On Marriage, part 2: Love & Respect Review


[Read part 1 HERE.]

When Jordan and I got married, we received two copies of a book by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs called Love & Respect. I decided the double copy was a sign that we should read this book during our first year of marriage. 

I'd never seen Jordan so excited about anything (note the sarcasm). 

Thankfully, I was eventually able to convince him that this would be a good idea, and we began our weekly reading. It took us just about 7 months to complete the entire book, reading one chapter per week every Sunday with a few scattered between where we forgot to read or were out of town.

I didn't do near as good a job writing down my favorite quotes and taking notes as I wanted to. Even so, I did want to write a post about the book itself and what I found helpful.

The basic love and respect theory is that when considering what men and women need from a relationship, for women, it's love; for men, it's respect. And this isn't necessarily just a marriage relationship. It could be a friendship, a sibling relationship, etc. 

Dr. Emerson talks about what he calls "the crazy cycle," which is basically when two people get into an argument that starts spinning out of control. You wonder why it got so heated so quickly. The answer is because either the woman was acting disrespectfully or the man unloving, so the woman's response was disrespectful or man's response unloving... Thus the cycle.

This isn't, of course, to say that women don't need respect or that men don't need love. But both sexes are, for the most part, wired toward one or the other and respond negatively when that desire isn't met. 

It was interesting for me to read this book through the lens of Jordan's and my new marriage, because we agreed that the stereotypical male/female relationship discussed in this book was us--almost exactly sometimes, which freaked me out a little bit. (Not everyone is going to fall into these categories so easily, however, which is likely a reason why not everyone likes this book.)

But Love and Respect forced me to look closely at how I respond to Jordan and what it is specifically about the things he says or does that makes me upset. I realized that many of the conflicts we have begin, at least on my side, with feeling unloved. 

For example, one thing the book talks about is how women generally want to share problems with their spouse but aren't necessarily looking for a way to solve the problem. There's actually a chapter titled "Understanding--Don't Try to 'Fix' Her; Just Listen." When I read that I was like, oh yes. 

It often happens that I want to tell Jordan about this or that issue, but when he tries to give me practical steps to take to solve the problem, I get annoyed and say something like, "No, what I really want you to do is just listen. I don't want an actual solution." 

To him, that sounds insane. He emphatically pointed to the place in the book where it said: "To 'just listen' is not his strong suit. He is better built to analyze, give answers, and 'fix' the situation." But it goes on to say that women need emotional release in the form of talking to "realize" their problems. Up until that point, I hadn't been able to get Jordan to understand this, and he hadn't been able to explain to me why he always tried to fix my problem instead of just listening to me. When he is able to sit quietly while I talk it out, it makes me feel loved. And the same is true for him in that I don't understand why he acts the way he does. I'll give you another example.

When an argument or disagreement starts to escalate, he completely shuts down. He goes into the other room, shuts the door, and wants to be left alone. This frustrates me to no end, and I end up following him around, demanding that he speak to me so we can resolve the issue. 

So when we got to the following part in the book, we wondered who had been spying on us: "During tense exchanges...he has little appetite to deal with it... In an attempt to calm himself down, the husband will stonewall--become quiet, say nothing, or go off by himself... The wife may see her husband's stonewalling as unloving, but he is simply trying to do the respectful thing." (60)

It was good for me to realize this, and since reading that, I've been trying to honor his request for a bit of silence. I like to talk things out, but it seems to work better when we can both take a step back and I can let him breathe for a minute. He, conversely, has been working on allowing me to discuss the issue so I can find resolution. 

Those are just two examples of practical advice we've gotten from this book, but there are many others. And not to bring up my mom in every single post I write, but seriously, people, this woman has good advice. She told me one time: "You have to remember that you're a team. If he does well, you do well. And if you do well, he does well."

Her point was that we should want each other to do well, and we need to help each other be the best person we can be. Hurting him by being disrespectful might feel nice in the moment, but it is really only hurting myself, which hurts our team. And just as an ending thought, I would be remiss if I did not mention the importance of viewing marriage through the lens of a relationship with Jesus. Here's a great quote from the book that made me pause:

"Whatever I do for my spouse, I do it to Christ as well." (279) 

I'd heard something similar before, but it's become even more real now that I'm living it. Marriage is more than just a union of two people who fell in love. It's also a tool used to flesh out our weaknesses while learning to rely on the One who brought us together in the first place. 

Of course, this book should be read with a grain of salt. Not every situation will fit any one relationship, and some of the "result" stories are, to put it simply, silly. It's repetitive at times, but I think reading it over a 7-month span helped separate the repetitive sections more than reading it in a week's time would. It's also a bit cheesy, as most Christian self-help, inspirational-type books are, but overall Jordan and I both enjoyed the book and found it to be a helpful start to understanding each other more and thinking carefully about how we respond to each other on a daily basis.
Unknown said...

Sounds like a good book to look into! My husband and I have been married a little of a year now. Just last night I was trying to explain to him how I need to "think" my problems out loud. I don't expect him to offer solutions... just be there as an ear to listen with love :) I think it can take husbands a while to really understand this about us.

Thanks for sharing your experience with the book! Great post!

The Lady Okie said...

Allison, it was a good book. I found a lot of the examples very similar to how we act. It does take a while to understand each other for sure :)

Anonymous said...

I'm glad that you read this book, but I hope you won't stop here. Only because it's kind of outdated and basic, and there are loads better books out there.

I read this book in college (I'm weird, I know), when I was not even dating anyone, but I took the principles about respect and have done my best to apply them to every relationship since then. I think it has worked pretty well.

And then the argument-response cycle discussion came up again in counseling with Joey, and that was a helpful conversation to have.

Anyway, I'm glad you're learning some good and healthy things and tools for successful marriage. Never stop working on your marriage. Never!


Amanda said...

Audra, I didn't know you read this book! I agree with you that it is basic, and I don't plan on stopping here. I'd like to read a book with Jordan at least every couple of years. It was awesome to be able to go through this together and discuss what we were reading. Thanks for commenting :)