Monday, November 23, 2009

The Language of Love and Respect

Back in the ‘90s, I read a few books on the Christian view of marriage. I requested Emerson Eggerichs’ The Language of Love and Respect from Thomas Nelson to see if it offered any new advice, and also because – according to the blurb – it dealt with communication between couples. I’d hoped for something a little more egalitarian than books published a decade or two ago.

Unfortunately, the problems with this book are twofold. Firstly, the theme is a repackage of the “Men are from Mars, women are from Venus” idea, except the author presents it as “men are blue, women are pink”. While there are differences between men and women – in general – I’m not sure that these always apply, and what the genders have in common is just as important as what’s different. Maybe even more so.

The references to “your pink wife” and “Pinkie” also struck me as somewhat patronizing. Then again, this book is subtly misogynistic, which is my second concern. For instance, on page 145, wives are cautioned against behaving in a “masculine” manner. Are husbands told not to be “feminine”? No, they’re warned about being “effeminate”.

This book takes it for granted that men are providers, such that their wives should respect and thank them for it. On the other hand, when women work outside the home, this is a pass-the-time deal; they don’t need to discuss their jobs or be praised for anything they accomplish in this field. Here are some “energizing remarks” that the book suggests women can make to their husbands:

“You’ve made it possible for me to be a full-time mom… Let’s set aside some time tonight just for us. I want to hear about what’s happening at work.”

In an economic recession where both spouses may well need to work, this seems belittling to me. Though it’s not as bad as the advice on sex.

Regardless of how a husband communicates his need for sex, the best approach is for a wife to realize that his need for sexuality is usually one of his strongest and she should try to meet that need even if she doesn’t feel like it.

Perhaps she can lie back and think of England.

What about the rest of the book? It can be summed up in a lot fewer than 355 pages – men, love your wives unconditionally, and women, respect your husbands unconditionally. And what if your spouse, for whatever reason, doesn’t deserve such unwavering devotion? If your spouse is an addict or promiscuous or beats your children? Love or respect them unconditionally anyway, because you’ll be rewarded in heaven for it. The same blanket solution applies to the vast, vast spectrum of marital problems.

Because of this, I think this book would work well for a small segment of Christian couples – those who share the author’s views and who don’t have any serious problems in their marriages. For everyone else, I wouldn’t recommend it.


Anonymous said...

"Regardless of how a husband communicates his need for sex, the best approach is for a wife to realize that his need for sexuality is usually one of his strongest and she should try to meet that need even if she doesn’t feel like it."

And what century are we living in? I'm amazed that the myth that men desire more sex than women still persists. I know plenty of women with stronger sex drives than the man in their lives. I'm gathering the book doesn't bother to take that into acount, and doesn't advise the man in that situation to take care of his wife's needs, even if he is tired and not in the mood.
Sexist crap all around.

CK Farm said...

Hi Marian!
Regarding the Harlequin Horizon you should check out the Writer Beware Blog. There have been a couple posts on the subject


JH said...

The construction of sex in this book seems not only patriarchal but distinctly mercantile. Sex is a resource or service the wife must render as part of the marriage contract to meet the husband's need. Is the idea of communication between partners to determine what works sexually ever discussed? Such a concept is more consistent with the view of sex as a mutually beneficial activity for expressing affection. I can't see the author, who writes such advice as you quoted, finding that idea any less distasteful than the idea of a mutual relationship with one's vegetable garden.

Marian said...

Hey Tasha,

The book's view on "the marital bed" are simple, and can be paraphrased thusly. Men : tell her you love her. Women : open your legs. That's because men want sex and women want emotional expression. I don't recall the book addressing any exceptions to this rule.

Reminds me a bit of The Total Woman.

Marian said...

Hi Kerri, thanks for commenting! I've been checking Writer Beware and How Publishing Really Works off and on regarding the Harlequin debacle.

Marian said...

Hey JH,

"Is the idea of communication between partners to determine what works sexually ever discussed? "

No, it's not, though the book does provide other examples of communication that women can use to show their need for intimacy, romance, etc. Since this is intended for Christian couples, it's possible the author doesn't want to mention discussions such as the one to which you referred.

I flipped through the book looking for an appropriate quote and found this, from an email the author received:

"Over the past few months I have been praying, 'Lord, help me be a responsive, fun wife in the bedroom.'"

Mary Witzl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mary Witzl said...

GypsyScarlett and JH said it all for me. Sexist crap indeed. I would just love to see what male readers would make of the same advice if it was given to them.

My mother spent over half her life in a fundamentalist Christian church, gritting her teeth as she grew increasingly disgusted with this sort of patriarchal double standard disguising itself as The Word. What finally pushed her right out of the church was a preacher delivering just such a self-serving, misongynistic sermon.

Netherland said...

"The Language of Love and Respect" is a very good book. Dr. Eggerichs is easy to read and the applications he suggests seem realistic, and his writing style is peppered with wit and relevant anecdotes. The book is written like a good reference manual, where someone could pick it up, select a principle to briefly read, and understand it in a few short paragraphs because following each of the typical introductory paragraphs, Dr. Eggerichs includes several stories to further explain the presented concepts to his readers.