In one of my last posts, I may have mentioned that I am getting married in a few months (5 to be exact). As I consider myself fairly religious person and a regular church-goer marriage prep and wedding planning is far exceeding just stuffing envelopes, cake sampling, dress shopping and stress eating (See: “cake sampling”). Marriage prep for me is also a spiritual endeavor. That means meeting with the celebrant of our mass to go over important things like compatibility and building a prayer life.
It also means doing a little self-imposed homework and spiritual research on my own. I have to say that my friends and family have been extremely supportive of this. All I need to do is whisper, “I was thinking of reading a marriage prep book…” and in just five seconds I’m literally buried under a mountain of reading recommendations. As my wedding is just a mere five months away I have to carefully balance my time so selecting the books I would be reading has been a process in and of itself.
I finally decided to start with Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs for a number of reasons. The first is that it is religiously based, which is important to me because I personally feel that marriage is most definitely a spiritual exercise and a sacrament. To me, that means that spirituality with your spouse makes up a major portion of your day-to-day life and discussing secular needs like budgeting (while things like that are very important) only feeds one part of the relationship. This book is heavily religious in nature and provides a lot of material for scriptural based thought about establishing, healing and maintaining good communication habits in your marriage.
Just a quick note for those of my readers who are Catholic and for whom this information is of particular importance it is not a book written from a Catholic perspective as it does in some places encourage divorce and a few other things that don’t quite line up with church teaching. Additionally, the scriptural references are plentiful but not done with a Catholic Bible or from a Catholic scriptural perspective so if that would bother you don’t waste your time.
For anyone else for whom that information does not matter or who are willing to read around the bits that may annoy them, Love and Respect has a great deal of good information about the dynamic between husband and wife.
Essentially Love and Respect posits that Wives require Love (no one is surprised here) and Husbands require Respect (many people surprised here) to feel happy in their marriages. Dr. Emerson backs this up with scriptural details and there was a lot that spoke to me personally about how I could better handle my relationship with my future husband.
I preface what I’m about to say about the meat and potatoes of this book by saying that my future husband and I have been together for close to 9 years at this point (wow, has it really been that long?) and we’re relatively young (in our early to mid-twenties). I think that people often assume that we have next to no knowledge of how relationships work, or our age somehow affects our ability to note or troubleshoot problems in our relationship. I think personally that two people who can make their relationship last through high school, through college and a long distance relationship, and then survive that after-college transitional period and continue to grow together as people is no easy feat. So it’s not like we’re a starry-eyed besotted couple who’s just starting out and has all those typical misconceptions about puppy love lasting forever and all that jazz. As fights go we’ve had some humdingers, and we’ve also had some incredible breakthroughs and insights into what makes our relationship tick best. So, we both (since future hubs actually read it first and then passed it onto me) approached this book from the perspective of people who have experience, who are not looking to save a relationship in crisis, but who want to improve their dynamic overall.
I must say that for what we needed, this book somewhat adequately met those needs. It introduces the (unpopular) but still relevant concept of complimentary (rather than egalitarian) gender dynamics, meaning the roles of men and women in relationships and marriage. It is a pretty traditional viewpoint established in this book, firstly that men should be allowed to be in charge (*gasp*) and allowed to make important decisions for their family (*double gasp*). It also recommends that women support their husbands decision making, and do not seize upon opportunities to take away or diminish a man’s feelings of self-worth by disrespecting both his role as a protector and provider and as someone whom she professes to love.
I’m sure the very fact that this book reiterates traditional gender dynamics probably already has people in a froth, maybe angrily writing comments on this post already. What about abuse? I am woman hear me roar everyone else into silence with the sound of my emancipation from traditional gender roles.
If that’s gonna be what gets your goat just stop reading.
For anyone else, listen, this stuff makes sense. Not once in this book is it recommended that women give up who they are, or what they want. But it does recommended keeping in mind that marriage is not just about the needs of the wife. Ladies, let’s be real for a minute, marriage, weddings, husbands are NOT just vehicles to steer our own agendas, wants and desires. I think we have been sold a bill of goods that says, “Husbands need wives because they are incapable of doing anything without our constant input, they doesn’t even know what they want without us telling them.” This book challenges that preconception. It says, shockingly, “Respect your husbands natural abilities!” “Treat him as a person, and with respect! Admire his worth as the other 50% of this relationship! Do not put down his manhood because that’s what he is, so by removing his responsibilities from him, you undermine exactly what your husband is, you leave him disconnected and lonely and without the ability or opportunity to give you EXACTLY what you want.”
We need to hear things like this from time to time. It’s become a big joke in our society, the idea that “Happy wife, happy life.” This is a misconception and an egregious one. Getting what you want all the time is a bad thing. It makes you spoiled, it makes you unhappy, and that means you make other people unhappy because you’ve become accustomed to not accepting your responsibilities as the other half of this team. It sounds almost ridiculous that a book has to be written that says, “Wives, love your husbands by respecting them! Show them they have a point and purpose, show them they matter, give them say in your relationship, stop micromanaging things let him take the lead!” But I say with regret that it’s a pretty timely message.
At any rate, that’s what you can expect from Love and Respect.
Now, all of that is the good that this book has. It’s not perfect. Perhaps it’s because I work in marketing but I’ve become pretty sensitive to shameless self-promotion. I know when it happens, I know what it sounds like and I know that it annoys me to no end. This book is chock full of it. Apparently there is some kind of workbook and relationship convention run by Dr. Eggerichs and his wife. There’s not a single chapter where the conventions or “the system” they’re recommending isn’t overtly and repeatedly mentioned. Once okay, twice…alrighty…by three or four it starts to take away from the actual meat of what he’s trying to say. It also makes you feel (unintentionally I assume) that this system is a cure-all, I wouldn’t even go far enough to call it a system. I would call what he offers advice at most, it’s not structured at all into any steps or process.
My next bugaboo is the length. at close to 500 pages of actual text approximately another 100 in appedices this book gets repetetive fast. I think it could be cut down by at least 200 pages and still carry the weight of what’s being said. You can only say the same thing so many times before you start to lose me. I think Dr. Eggerichs could have benefitted from an editor (or perhaps a braver one).
That being said there’s a lot of good actionable points for both women and men. It makes a number of good points and if you’re willing to put up with the shameless plugs and the endless repetition you may be able to take away some very beneficial nuggets of wisdom.