First published around 2004, the book, Love and Respect, by Emerson Eggerichs gained immediate following. It has again come to the forefront of much Christian thinking in the area of marriage. One of the basic premises in the book is what the author calls the Crazy Cycle. The crazy cycle is that without love the wife reacts, and without respect, the husband reacts.
From this basic understanding, it is the author’s belief that love best motivates a woman and respect most powerfully motivates a man. Thus, husbands and wives motivate each other by meeting each other’s needs. And so, our unmet needs are our biggest problem. This is known in psychology as Need-Deficit theory. Need-deficit theories describe humans as empty love cups–people with God-shaped-holes. The counsel for such a person is to fill the “need” to be happy.
It doesn’t teach love your wife as Christ loves the church but instead is built on conditional love and respect.
Eggerichs believes the husband needs his wife to respect him or he will respond in conflict sinfully. He believes the wife needs her husband to love her or she will respond to conflict sinfully. The author identifies these as basic human felt needs. This idea is built on Maslow and the concept of needs, thus his hermeneutic takes Ephesians 5:33 and turns it upside down to say that husbands need respect and wives need love. It sets the stage for an easy blame shift. If a wife does something disrespectful to her husband, he can justify his ungodly response with, “She knows I need respect and she didn’t give that to me. I wouldn’t be mean if she’d just meet my need!” The wife can do the same with her supposed need for love.
Twentieth-century psychology has gained tremendous influence by elevating these unmet longings or needs-deficits to the forefront of our thought. The goal, of course, is to be happy.
So, what do we really need? Does the Scripture say anywhere that we need relationship in order to be filled? Does it say that we have a God-given longing for love and respect in marriage? No.
The Scripture indicates that we need God, but we need Him as the image we are to reflect, we need Him because we have spiritual needs, and we need Him for life itself. The Scripture also indicates that we need each other, but we don’t need each other to fill a created emptiness. Instead, we need each other in order to reflect God’s glory.
Psychological needs can be a euphemism for lusts or idolatry. Longings may reveal an excessive preoccupation with the self and its desires. You can describe the mutual desire for love and respect as co-idolatry. Though these desires are not bad, they can quickly morph into demands. For example, when the woman feels unloved, she will be tempted to become bitter. When a man feels disrespected, he may become angry.
The bottom line is that this way of thinking is selfish and arrogant, nor truly loving and respectful.