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.