Eggerichs has placed his finger squarely on the key to a God-honoring and happy marriage. Love and Respect is based on the commands found in Ephesians 5:33 that crystallize the responsibility of the husband, which is to love his wife, and the responsibility of the wife, which is to respect her husband. Many have theorized as to why our Lord chose these particular things as foundational. Eggerichs believes that they are needs—the husband needs respect, the wife love. Perhaps, but it could also be that God so designed marriage to function with the love/respect dynamic, or it could be that these specific traits are the most difficult, the most unnatural for us to give one another. Or, it may be all three. Nevertheless, Eggerichs’ focus on these two actions/attitudes is right on the money.
The author lays out three cycles around which his book is developed. The “crazy cycle” is where the majority of couples spend much of their lives. Here the husband is violating the command to love his wife—or at least fails to communicate that love—and the wife fails to respect her husband—or at least fails to convince him of her respect. The result is a constant cycle of craziness in which the couple is at war. Each waits for his spouse to fulfill his duty before he fulfills his. Since that is not likely to happen they live their lives in frustration.
The solution is to stop the crazy cycle and jump on the “energizing cycle.” Here, in the heart of the book, Eggerichs informs the husband how he can love his wife in a way that will truly demonstrate love. By the same token he shows wives what respect looks like to men. Throughout, it is repeatedly emphasized that the husband’s love and the wife’s respect must be unconditional. We are to obey God in these matters whether our spouse responds or not. The author writes, “Primarily, you don’t practice love and respect to meet your needs in your marriage, as important as these are. Your first goal is to obey and please the Lord” (p. 281). He is right, and when we do this we are on the “reward cycle.” Almost assuredly our reward will be an improved marriage, but, even if it does not happen, we please our Lord and receive His ultimate reward in heaven.
The thesis of Love and Respect is biblically solid. Eggerichs offers many helpful and proven practical ideas and I believe that most couples would be challenged and helped by applying the principles given. But there are several flaws of which the reader must be aware:
• There is a splattering of psychobabble throughout, although greatly reduced from most books of this type. In particular an unbiblical view concerning self-image pops up on occasion (pp. 62-63, 176, 190, 278).
• Eggerichs tends to present stereotypical characteristics (p. 60, 135-137, 159). While he admits that there are exceptions, he tends to paint all men a certain way (he calls it blue), and all women as similar (pink). While generally this may be correct there are far more exceptions than he portrays.
• The aspect of sin is somewhat minimized. Eggerichs’ assumption is that most husbands and wives are “good-willed” (p. 81). They desire to do the right thing, they just don’t know how. While this is often true, especially in Christian marriages, he is discounting the evil that lies in our hearts. This evil, not handled biblically, will lead us to truly sinful lifesyles. Some cruelty within marriage is not because of lack of information but because of sin. The remedy for sin is repentance and the power of the Holy Spirit.
• On at least one occasion he claims extrabiblical communication from the Lord (p. 74, also p. 141).
• While it is corrected later (see pp. 271-272) some of his guidance could be taken as methods to manipulate our spouses (see pp. 144, 221).
The wise reader can filter through these faults and thankfully they are not pronounced. Overall this volume would be very helpful for many couples. One of the strongest features, I believe, is that Eggerichs does not let wives off the hook. It is no secret that most marriage books (books, period) are read by women. And the majority of marriage books tend to pound the faults of the husbands. But Love and Respect does not play that game. There is plenty of “blame” to go around in many marriages, and Eggerichs corrects and instructs both sexes equally.