As I have read Emerson Eggerichs book Love and Respect, I have offered arguments regarding the trustworthiness of this book. First, I laid out the ways in which Eggerichs blatantly and prejudicially manipulates Scripture to promote the disenfranchisement of women. Then I noted that it is problematic that a man claiming to be a minister of the Gospel could argue that the Christian family must be arranged in a hierarchical fashion which robs women of sexual agency over their own bodies. Sadly, the issues with the book did not stop there. Eggerichs also makes the rather absurd claim that his opinions on the Love and Respect dynamic are an incontrovertible biological reality, confirmed without a shadow of a doubt by scientific research.
While I hold this to be demonstrably untrue, it is important I begin by explaining a caveat to this post. Some of the scientific data I will cite has been published more recently than the book itself, which was published in 2004. This methodology is justified, however, as Eggerichs’ blog biography continues to make the claim that his work reflects both sound scientific and biblical research.
For this reason, it is appropriate to note how recent scientific discoveries have thoroughly debunked key aspects of Eggerichs work. This is not simply a matter of a book published based on the best data available at the time of publication, but of an author willfully claiming to represent an absolute scientific truth, even after data has come forward which seriously calls his entire thesis into question.
Beginning in the second chapter of the book, Eggerichs states that women and men are as different as the colors “pink and blue.” He states that these differences are hardwired into us biologically, that God intentionally created us this way, that the Bible clearly says this, and that science proves it.  I have addressed those first two claims in my previous posts, but it is this last claim – the claim to represent the scientific consensus on notions of gender relationality – to which I must now turn my attention.
Pink and Blue
In order to support these claims, Eggerichs cites a number of authors and studies which he claims support his thesis so fully that it is rendered beyond question. He even claims that these “truths” are so hardwired into the very fabric of male and female being that any married couple who applies them will quickly realize that there is no limit to the possibility for change and improvement.
But on virtually every level these claims simply buckle under their own weight.
For instance, in one section of the book, Eggerichs claims that men simply are not wired for child care. Even though careers are an option for women, if they want to have a family they will more than likely be required to make a choice between the two. Ultimately, he sees a woman’s ultimate duty as being a mother. A man, on the other hand, has no choice. He is hardwired to “conquer” and thus has a basic biological need to be in the workplace and achieve honor and respect through a career. 
At several points, this claim plays into Eggerichs view of how a man ought to “Love” his wife. First, he reassures men that there is nothing wrong with helping their wife in the kitchen – a husband might even “start dinner” before his wife gets home if he is home first. However, Eggerichs feels that wives appreciate it best when husbands just sit and have a conversation while they work. Or as Eggerichs directly states it:
[Sit] and talk with her as she gets the meal together. Tell her about your day, and be sure to ask about hers. She may be busy with children or other duties, but she will be listening, I assure you. What she tends to look for is your desire to “dwell” with her for a short period to discover where her heart is.
While there is nothing wrong with taking time to connect over conversation, it is notable here that the presumption of this comment is that the wife will be busy both in the kitchen and with the kids. She does not desire her husband’s help, only a short conversation in which he shows his interest and undivided attention. And by short, Eggerichs clearly indicates that this conversation would be less than an hour. The husband needs to esteem the wife in her work, he needs to affirm and love her; but the roles are clearly distinguished. Husband works and loves, wife tends the home and respects her husband’s time by not interfering with his work or being too demanding of his need to have time with his friends.
These are not the only hardwired gender differences Eggerichs insists upon. He maintains that men and women have brains that are wired entirely differently from one another – men have blue brains and women have pink brains. This means that they interpret the world differently and have different basic needs. In fact, he holds that this innate brain chemistry – which causes all men to desire Respect and all women Love – is inviolable. In an appendix, he goes so far as to insist strongly that, because the basic wiring of men and women is entirely different, a woman who thinks she desires “respect” is actually just using “respect” to get the “love” she desires and a man who desires “love” is really just using “love” to get the “respect” he needs. Or, to put that differently, Eggerichs insists that anyone who says they don’t fit his dynamic is self-deceiving. In the end, these are absolute categories based on absolute brain chemistry.
Eggerichs thus insists that the deck is stacked in his favor, he has unlocked the secrets of all things male and female, and anyone who actually calls themselves a Christian will simply fall in line.
Love, Respect, and Science
However, despite his ardent insistence, Eggerichs claims all fall apart under careful examination. I will take them in order mentioned.
First, his insistence in hard-wired gender characteristics which make men desire to work and women pne for domestic purposes is absurd. For instance, Stephanie Coontz, a sociologist who works for the Council on Contemporary Families notes that the roles often asserted for married heterosexual couples – men at work and women at home – are encultured not hardwired. These roles are conditioned from very early ages by things like discouraging boys from playing with dolls or enjoying cooking.
Likewise, David Worford, a recognized specialist on the rise of the Stay-At-Home Dad has noted that there is absolutely no study which shows that men are less competent with children or that children fair better with their mother. Instead, as one New York Times article noted, couples are recognizing that children do best with a parent who can devote a majority of their time to being a primary care-giver. So, whether this is full-time stay-at-home dad, a dad who only works part-time, or a Work-At-Home Father the rise of father’s as primary caregiver is directly related to the parents’ desire to do what is best for their children and their family.
In fact, whether it be a working father who is deeply involved, a stay-at-home dad, or something in between, studies have repeatedly shown that parental involvement by both parents – even if the parents are divorced – is directly tied to the well-being and academic performance of children. This makes Eggerichs claim that the traditional family model – with mothers that stay in the home and fathers that work – is what works best problematic. Parental involvement, not specific roles, is the significant determining factor in the well-being of children.
Also, of course, it is important to note that a child with an abusive parent is always better off when separated from their abuser. A single parent family where the child is cared for is always preferable to a two parent home where the child’s safety is at stake. Regardless of parenting situation, these studies show that parenting situations where the well-being of the child is a central concern are significantly more important than any notion of maintaining traditional roles.
That is to say, there has been no scientific connection found between strict gender roles in parenting and the well-being of children in the home.
Also, as distinguished law professor, Joan C. Williams, of the University of California has noted, the belief that men are hardwired to work and thus have a need to find some part of their identity through work, has hardly been healthy for anyone. It has created absurd demands that men show their devotion to their jobs not by being productive, but by working long hours and skipping family holidays. Being overly devoted to work has become a badge of honor for men in the work place, giving them an elite status which virtually guarantees that women will not reach the highest levels of the business world because of a desire to be involved with their children. These discriminatory practices hurt everyone involved.
Especially when considered alongside the above statistics regarding involvement of both parents for a child’s well-being and academic performance, this trend is disturbing. It also leads me to ask some fundamental questions about Eggerichs thesis.
Given Eggerichs description of the necessity for work as a basic category of essential masculinity help to curb the problem of absentee fathers?
How does denying a wife the ability to question the priorities of a workaholic husband – telling her not to say anything unless she has something “respectful” to say – ensure that both parents are closely involved with their kids?
Does not Eggerichs very vision contribute to the problem, and not the solution, of ignoring the well-being of children by privileging male ego and privilege rooted in unchecked financial pursuit?
The problems do not end here, though. It is also necessary to examine Eggerichs notion of male and female brains being hardwired for gender roles.
Despite Eggerichs claims, recent studies have shown that concepts of engendered brains that directly correspond to “male” and “female” traits are few and far between. While there are certain structural differences between male and female brains (e.g. size and neuron patterns), stereotypical brain characteristics often thought to correspond to gender identity are not demonstrably hardwired across the board. Instead, when looking, for instance, at grey matter it is notable that only a small percentage of brains contain only stereotypically male or female characteristics. The majority of brains exist along a spectrum where some men have a great number of stereotypically female statistics and vice-versa. And these traits do not correlate to outward expression of stereotypes either. In fact, a straight man who loves football and hunting may have a brain with many stereotypically female characteristics, while the “girliest” girl may have a brain evenly divided.
The reasons for this are simple, while brain chemistry and structure certainly affects who we are and how we express our identity, it also has a great capacity for adaptation and change.. As we mature, the brain learns and is altered by the formation of memory as neurons form pathways or clusters designed specifically to retain information and react appropriately in a given circumstance. In fact, even in a brain that cannot form long term memory, a person can react to avoid a pin prick administered daily, even if they have no recollection of why they are avoiding it.
As a result, it is not enough to call our brains “hard-wired” for gender roles. These are in fact learned experiences that are imprinted upon us from early ages. A particular interesting example of this is a study conducted by Stanford University psychology professor Claude Steele. In this study, Steele showed that demographical questions on standardized tests served to remind women and minorities of enculturated stereotypes, which directly affected their performance on the tests. As a result, he asserted that standardized testing as it stands creates “stereotype vulnerability” and only perpetuates stereotypes.
However, he also noted that, when these stereotypes are pushed to the background via various methods, women and men performed equally. He accomplished this by giving a different group a test without the perfunctory demographic questions. In this case, the performance gap was closed, demonstrating that environmental factors imprint upon us and affect behavior. This, he argues, shows not only that stereotypes are not hard-wired but culturally enforced, it shows how they are actually harmful to the educational experiences of stereotyped women and minorities.
Thus I ask:
How is Eggerichs reinforcement of gender stereotypes truly God ordained, if studies show that such stereotypes can be harmful?
In what way can Eggerichs claim that differing gender traits are simply biological wiring if many of these stereotypes have been undermined and even reversed in careful scientific study?
Lastly, as part of his hierarchical approach to marriage, Eggerichs asserts that men are gifted by God to be biologically better at problem solving. As such, wives must always be willing to “respectfully” defer to their husbands. However, this claim has been debunked by the American Psychological Association, which states that there are not biological differences in the cognitive skills of men and women. Studies show that, in fact, men and women perform on an equal or statistically equal level in every way. This has been shown also through studies which examine how the differences between persons in a team problem solving environment actually shows that group-think exercises which involves the input of women are more successful. All of this is to say, that the supposed scientific evidence for men as hierarchical leaders gifted for thinking better and problem solving is nothing but baseless stereotype.
After examining the relevant scientific research, I am comfortable saying that there is study which suggests the absolute, biologically hard-wired gender traits and roles upon which Eggerichs has based his entire thesis. Instead, there is significant scientific data demonstrating that gender is an encultured phenomenon.
Before I declare Eggerichs argument entirely empty, however, I think it important to consider the two sources he cites most in defense of his “scientific” claims. Specifically, Eggerichs defends his thesis by repeatedly appealing to Shaunti Feldhahn’s For Women Only and John Gottman’s Why Marriages Succeed or Fail.
As such, Eggerichs draws directly upon a survey Feldhahn conducted which asked men and women whether they valued “love” or “respect” more in times of conflict. Because, on this survey, a majority of men said respect and a majority of women said love, Eggerichs asserts these represent a biological wiring between the sexes.
Likewise, in quoting Gottman, Eggerichs asserts that his views are directly drawn from Gottman’s work. He makes the bold claim Gottman’s work supports his own and enforces the universality the Love and Respect principle. Eggerichs even insists that there is clear gender specificity in Gottman’s famous “Four Horsemen” that indicate divorce.
As such, since he claims these two authors have conducted sound science which support his work, it is imperative to examine these claims.
Love, Respect, and Shaunti Feldhahn
First, in looking at Feldhahn’s work, it is important to consider what prominent feminist neuroscientist Cordelia Fine calls neurosexism. Fine has argued that there is a fundamental flaw in most gender specific studies conducted. Namely, she argues that the “hard-wiring” of gender specific traits or role in a great deal of scientific research is assumed rather than proven. Because many tests do not account for the possibility of enculturation or other factors influencing why men or women may answer a certain way, all that can be definitively demonstrated is that men and women respond according to the stereotypes they think they ought to fulfill.
A look at the data provided from Feldhahn’s study will show just such a weakness. Nowhere in the data are there any questions as to why the responders feel that way, or any indications they considered how personal data may have influenced the decision. Instead, the answers are treated as absolute data points demonstrating universal biological certainty.
Considering Fine’s critique of such methodology, and despite the fact that Feldhahn endorses Eggerichs thesis in Love and Respect, it is entirely impossible to draw universal gender traits from the data Feldhahn has presented. Instead, one can only establish that certain persons felt compelled to answer in a certain way. It cannot be demonstrated that this compulsion was biologically inborn – in no way the product of gender enculturation. Nor can it be determined, from this data, whether these gender roles are in fact helpful to the relations between men and women.
It seems important to ask:
How does Eggerichs argument for denying women sexual agency over their own bodies present a positive argument for the biological necessity of strict gender roles?
Can the survey data Eggerichs repeatedly cites actually bear the weight of his thesis?
Love, Respect, and John Gottman
Eggerichs citations of John Gottman are decidedly more egregious. In fact, despite Eggerichs claims, Gottman’s work directly contradicts his thesis.
For instance, in Chapter 2 Eggerichs claims that Gottman demonstrates the centrality of the Love and Respect principle to Marriage. On the other hand, Gottman’s actual quote makes no gender differentiation between men and women regarding these topics. Instead, Gottman presents a system of evaluation which he claims he has used to predict divorce at as high as a 94% accuracy rate.
He has arrived at his method by studying thousands of couples in a controlled environment during times of both calm conversation and disagreement. In doing so, he has identified what he calls the Four Horsemen: Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt, and Stonewalling. According to Gottman, the cure for these issues in a relationship is for both parties to approach each other with a love and respect. It is thus interesting to note that Gottman recognizes some gender differentiation between the horseman, yet notes that the goal is not to maintain these differences but to move past these differences in pursuit of mutuality. Gottman even holds that these differences are a complex tangle of biology and culture that do not apply universally to all persons. Further, he insists that the generalities of statistics should not be applied as absolutes because making generalizations seem universally concrete can only be dangerous and damaging.
It seems that Eggerichs here has taken two words from Gottman’s book entirely out of context and asserted a meaning they simply were not intended to have. This demonstrates precisely why Eggerichs work is not scientifically supported, as his entire research method is little more than a blatant practice in confirmation bias. He quite literally ignores any data that contradicts his thesis, even in sources he directly cites.
This is further demonstrated by examining how Eggerichs goes out of his way to assert the husband as the one who must resolve conflict. He must be a peacemaker, but one of the ways he functions as such is by having final say in all disagreements. This means he has the hierarchical authority over his wife, possessing some god-given insight his wife simply does not possess. As such, Eggerichs directly tells wives they don’t have the authority to argue with their husbands’ final decisions, even going so far as to deny any notion of true female intuition. Eggerichs thus advises husbands to paternalize their wives, treating them as fragile porcelain bowls who need masculine protection and authority. Important to the peace of any marriage is having a clear set hierarchy by which all conflict can be resolved quickly.
This is odd for someone quoting Gottman, as Gottman states explicitly that in his research, conflict is not an indicator of divorce. In fact, he notes that some very happy and flourishing couples have regular arguments which allow them to hash out important topics as they grow in understanding and love for each other. These arguments are not resolved by one person having a trump card, but are maintained perpetually as the couple continues to grow and learn together. Further Gottman states that there is no one healthy way to handle conflict. Each couple must find their own way of arguing, and that it is entirely possible to have an unresolved and ongoing argument for years while still managing to avoid his Four Horseman entirely.
Further, Gottman encourages his readers to try to overcome gender differences not reinforce them. Perhaps most damning for Eggerichs’ thesis is an interview from Psychology Today, in which Gottman directly states that power differential in marriage is a sign of an unhealthy relationship. In fact he says, according to his research, marriages where partners have equal power (not the “functional equality” of a 51:49 split) tend to be the most stable and long lasting marriages. In one study, Gottman found that focus on gender differences tends to disappear significantly in the oldest, most successful, and most satisfying marriages. This data so entirely contradicts Eggerichs thesis that it is laughable he even bothered to cite Gottman in the first place.
With this in mind, I want to explicitly state that Emerson Eggerichs’ thesis regarding the gender essentialist categories of Love and Respect, and the hierarchical roles he asserts using them, are entirely incompatible with the conclusions John Gottman has drawn from his own research. It is not possible to arrive at a gender essentialist argument from Gottman’s research without intentionally manipulating the source material. As such, Eggerichs entire method is deeply dishonest.
As with the other posts in this series, it is obvious here that Eggerichs intentionally trades in stereotypes with complete disregard for careful analysis. He has a penchant for asserting his thesis as absolute fact; but, in the end, the entire premise of this book serves to do little more than reinforce harmful gender stereotypes which disenfranchise women within the Christian heterosexual household.
This book is harmful in every facet and serves only to create gender inequality in the church. As Eggerichs entire premise has been shown to be based on falsehood, there is no place for it within a Christian marriage based on the mutuality of love based in the cross of Christ.
 Emerson Eggerichs, Love and Respect: the Love She Most Desires, the Respect He Desperately Needs (Grand Rapids: Thomas Nelson, 2004) p. 4
 ibid 196-200
 ibid 126-127
 ibid 241-248, 315-317
 ibid 32-35
 ibid 313-314
 ibid 323
 ibid 193-203
 ibid 317
 Nancy Murphy, Bodies and Souls, or Spirited Bodies? (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006) pp. 63-64 in Kindle Edition.
 I am not claiming these are the only two he cites, but a quick look at the end notes will reveal that, next to various statements on the Bible, these authors represent a majority of the works cited.
 Shaunti Feldhahn, For Women Only: What You Need to Know about the Inner Lives of Men (Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 2004).
 John Gottman, Ph.D., Why Marriages Succeed or Fail: and How You can Make Yours Last (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994), Kindle Edition.
 Eggerichs, 35-37
 ibid 35, 60-61
 ibid 35
 Gottman 61-64
 Gottman, 20.
 ibid 20-26.
 ibid 68-102
 ibid 136-161
 ibid 137
 Eggerichs, 216-217.
 ibid 154-164, 219-220.
 ibid 230
 ibid 22, 229
 ibid. 146-147
 ibid 32-66
 ibid 221