"Without respect, he can't love," claims this best-selling book. "And without love, she can't respect ..."
A new book arrived in the mail, titled Love and Respect: The Love She Most Desires; the Respect He Desperately Needs.
“Who ordered this?” I asked my husband of 23 years. I was unimpressed by the front cover and a bit repulsed by what struck me as an overly “genderific”/simplistic title. I felt like I had read it before, or something exactly like it.
“That’s the book Cindy (our marriage therapist) asked us to read,” Pete explained.
“Do you think we really need it?” I continued with a sour look on my face. “I mean we obviously love each other. And can you think of one disrespectful thing I’ve ever said to you?”
My husband stared off into space for a really long time. Finally, without a whole lot of conviction, he answered, “Well, not exactly …”
So, I returned the book. Very shortly thereafter, we wound up in Cindy’s office again.
[Speaking of marriage therapy, could we please normalize it already? When friends hear that my handsome/successful/Mass-going husband and I (a homeschooling mom and a Catholic writer) go to marriage therapy several times a year, they always ask the same question: “Why?” My answer: “The world is broken and we’re sinners.” Furthermore, “Do you ask a person with teeth why she goes to the dentist? And do you go to the dentist only when you need a root canal?” Of course not. My husband and I have benefitted immeasurably from marital therapy — something we’ve only been consistent with lately. And if you’re still reading, you and yours might consider giving it a shot too.]
Anyhow … our therapist listened to us vent our grievances with a compassionate look on her face. Finally, she spoke up: “How’s the Love and Respect book going?” she asked. “How much have you two read?”
We shrank in our seats. Then we went home and re-ordered the book — two copies.
And all I can say is that I definitely had not read this book before — or anything like it. Written by the Christian Marriage therapist Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, the 2005 New York Times Best Seller that’s sold over 2 million copies definitely rubbed me the wrong way at first. Its assertion that a wife needs to show “unconditional respect” and that a husband needs to show “unconditional love” hit me as unfair and counterintuitive — even impossible and unhealthy. (Not so much the unconditional love part, but unconditional respect? You’ve gotta be kidding …)
It wasn’t until I studied the book’s biblical claims and the psychological studies backing it up that I decided to give its methods a try — methods that I’ve found profoundly simple and life-giving; methods that do not suggest participating in or accepting any sort of disingenuous or abusive behavior from either spouse (something I’ve found in other “traditional” marital books before).
And while my husband was correct in his observation that I had never had a habit of speaking disrespectfully, I had never clearly expressed all the reasons I deeply respect him either. The book has also helped me pinpoint certain attitudes and habits (such as talking over people when I’m excited) that are innately disrespectful. Addressing these habits hasn’t only helped my marriage, but other relationships as well. My husband — in turn — has embraced simple but profound lessons about showing love; he cooks and helps with the dishes daily now — I promise this book is worth a try!
But my top takeaway is that Love and Respect has helped us identify when we’re on what the author refers to as “The Crazy Cycle.” It’s a downward, cyclical pattern that couples can stay on for years, sometimes — tragically — entire marriages: “If he doesn’t feel respected, he finds it almost impossible to love. If she doesn’t feel loved, she finds it almost impossible to show respect.”
Not only has Love and Respect shown us how to get off “The Crazy Cycle,” it’s taught us how to get on the opposite and upward “Energizing/Rewarded Cycles” in which “he feels respected, and therefore shows love; she feels loved, and therefore shows respect.“
Love and Respect: The Love She Most Desires; the Respect He Desperately Needs (336 pages) is available through Integrity Publishing Company and Amazon.com.