Book Review: Love & Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

Although this book has been out for several years, Thomas Nelson recently decided to bring it back to the forefront and generate new attention for it. I got a free review copy. I found it to be a very good book. I’ve read quite a few books on marriage, and I’ve been to a few marriage conferences. I have not attended the Love and Respect conference that serves as a companion to this book (or the other way around), but I’ll look for one.

I would like to get my wife to read this book. I would like to get several of my friends’ wives to read this book. I found this book to be a very good balance between the needs of husbands and wives.

I’ve read quite a few books on marriage. Some were good. Some weren’t. Some were little more than sloganeering “Men, love your wives as Christ loved the church!” with little practical advice. Others did little more than tell men what failures we are as husbands. This book actually teaches something new that I hadn’t learned before. I think that it is highly enlightening, especially on the woman’s perspective.

Love and Respect is written from a Christian perspective. I don’t believe it to be “preachy” though, and it should be helpful to non-believers as well. When Scripture is invoked, it is not from a devotional standpoint but from a practical or expositional standpoint.

The author served as a pastor for a couple of decades. Part of pastoring involves marriage counseling. As the author was studying Ephesians 5:33, he came across a shattering realization: the passage not only tells husbands to love their wives, it tells wives to respect their husbands. Women love naturally. They’re good at it; it’s what they do. Most wives love their husbands. But they don’t respect their husbands. Often, they tell their husbands “I’ll respect you when you’ve earned it!” The author asks wives how they would react if their husband said “I respect you but I don't love you.” Most women would be shattered, but it never occurs to them how their deliberate withholding of respect from their husbands is equally shattering. Yes, I’ve been told that I’ll be respected when I earn it. It hurt.

Dr. Eggerichs lays out three cycles in his book. The first is the Crazy Cycle: Without love, she reacts. Without respect, he reacts. This goes on indefinitely. The Energizing Cycle is the reverse: His Love motivates Her Respect motivates His Love… The Rewarding Cycle is the same thing, yet his love is shown REGARDLESS of her respect and her respect is shown REGARDLESS of his love.

Dr. Eggerichs created two acronyms to give husbands and wives constructive ways to show love and respect to each other. For husbands to show love to wives, he uses the acronym COUPLE. For wives to show respect to husbands, he uses the acronym CHAIRS.

  • Closeness
  • Openness
  • Understanding
  • Peacemaking
  • Loyalty
  • Esteem

  • Conquest
  • Hierarchy
  • Authority
  • Insight
  • Relationship
  • Sexuality

The COUPLE section was written for husbands to read, and the CHAIRS section was written for wives to read. As a reviewer, I read both.

One commitment that I made this past summer was to learn better how women think. I’m convinced that a lot of communications problems have to do with people interpreting each other based solely on how the receiver of the communication would act in the same situation. For instance, when my wife asks me if I’d like to do something that she knows I don’t want to do, and I say “Fine”, she seems to assume I’m lying because she would be lying in the same situation. I can’t convince her that if I give my consent to do something I don’t want to do, I’m not lying. If I didn’t want to do it that bad, I’d just refuse. I think Christina interprets me through her lens. Likewise, I interpret her through my lens. Dr. Eggerichs says in this book that women have pink glasses and hearing aids, and men have blue glasses and hearing aids. That’s obviously not to be taken literally, but that men and women do see and hear the world through different media.

For instance, I learned on Page 181 in the chapter on ESTEEM that “One other way to esteem your wife is to let her know you really appreciate all she does.” I admit I have failed to show my wife proper appreciation because a lot of the praise she may desire, I would find patronizing and disrespectful. I do like to be told that I’ve done a good job like anybody else, but I’m not a puppy. Still, I have neglected to show my wife proper esteem in this way.

Dr. Eggerichs also explores other mysteries of the woman, such as why she shares her problems but isn’t looking for a solution (I’ve asked Christina “what’s the point to having problems if you can’t solve them?”) and what the following exchange is all about:

Wife: Let’s go out for dinner.
Husband: Great. Where would you like to go?
Wife: I don’t know. Why don’t you decide?
Husband: I really don’t care. It was your idea. Where would you like to go?
Wife: I don’t know. Why don’t you decide?
Husband: What about Fuddrucker’s?
Wife: No. I don’t really like it.
Husband: What about Mexican?
Wife: I don’t like Mexican food.
Husband: Steakhouse?
Wife: I don’t feel like it.
Husband: Then where do you want to go?
Wife: I don’t know. Why don’t you decide?

Dr. Eggerichs explains what that maddening exchange that we’ve all been through is really about. He also explores other aspects of the wife’s desire to have her mind read.

While taking a break from writing this review, I was talking to Christina about the book. Our conversation drifted to other things. I discovered that she was taking my suggestions to migrate to Google Calendar as criticism. She has a calendar on the fridge that she likes, even though it’s all torn up as the kids keep knocking it down. I thought I was being helpful by suggesting an electronic calendar, she took it as me being critical. That was interesting.

I’d like to think that the section for wives to read about their husbands is equally enlightening. Throughout the book, Dr. Eggerichs shares testimonies of husbands and wives who have tried the Love and Respect way and met with improvement in their marriages. The testimonies seem to be more from wives, but a few husbands have written in as well.

A point made throughout the book is that most marriage material for women has to do with loving their husbands better. Dr. Eggerichs points out that for most wives, the problem has nothing to do with loving their husbands enough, at least, not the agape love that we’re so familiar with. He explains that the passage in Titus 2:4 instructs older women to teach the younger women to phileo their husbands. Phileo is a Greek word for a brotherly kind of love.

Two final points I would like to bring up from the book:

  1. Basic goodwill: never assume that your spouse is acting out of ill-will. Men, don’t assume your wife is intentionally being disrespectful. Women, don’t assume your husband is intentionally being unloving.
  2. Who should start? The spouse who considers himself or herself the most mature should be the one to start the process to work out of the “Crazy Cycle”. Ideally, both should agree to, but how often does THAT happen?

I highly recommend this book. Whether your marriage is on good ground, or bad ground, this book will be helpful and constructive. It will teach you things that you don’t already know, and give you practical advice and steps to implement.


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