Focus on the Family Statement: Sheila Gregoire and Love & Respect
For the past year, Sheila Wray Gregoire, a popular blogger and former Focus on the Family Broadcast guest, has orchestrated a concerted campaign against the book Love & Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs (originally published through Focus on the Family). The crux of Mrs. Gregoire’s numerous criticisms of Love & Respect is that its central message—that husbands have a fundamental need for respect while wives have a fundamental need for love—promotes unhealthy behaviors in marriage, including inequality in male/female dynamics and emotional, physical, or sexual abuse.
As a ministry with more than 40 years of history invested in helping marriages thrive and equipping both husbands and wives to embrace the gift of marriage as God designed it, Focus carefully reviews every resource we offer. We hear daily from women who have endured rejection and abuse even within the context of Christian marriage and would categorically reject any book that would justify or perpetuate such behavior.
The fact of the matter is that we believe Mrs. Gregoire has seriously misread and misjudged various aspects of Love & Respect, and we further maintain that its central message aligns both with Scripture and with the common-sense principles of healthy relationships. Even 16 years after its release, Focus continues to hear from numerous couples who enthusiastically testify to the positive transformation Love & Respect has brought to their marriages.
Of course, any book can be misinterpreted, misapplied, and quoted out of context by husbands (or wives) who hold nefarious intent. The Bible itself has been used to justify countless acts of evil over the centuries. And certainly, Love & Respect is not sacred Scripture. But to the extent that Mrs. Gregoire has shared examples of marriages that have been harmed by Love & Respect, we would submit that the damage has come as the result of one or both spouses twisting and misapplying the text, not as the result of the book’s actual message.
Despite attempts to clarify this with Mrs. Gregoire via email, she has continued to mischaracterize and selectively excerpt Focus on the Family’s replies to her and her supporters, just as she has continued to do the same with the text of the book itself. Here are just two of many examples:
- Gregoire falsely claims that Love & Respect “asks women to defer to their husbands in everything, no matter what the husband does” (blog post, January 2019). This is clearly contradicted by the book itself when Dr. Eggerichs writes: “A wife’s submission to God takes precedence over her submission to her husband” (Love & Respect p. 219).
- In another blog post, Mrs. Gregoire argues that Love & Respect’s message “is that women only really need love and men only need respect.” In stark contrast, Dr. Eggerichs clearly states in the book: “Of course, women need respect and guys need love, but I’m talking about the primary drive in each sex… A woman does need respect, and if a man loves her properly, she will get that respect (Love & Respect 47).
At this point we feel there is little else we could say to change Mrs. Gregoire’s mind, and she undoubtedly feels the same way. Focus on the Family maintains that Love & Respect has a biblically sound, empowering message for husbands and wives and will continue to offer it alongside a broad range of resources, from diverse authors and backgrounds, to nurture and strengthen Christian couples in their marriage journeys.
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