewhere, but I haven’t read it yet…nor am I even sure who gave it to me.

    I’d agree with you on the “single greatest secret to a ____” comment. Anything with a 5-steps-to-bliss format gives me qualms.

    Trying to process why I don’t wrestle with “unconditional love” as much, but sometimes struggle with “unconditional respect”…

    Unconditional love– love that never fails, Christ-like love that reaches out when I’m totally undeserving and have in no way “earned it”. When in fact, I’ve many times over un-earned-it.

    I do want unconditional love… from God and from my husband. I want him to still love me even through the yuck and muck and ugly things I sometimes do and say.

    Unconditional respect– ? Treating someone with kindness, consideration…? Even when I need to point out an error or when I need to draw boundaries…

    Helps me to flip it… not treating my husband with disrespect, contempt, disregard, belittling him…

    I’m sure he wants that too. I’m sure I want that too.

    Sometimes the most truly loving-respectful thing a person can do is allow for a break in a relationship or call someone out when they are walking away from God.

    I can still show respect towards my husband (and this can and should only be applied to my very-own-husband, not all men in general above and beyond just the common respect/love we should all show to all others…not specific to gender) even when it’s time for me to confront or discuss (aka argue about) something. I think a lot rests on how we define and apply those terms.

    And that it is a scary, huge, dangerous error to confuse respect with…worship.

    My favorite “Christian marriage book” is– What Did You Expect? Redeeming the Realities of Marriage.

    • Anonymous

      Thank you for this:

  • Hannah Thomas

    This sudden ‘epiphany’ thinking drives me nuts. Grow up already! You don’t need unconditional (fill in the blank), because its not doable. No human is capable of that, and you are in for a world of hurt if you think so. No offense but when I read articles like the first one you linked too? I have to wonder if they still subscribe to their Tiger Beat magazine. Yes, they remind me of pie in the sky giggling teenagers that think they understand life…lol and then go on to explain it to their friends! Then it turns into ‘teenage group think’. All decent relationships are sprinkled with love and respect, and the amounts don’t depend on gender. I’m happy the author isn’t such a angry goof anymore to her spouse, but I hate to tell her it took more than an epiphany alone to learn it.

  • Sarah Longhenry

    Interestingly, that song Aretha made famous was originally written by a man. I didn’t agree with everything in the L&R materials, but I had never considered before that the very way women treat men in our society–e, as if they are buffoons–had crept into my marriage. I also believe that there is a lot already being thrown at men on how to love their wives and such and not much thrown atc women on how to respect their husbands. I do believe it helped us, but I admit that I’m married to an incredibly wonderful man, and no typical marriage course will help abusive relationships (you are correct about that). Anyway, the couple who wrote those books are not the Pearls, so I don’t really get your concerns. I think they made valid points for my situation. If the shoe doesn’t fit…

    • Kristen Rosser

      You know, I don’t think the treating of men as buffoons is as pervasive as it seems. The only place I’ve ever seen a woman treating a man that way was on a sit-com.

    • Terri

      Do you truly think there’s “not much thrown at women on how to respect their husbands”? I’m pole-axed by that statement. I’m glad you’re in such a good marriage that you don’t have to worry about it, but floored that you are so out of touch with others’ very different experiences that you literally don’t know the subculture they’re in or the influences and pressures that are brought to bear on them.

      Many girls and women in religious circles get little else than “respect men in general and your husband especially” thrown at them all their lives. They’re immersed in it. It is made clear from birth on that if there’s a problem in the family or in a marriage, people will ask the *daughter* or the *wife* what she’s doing wrong first and will not be very willing to look at the father/husband. Certainly not to confront him.

      It’s the be-all and end-all of marital counseling for wives. Several times, in different churches in different areas of the country, I’ve witnessed friends asking the pastor for counseling on marital issues and the pastor immediately asking whether they were submitting to their husbands. It’s in the air we breathe. No matter what the problem is, whether it’s a girl struggling with a father or a wife struggling with a husband, we’re always counseled first to be respectful and do everything right–long before anything practical and useful is advised regarding the actual problem.

      I have yet to personally witness a Christian man confronting another Christian man on how disrespectfully he treats his wife, although casual disrespect of wives by their husbands is almost endemic in conservative circles. People don’t give it a second thought, don’t even notice it. It’s the air they breathe.

      It’s largely not wives who are having trouble with respecting their husbands; it’s husbands who are having trouble humbling themselves to be honest and respectful to their wives. It’s wives who are too “respectful” to their husbands to call them out on selfish behavior (which is not really respect), and husbands so accustomed to being the one whose will and convenience counts most that they actually feel wronged when this is pointed out to them.

      Perhaps outside of conservative Christian subcultures there isn’t this total immersion in wifely respect and submission. But no, I’ve been outside of conservative Christian circles as well as inside, and there is still an unmistakable leaning toward asking the wife what *she’s* failing to do perfectly and how she’s failing to be nice at all times before there’s any willingness to look at the husband. On the one or two occasions when I’ve seen someone speak to the husband, it has been very very gentle, very tentative, extremely respectful. Not at all the way the wife was treated.

      • Anonymous

        I agree that this attitude is very pervasive among conservative churches. It makes me so mad that my sister’s husband can get away with anything without considering anybody else’s needs. It doesn’t just affect my sister but the whole family.
        They both belong to a very conservative church that practices “discipleship”, a kind of mentoring system. You would think that that would make him more acountable for his behavior, but not so. He is bleeding my 85 year dad dry financially because he doesn’t feel obligated to find a job. My sister goes along with this because he is “the head of the house”.
        Yes everyone deserves to be treated with a base level of respect but this is ridiculous. He doesn’t deserve the title of “head of ” anything when he abuses the privilege.
        I can’t comment on the book since I haven’t read it but all I can say is that too many women have been told to put up and shut up rather than address the very real issues of patriarchial abuse in the family. I suspect that the plastic smile that my sister always gives me actually covers up a lot of pain and unhappiness in her “perfect” marriage.

  • Scott Morizot

    My life, particularly early on, demonstrated a desperate search for love. The only sort of respect I’ve ever cared about is the sort I’ve earned.

    This is particularly sick when promoted as a “Christian” perspective. Christ was pretty clear. The one thing we all “desperately need” is to learn to love. Love others which is also loving God.

    Learning to love also frequently involves sacrifice and even death to self. It does not involve a need for respect, whatever definition of “respect” you use.

    (And hi Elizabeth. I’ve never “gone” anywhere.)

  • Joy Eggerichs

    Hi, As the daughter of Emerson and a female, someone thought I might be interested in reading your post. As a strong female who believes greatly in equality, I can see how many of the misconceptions about my father’s book are out there. I also think some people simply disagree with my book and my father would be the first one to say, that’s OK.

    After directing my parents live conferences for a couple years and then starting my own division to help young people with relationships, I’m not sure, however, that saying the L&R message is doing more damage than good is totally accurate. If egotistical males or women who want formulas are promoters of the book, it doesn’t mean that is what my parents are promoting.

    What I have seen and heard from thousands of people is that my parents have put a voice and a vocabulary to what they were feeling. And if that’s not you, that’s ok! Many of the sterotypes my father gives as stories in his book are just that, sterotypes. And most of those stereotypes are based off of all the social science and research that my father has done. Most of which is secular.

    My parents both teach and say clearly at all of the L&R conferences that, “We both need L&R equally.” I talk about that in a post I wrote a couple years ago for my friend Nish’s blog called, “Is Respect Only Earned?” (but for some reason the title disappeared.)

    I totally “respect” (no pun intended) your differing opinion, and I know your heart is probably to help women, but I would ask you to have a little more kindness and grace as you speak about my parents who have dedicated their lives (and will keep doing so until they kick the bucket) to serving couples. We get testimonies daily of marriages saved, and even though I don’t fit many of the “sterotypes” in my fathers book, the core message has given me an understanding of God, his instructions and how I have seen them help me and not hurt me in my communication and conflict resolution with men.

    p.s. My dad does explain “unconditional” in his book and I may have written a blog post about it at one point, but I am blanking and my computer is about to die…

    • Ellie

      What do you mean when you say you believe in equality?

      When Love and Respect teaching is stripped of the marvelous Eggerichs sense of humor, what remains is radical fundamentalism. She has NO authority or free agency because her only responsibilities are those delegated to her by her husband. There’s no sense of the Kingdom mandate to rule and multiply being given to both husband and wife. There’s nowhere in any of your father’s books, for example, where husbands are counseled to include their wives in decision making.

      I’m also very concerned about your dad’s definition of what it means to understand a woman – understand her need to talk so as to realize her emotions, share the report of the day, and release her emotions. No where is there a sense of Her having a different style but nonetheless having been given insight and an ability to analyze, so should be included in decisions.

      If you reply and believe I’ve mischaracterzed your dad’s position, please provide references to passages in your dad’s book that support your counter. I say that because I don’t believe those passages exist.

      • Tyler

        Please just read the book. This “tell me exactly what to read” response just tells me you haven’t done your research.

        But more to the point, this book doesn’t teach a one-sided, misogynistic relationship. It very clearly teaches a relationship of mutual submission, where each one looks to the other’s needs and tries to meet them, instead of just begging to have their own needs met. If it’s rude for a husband to want unconditional respect, then how is it not rude for wives to want unconditional love? These are described as 2 sides of the same coin. In no way does it promote a husband-centered marriage.

        Also, the book is clear to say that not all people fit the stereotype. It just says that at the core, men most desire respect while women most desire love most commonly. The info on respect was pushed a little harder (this is detailed in the book) because pop culture has given plenty of credence to love, but tends to ignore respect. To understand them equally, we have to spend a little more time on respect.

        I hate that this position on the book is as popular as it is, because it really is a great study. I was introduced to it while in a young married couples study group, and I’m pretty sure one of the wives chose it for us. I hope you’ll read it once, at least out of curiosity.

  • Jenna B.

    I have never read ‘Love and Respect’ and quite frankly I do not plan on it based on a little digging I did on my own. You make some good (and hilarious) points about the whole concept. I am all for bloggers challenging their readers about life and dishing what they’ve learned along the way. Actually, this is also what Lindsay does on her blog every week with her own style and outlook. Elizabeth, I wish you could have coffee with this girl. Then you would know what I know about her. And here’s the thing: I am not going to make a blanket statement about you based on a 30 minute review of your blog and twitter patterns, because I would probably miss some crucial things about you. Here’s my point: The person you bashed on Twitter and on this post is a real person with real feelings. After national media attention she became a very public figure in our small town, and she has had to learn how to respond to continuous public attacks from strangers. This spectacle was no different, unfortunately. You had an opportunity here, Elizabeth. You had an opportunity to write a compelling post that would reveal the other side of the coin to Lindsay’s readership and maybe even to Lindsay herself. You could have persuaded them to hear you, not by bashing Lindsay but by revealing that compelling truth with your words. You are too good of a writer to spend your time picking fights this way. You have potential for influence. Don’t waste it.

  • Christy Chomer Karnatz

    Its funny how I always think of you when things at church jolt me back to childhood and I have to make my own mind up about something that is off to me. We were asked to study this book both during our premarriage counseling and currently during our newly married small group. It has some good things, but you’re right. My husband and I are kind of sick of this book and all its buzzwords by this point. Interesting that women wanting and needing respect is not there, although I need/want both in equal quantities.

    My small group leaders have been instructed by the leadership that our memory verses have to be out of the ESV. This was explained to us initially as better enabling us to be held accountable for our memory verses. You can imagine, since you come from the same background, that in the first church I attended as a young child, there were numerous memory verses … in a different version. From the ages of nine to fifteen, I was taught at home and had memory verses in our curriculum … another version. From the ages of ten to nineteen, I attended the Chicago group, and you full well know how many verses I would have memorized between weekly chapter summary bible studies, teen time, summer school, and VBS.

    Suffice to say, that out of the ten memory verses given so far, I already know eight of them … in different versions. So I offered to type up the verses and note which version they were in. I was rebuffed and told that I really needed to memorize in the ESV. I said that of course I would memorize any new verses in the ESV, since it was a small group.

    Then they sent out an email saying that all verses must be memorized in ESV and the part of the email it was in was in red lettering. So my darling husband offered to talk to our small group leader himself. He was told that the church leadership had found the ESV to be the closest to the original of all recently translated versions and that they had adopted that as their version. All small groups were to do their memorization in nothing but the ESV. End of story.

    My husband asked if they could take into consideration all the verses that I had previously memorized. He said no. Now I’m totally shaken up by this, because as legalistic as the group I was in as a child was, they sniffed their nose at, but did not dictate the version I memorized in, as long as it didn’t deviate from the meaning.

    So I’m going to write to the elders as a whole, but goodness, with our past being the way it is, I’m not holding my breath for any change. I’m just going to have to pray that I’m wrong on this one and they will listen, because even though I can handle human fallibility/legalism in doses in ministry, I can’t quite handle it trickling over into my personal memorization.

    Your thoughts, Elizabeth and community?

    • Hännah

      What the hell? This is spiritual abuse. My old church pushed the ESV really hard, but they never went this far…

      • Kristen Rosser

        There is also the issue that the ESV is the one approved by those who want masculine language to continue in their Bibles (“adelphoi,” which is a “masculine” gender-inclusive word in the Greek meaning “brothers and sisters,” has to be translated just “brothers,” or it’s a “bad” translation).

        • Verity3

          Yes; arguably, the ESV is far more masculinist than the NIV 2011, for example, is feminist.
          Christy, I agree with Hannah that this is spirtual abuse. I mean, “requiring” you to memorize verses at all is questionable. But dictating what interpretation of God’s Word you may use? No one should seek to insert themselves between God and His child.
          Praying God will use this situation for good.

          • Christy Chomer Karnatz

            I did go and have a serious conversation where the female half of the group leading couple (it is a marriage small group) phrased the reason for the required memory/version as being because this was more like a class. She used my background as a teacher to try to bring me around. She told me that they aren’t trying to tell me that I should learn it in ESV on my own time, but since this is a group and they are running the group that way, she hopes I will still come and be part of it in the way they have set up. So … I don’t harbor any hard feelings against her, but I still find it really, really weird. I’ve been in a room with forty people sharing, many sharing different memory verses from different versions and it wasn’t a problem because there was a trust there. This group has been really good for my husband and I as a couple, so I’ll finish out the next couple of months. However, it has led me to believe that maybe I’m in a church that is just too big for me. To overorganized,etc. I told her that I appreciated her entreating me and that I would continue to attend for that reason. When it is done, I don’t think I will join another small group though, as I don’t want to be part of that same policy again. Bummer.

  • Elizabeth Erazo

    Maybe I will have to re-read the book. I read it early on in the my marriage when we were…well, lets just say we were off to a bad start! I didn’t have very good “feminist” sensibilities developed at the time, and it didn’t set off alarms for me – but then again, I’d heard it heralded as golden marriage advice by my parents for years.

    The thing is, I think this did help me, in real and tangible ways. I already knew I should respect my husband, but what I needed was guidance in expressing that to him in a way that felt loving to him.

    That said, I do think every Christian book on marriage and/or gender roles NEEDS at least an appendix addressing clearly what domestic abuse is, and what the Christian response to it should be.

    I would have to re-read it to see if it is exactly as sexist as you say, which makes me wonder – did you actually read it? Or is this second hand from Amazon reviews and other’s reactions?

    As for Lindsay’s review…well, I can’t say I see the misogyny as you do. The purpose of her post wasn’t to deconstruct the philosophy of the book through a feminist lens, but to pull what was good, what she learned out of a book that she acknowledged was flawed. And lets be honest – in Christian writing, it is hard to find marriage books that aren’t flawed concerning women in one way or another! It all just seemed very harsh, but you’re never one to beat around the bush or “tone it down” hahah! That’s why I love your writing, even when I disagree!

  • Erin Adams

    Oye. I read your follow up post first. Loved it. Then came back to this one. Lots of comments which I have not completed reading…

    I think your post is SO right on. I do think that the post you linked to about giving the guys their balls back had some excellent points. (Except, why do guys need us to go first? Really. Shouldn’t we both be willing to “go first” in the humility and love and respect…) BUT. Why does that mean we have to promote this book, with all its harmful stuff?

    Our small group is going through His Needs, Her Needs. It has the same co-dependent, performance based ideology. I was a LOUD protester. People did not agree with me, nor wanted me to get away from the author’s points. So, we had to drop out of the discussion.
    The true parts in these books are so basic. Can’t we throw the books out and just exhort each other with 1 Corinthians 13? I don’t mean that it is basic in a condescending way, like I’ve got this dialed. But, rather, why add all the garbage to the basic truth of what God tells us that love is?

    I have struggled a lot with co-dependent behavior/attitude in my marriage. Partially because it goes with my personality But, also because this is what the churches teach.

    The only good marriage book I have read yet is Jim and Sarah Sumners’ “Just How Married Do you Want to be?” It was tranformational for me.
    I also think that the Cloud/Townsend books on boundaries are helpful to unlearn a lot of the co-dependent junk.
    Thanks Elizabeth!!

    • Erin Adams

      I’m going to reply to myself to say more. I can’t stop. There is so much to say.

      I don’t want to pick on the husband of the lady who was giving his balls back to him. But, their story illustrates something that I see often with these sorts of books. Why did he want his wife to go the conference SO, so, so badly? Was he unwilling to humble and emotional honest to tell her himself, how her words were cutting him up?

      I think we can pick up a book like this to try to explain our spouse, or hand the book to our spouse so they can understand us, when we really should put down the book and get face to face. We need to communicate with the real live person we love about the issues and how we feel and yada yada. As parents we can often be tempted to take this generalized, impersonal route, too.

      It has been harmful to me, to read a books that are supposedly helping me understand men, when I should be going to the source for the info, my man. He may fit into some stereotypes and generalized categories. I can fool myself into saying I “get him” after reading some of this stuff. But the best way to understand him is to get the info straight from him.

      • Beth

        The reason he can’t tell her himself could be different things. Here are a few:

        1. He doesn’t know how. Many men aren’t good at expressing their own needs.
        2. He is afraid she will respond with anger, resentment, bitterness, blame-shifting, mistrust, or other forms of manipulation. I have seen this happen.

        • Erin Adams

          I believe this happens, Beth. I get these hard things. I would venture to guess that it happens within every marriage, at least on occasion, although in varying degrees.

          Sometimes I am nervous to tell my husband what I am feeling. Sometimes he is. Sometimes we both have a hard time even finding the right way to explain it. Often times it is hard for the other to hear, one party feels attacked and there is self defense and attacking in return.

          But the actual work of figuring out how to communicate and work together, by trail and error is a massively good thing.

          Using an book as the go between can’t work very well. Some points in the book may explain well. But, other points will be misleading. No one can find a book that explains them all the way & hand it to their spouse, for a problem to be solved. If it is too hard to be direct with each other, then a counselor can be in between.
          I really don’t want to minimize how hard it can be. I do think we need to be radically humble and honest with each other in order to keep loving well.

  • BeccaE

    I find that it all must be in context. My own father demanded respect but never behaved in any way except to lose my respect (and that of the entire family); however, I do see the need to understand what makes men and women in general work together in a relationship or subsequently create conflict because they cannot understand WHY their spouse behaves the way they do. I too believe that respect must be mutual, and that we must understand how each interprets, responds, reacts and understands the conflict or communication, and why. I too feel that there is a generation of wussy’s who’ve grown up in the church, trained to avoid conflict and hard work, and that the church particularly needs to encourage male development – not dominance. :) Give em their balls back – or their spine, if it helps.

  • Beth

    I think your fundamentalist background may be coloring your interpretation of this idea. I think in many ways the premise of the book is right but no way am I going to respect sin in someone, whether it is my husband or my girlfriend. Therefore, abuse is not part of the picture because abuse is sin. I think my interpretation of this book is very different than yours, which is one reason I’m OK with it and you aren’t?

  • Denise

    Have you actually read the book? It doesn’t sound like you have, because there is actually plenty of Scripture you are ignoring.

  • Sheriji

    Well, most of Christianity is pretty darned sexist — virgin or prostitute, that kind of thing. And I “love” (meaning absolutely loathe) how women DESIRE love but men NEED respect. Needs trump wants, right, so as soon as we all learn how to play “fair” in the man’s world in which we live, we’ll all be happy.


  • Sheriji

    Ugh. Just read a few sentences from the first link. Seriously? SERIOUSLY? Seems like we all would have could have should have evolved beyond this bullshit by now.

  • Beth

    My parents have been struggling in their marriage for years. Over the years, my dad has become passive, people have described him as like a dead fish. Literally NOTHING seems to spark any sort of emotion from him. “Emasculated” is a good word to describe it. Sometimes I feel like I don’t have a dad anymore because he is so emotionally unresponsive.

    My mom screams, manipulates, emotionally and verbally abuses him in front of friends and family. She harbors bitterness and demands attention for hours on end, sometimes through the night, even though he is so exhausted he can literally not keep his eyes open. She has even used physical force on him (and me, while we’re at it) to get her way and her point across.

    I read “love and respect” a few years ago (before things got really bad) and I was freaking out most of the time because the patterns they outlined in the book were exactly what my parent’s relationship looked like. My dad told me once, with tears in his eyes (this is the guy that I’ve NEVER seen cry) that he thought NO ONE IN THE WORLD understood him and his wish to be treated with respect, until he read that book. He wishes desperately that my mom would communicate respect to him, in the same way he communicates love to her even when she treats him like shit. But she’s so hung up on the fact that the book is “sexist” she won’t even consider it’s basic premise: treat your husband with respect. Because she doesn’t. And it’s extremely damaging to him, and all of her family.

    1. Vulnerability (needing something) isn’t bad.
    2. Jeering at vulnerability is just another way to mask it in yourself. That’s what bullies do. And supposedly that’s what you speak out against.

  • Beth

    And the balls post you were making fun of basically said, “Women, don’t be angry, bitter, mean, controlling and nitpicky towards your husband.” Oh, let me quote: shooting out “venomous darts of hate, anger and resentment.”

    Who would disagree with that? Whether its referring to treating a man or woman with “darts of hate and resentment” it’s wrong and awful any way you look at it.

  • John Alexander Harman

    “Unconditional respect” seems like an oxymoron to me; respect that isn’t earned isn’t real, and I don’t think respect is something a person can fake indefinitely, especially in the context of an intimate relationship.