Love & Respect is a huge best-selling book. But instead of producing happy marriages, popular author and marriage blogger, Sheila Wray Gregoire, says it can lead to abuse.
On this episode of The Roys Report, Sheila joins Julie to explain why she’s been warning couples about this book for years—and how a comprehensive study she commissioned gives hard evidence that Love & Respect is harmful.
This is an eye-opening podcast and definitely for adult audiences only. (Sheila speaks very openly about sex and marriage.) But it’s extremely helpful for helping Christians discern whether the messages they’ve received about sex and marriage are biblical. It also provides another example of how the evangelical industrial complex works.
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Sheila Wray Gregoire is passionate about changing the evangelical conversation about sex! A popular speaker, marriage blogger, and award-winning author of nine books, including The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, she wants to challenge Christians to go beyond pat answers on marriage to reach real intimacy. Sheila believes in authenticity, and gives real solutions to the very real and messy problems women, and couples, can face. She and her husband Keith spend a lot of their time touring North America in an RV, speaking at marriage conferences, hiking, and birdwatching. The parents to two adult daughters, you can usually find her in Belleville, Ontario, where she’s either knitting, blogging, or taking her grandson out for a walk.
SHEILA GREGOIRE, JULIE ROYS
JULIE ROYS 00:04
Love and Respect is a huge best selling book, but instead of producing happy marriages, my guest today says it can lead to abuse. Welcome to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys, and today I’m going to be speaking with Sheila Ray Gregoire, a popular author and marriage blogger. She’s also someone who, for the past few years, has been warning the church that the popular book Love and Respect is harmful, and in some cases can lead to abuse. The author of Love and Respect, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, denies the claim. And he instead says that his book, which has sold more than 2 million copies, has helped scores of Christian couples. Yet Gregoire now says she has documented evidence to support her claim. For her new book The Great Sex Rescue, Gregoire conducted a comprehensive study involving 20,000 women. And she says the study conclusively shows what she suspected all along; that teaching women to unconditionally respect their husbands and give sex as a duty to them, can lead to abuse. Today, I’ll explore the study and Gregoire’s objections to the book. I’ll also explore Gregoire’s claim that Focus On the Family, which promotes Dr. Eggerichs’ book, has turned a blind eye to the harmful messages the book conveys. Gregoire will also explain why she’s been willing to confront Focus publicly and take on what I’ve often referred to as the evangelicals celebrity machine. When you do this, folks, the consequences can be devastating to your career, but Sheila did it anyway. So I can’t wait to have this discussion with her. But before I get into that, I want to thank the sponsors of this podcast, Judson University and Marquardt of Barrington. Judson is a top ranked Christian university providing a caring community where students can thrive and grow. The school offers more than 60 majors, great leadership opportunities and strong financial aid. Judson is located on a beautiful 90 acre campus just 36 miles northwest of Chicago. Judson University is shaping lives that shape the world. For more information, just go to Judsonu.edu. Also, if you’re in the market for a car, I really encourage you to check out my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick and GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity and transparency. The owners there, Dan and Curt Marquardt, are friends of mine, and I’m confident they’ll do right by you. For more information, just go to buyacar123.com. Well, again, joining me today is Sheila Ray Gregoire, a popular speaker, marriage blogger and the author of several books including her latest, The Great Sex Rescue. So Sheila, welcome, so glad you could join me.
SHEILA GREGOIRE 02:48
Well, it’s great to be here. I know we talked when you were on Moody. So it’s fun to be with you on your new platform.
JULIE ROYS 02:53
Well, thank you. Yes, you’re right, you’re a repeat guest but in a different platform. And I have to say I love this platform, because it enables me to talk long form without going to break. So I am looking forward to jumping into this topic with you. And I’ll just say, marriage and sex, which is what you write about most of the time, that isn’t normally the conversation of topic here on The Roys Report. Unfortunately, it has entered into our discussion a little bit more lately because of the scandals we’ve been covering. But back in October, you sent me an email, Sheila. And that’s what really prompted me looking into some of the issues that we’re going to discuss today. But the reason that got my attention is because this blog, and what I understand, you haven’t actually published this yet, correct?
SHEILA GREGOIRE 03:40
Yeah, I think it’s gonna go up in April or May. But yeah.
JULIE ROYS 03:43
Okay. So this is an embargo blog, you’re getting a sneak preview to what I will say is just an absolutely outstanding blog that Sheila has written. And it really talks a little bit about something that I’ve talked about a lot, and that is the evangelical industrial complex, or you can call it the evangelical celebrity machine. But it’s just this whole idea that there’s this network of publishers and conferences and mega churches and, and different authors, and they all kind of scratch each other’s back. And, and Sheila, when you first got started in publishing, and in writing, and in speaking, you kind of had to be a part of this evangelical industrial machine or celebrity complex. I mean, in a way you had to play the game. And so you began engaging and platform building. And you know, I would love for you to talk a little bit about how you started in that and what you did, and then we’ll get to kind of where the rubber met the road, where you had to cry foul about some things. But, but talk about that. So you’re getting started as an author and what do you do?
SHEILA GREGOIRE 04:49
Yeah, so I had a couple of small books published in the mid 2000s. And in 2008, I started my blog To Love, Honor and Vacuum. That was the name of my first book. When you feel more like a maid than a wive and a mother. And I was just in the mommy blog, I was doing parenting, I was doing marriage. And I tended to tow the party line, like all of the blogs back then tended to say more or less the same thing about marriage. It tended to be a very hierarchical view of marriage; a big emphasis on submission. And that wasn’t really the way my husband and I treated each other. But that’s just what everything was. And so I kind of wrote some things in that area. But I kind of tried to steer away from it too, because I didn’t want to give myself away but, but I fit in. And then what happened was, over the years, I started to see more and more bloggers get divorced, more and more affairs happening. And I thought, like, we can’t just keep saying the same advice that doesn’t work. We need to talk about authenticity, how to go to Jesus, how to make sure that we’re that we’re not enabling selfishness, because I felt like a lot of a marriage advice was just simply doing that, enabling selfishness. And then in 2019, my whole life, and my whole world fell apart. My blogging world fell apart. Because for the first time, I actually read some marriage books, which I know that’s gonna sound really weird, but I had this abnormal fear of plagiarizing. So I had never read all of these big name marriage books, and my husband and I spoke at marriage conferences, we would recommend books from the front, and I hadn’t read them. And in 2019, I sat down in my yellow chair, and I read Love and Respect, and everything changed for me.
JULIE ROYS 06:32
And what I love is that when everything changed for you, when you realize there was a problem, you didn’t stay quiet about it. And in fact, that’s where you blew the whistle on something. Not just Love and Respect, which again, this is a huge book in the Christian community by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. And it was promoted by Focus on the Family. And so you took your, your concerns to Focus, and we’ll get to that, I just want to table that. But I have to say, I’m so glad that you were willing to do that. Because to me, that’s kind of when you find out whether you’re in the system and not of it or whether your of the system. And that’s where you were willing to put some things on the line. So we’ll get to that. But before we do, I want to unpack this book, Love and Respect. So you started you you read this book, and like you said, it changed your whole world. What was it about this book that just set off some alarms for you?
SHEILA GREGOIRE 07:28
Well, in 2012, I wrote my first big sex book, The Good Girls Guide to Great Sex with Zondervan. It was followed by 31 Days To Great Sex. My blog has turned more or less into the Christian sex blog. So I tried to write about healthy sexuality. So that’s kind of where my brain is. And when I opened up Love and Respect, I had a migraine one day, and I just didn’t feel like working and the book was there. So it was it was just one of those things I wasn’t planning on doing. But I’m an N in Myers Briggs, like I’m an ENTJ. That means that I’m a really big picture person, not a detail person. So when I pick up a book, I don’t start at the beginning, I skim for what parts are most interesting. So I turned to the sex chapter, which is almost at the end of the book. And it was only around nine pages long. And it was so alarming. I started Facetiming, everyone who worked for me and said, this is crazy, we got to do something, because his whole take on sex was sex is about husbands’ physical release. You know, if your husband is typical, he has a need you don’t have. So women don’t need sex; only men do. It’s about physical release. And that’s it. There’s nothing about intimacy, nothing about making love, nothing about her pleasure. In fact, he says that one of the benefits of sex is that it doesn’t take very long. So there’s nothing about it feeling good for her whatsoever. And then he says, if you don’t have sex, the cold hard truth is that that’s how men get lured into affairs, and they’re subject to satanic attack if you don’t give them release. And most affairs are caused by men not having sex. And then he says, men struggle with lust, and you need to understand his struggle if you expect him to understand your body image issues. And that was it.
JULIE ROYS 09:13
So connect the dots for me, because I’m sure some people are listening. They’re like, Well, yeah, that’s what I’ve heard, that men need sex from their wives. We have people interpreting certain portions of Scripture saying that women need to always say yes to their husbands. I mean, unpack that a little bit, because I mean, it is true that if you’re married, there is an expectation that there will be sexual fulfillment in the marriage. But you’re saying this book takes that a little bit further. And when it does that, well, maybe not a little bit, maybe a lot further, and when it does that, I mean, connect the dots with how that really leads to what can sometimes be abuse, or even blaming women for their husband’s porn addiction. unpack that.
SHEILA GREGOIRE 09:59
Well, biblically, sex is about a deep knowing. God deliberately used the Hebrew word in Genesis for Adam knew his wife. It’s the same word that David uses when he says, Search me and know me, Oh, God. You know, sex is this deep intimacy and this deep longing to be connected with each other. That’s why God uses sex as the imagery, you know, for his relationship with us. So sex is not about a husband’s physical release. Sex is about a deep longing to be intimately connected, which involves physical release, but the goal is intimacy. And in the Bible, sex is mutual. First Corinthians 7 is entirely about mutuality. The do not deprive section is about a mutual relationship. Song of Solomon is completely mutual. And the problem is we look at those verses in First Corinthians 7 and we think what they mean is, you must have intercourse with your spouse. But if that’s what we think it means, then we’re ignoring women. Because the majority of women do not reach orgasm through intercourse alone. The majority of women need more than intercourse. So those passages are not saying, Hey, women, you have to have one sided intercourse on demand. Those passages are saying you should have a mutual, intimate, pleasurable sexual part of your marriage. And so one sided intercourse on demand means that she is automatically being deprived. Intercourse is not what God wants for us! What God wants for us is a sexual mutual pleasurable relationship, which will involve intercourse sure, but it’s also got to involve something that helps her. And so the whole way that this is being defined leaves her completely deprived.
JULIE ROYS 11:48
And you quote some portions that you’ve blogged about this online. And for example, you say on page 252 through page 255, a quote from that it says, Husbands can come under satanic attack when deprived of sexual release. The cold hard truth is that men are often lured into affairs because they are sexually deprived at home. As women hear that, and you’ve talked to women who have read this book, how do they internalize that message?
SHEILA GREGOIRE 12:19
Well, what we think then is sex is not for us. Sex is only for our husbands, and we have sex under threat. So we give our bodies under coercion, because that essentially is coercive. If you do not have sex with him, he will have an affair, he will watch porn, he will stray. And so that’s having sex with a gun to your marriage.
JULIE ROYS 12:41
So when you began to realize this, it’s my understanding, you also started to hear from some women with testimonies about what they had, you know, how this book had impacted them and their marriage. Is that correct?
SHEILA GREGOIRE 12:55
Yeah, so I wrote a blog post one Monday in January of 2019, about the sex chapter in this book, and it got so much engagement that I decided to look at the rest of the book. And so for the rest of the week, I looked at the problems with unconditional respect. Interestingly, the whole basis for love and respect is a survey that Shanti Felton did of 400 men, where she asked them if they would rather be alone and unloved or, I forget what the other word is, but inadequate and disrespected, I think. And you know, 70% of men chose alone and unloved. And so therefore, they said that what men really need is respect. But they never asked women. And that question was flagged by the survey expert as being problematic. The pilot group said that that that was an invalid question. But they use that anyway. And yet, when other people have replicated it and asked women, women say it in exactly the same proportions. That they would rather be alone and unloved. So there isn’t a gender difference. So even the survey, which Love and Respect was based on, is faulty.
JULIE ROYS 14:05
Wow, interesting. What kind of responses did you get from women? And you know, you said, you got this huge response from all these women when you made that blog post. What were they saying? What was the like the personal impact on them with this book?
SHEILA GREGOIRE 14:18
Yeah, I had hundreds of women, hundreds write to us telling stories of abuse. That got worse after people read Love and Respect. Here’s just one for instance: My husband and I have been married nearly 10 years. He is 100% behind Love and Respect. He’s also 100% verbally and emotionally abusive to me and our daughters. It’s crazy to think that I should bow down to my husband in acceptance, and just lay naked waiting for him as he finishes watching his porn, so that he can then do whatever he desires to me, without care for my boundaries, even in the area of sex. I am relieved and I feel validated to hear that this book isn’t right.
JULIE ROYS 14:56
Wow! That’s breathtaking.
SHEILA GREGOIRE 14:58
Yeah. And I mean, that’s just one and there’s so many. And then I also got notes from women who said that their husbands were not abusive until they read this book. Like one woman said, our Bible study group did this book several years ago. We went into it not knowing anything about it, other than it that it was a popular marriage book, and we were so excited. We ended up horrified by what we read. Eggerich spends the whole book playing the victim and encouraging all men to follow suit. I am married to a believer who truly loves me, and we have always communicated well. But he grew up with a passive aggressive mother, who is the eternal victim. It has always been a struggle for him not to follow in her footsteps. Not only did this book give him permission for this behavior, but it tried to teach him how this is how it should be. And as for me, until I realized I was reading lies, all this book did was make me feel bad about myself. Like there was something inherently wrong with me. It did not spur me on to change or to good deeds, it just felt like you’ll never be a good wife anchor.
JULIE ROYS 15:55
Hhmm. So when you receive these, were you able to contact for example, Dr. Eggerichs himself and discuss with him about this?
SHEILA GREGOIRE 16:05
We didn’t contact him initially. Because the way that I feel about it i,s his stuff is in the public domain. And when stuff is in the public domain, it needs to be corrected in the public domain. And so that is what I did. I did a whole week correcting this stuff. And then I just felt like I needed to go to Focus on the Family with it. Because I had been on Focus on the Family three times. I know the people at Focus on the Family. I’d had a good relationship with them. And Focus on the Family co-publishes this book. And they promote it. And they give it out free to new donors, you know, things like that. So I felt like, I’ve never met Emerson Eggerichs. I don’t know him, but I knew Focus on the Family. And so I thought I will go to them, because they probably don’t realize how people are taking this book. Because I know lots of people love this book. Absolutely. And people will often say, But the book really helped me. What you’re saying, I mean, any book can be harmful. That’s actually not true. Many books are not harmful at all. But a book that doesn’t properly allow people to have boundaries, and to bring things up when things are wrong, is inherently harmful when you’re in a destructive relationship. And that’s the problem with this book.
JULIE ROYS 17:21
Did you find anything; I mean, just to be fair, was there anything in the book that you found was helpful when you when you read the whole thing in context? And I know you don’t like the sex chapter, but what about some of the other parts of the book?
SHEILA GREGOIRE 17:34
Well, I mean, the crazy cycle is very, that he didn’t come up with the crazy cycle. That that’s, that’s a pretty common thing in in psychology and counseling, is the idea that once you start going in a negative direction, it builds on each other. And so the way to stop is to start going in the positive direction. And that’s certainly true. And I think many people find that concept quite helpful. You know, so that, sure, that’s helpful. But I think overall, there’s just a real danger. And how many people say that this book really harms them. And so we literally had, over the course of that week, hundreds of emails of women saying, My husband got worse after reading this book, or I stayed in an abusive marriage because I felt like I had to, because of him. And even though I want to put a point out, like people say, oh, but Eggerichs says in the book, that it’s okay to leave an abusive marriage, and you should get help. And yeah, he does. But in the same page, that he says that, he gives the story of someone who had separated from her husband because he was physically abusive, and then the husband repents, and she takes him back into the house. And then what Eggerichs says is that she learns how not to provoke him, like she learns how to respond with respect. And so he ignores the whole abuse cycle, where it’s very common in abusive relationships for the abuser to love bomb, and say, I repent, I’m so sorry, everything would be better now. So the abuse victim lets them back in so that they can then be abused again. And so he may say that he doesn’t approve of abuse, but but he does not help women identify when they are in an unsafe relationship. And in fact, the the advice that he gives can perpetuate that unsafe relationship.
JULIE ROYS 19:21
Well, just that whole idea that we should try to figure out what triggers our husband’s abusive behavior. Like, like it’s on us.
SHEILA GREGOIRE 19:29
Yeah. So he says, You need to figure out how to respond with respect. And he admits in his book that his father choked his mother. But he, you know, abuse, like this real physical abuse, but he said that his mother never learned to respect and I find that very problematic.
JULIE ROYS 19:46
So almost the implied message there that, had she learned to respect, that never would have happened.
SHEILA GREGOIRE 19:52
JULIE ROYS 19:52
So the problem is her.
SHEILA GREGOIRE 19:54
He describes in his book, women who would rather get away and hide. They would rather run away and hide From their extremely harsh husbands. Which is basically a description of abuse. And he says, but don’t instead, show him respect and God will reward you in heaven. There’ll be a billion angels clapping and clanging gongs at how happy they are, because you have shown respect to a terrible man.
JULIE ROYS 20:18
This sounds a lot like the Paige Patterson School of Marriage Council. Wow! I mean, that’s it’s stunning, what you’re describing. And so you went to Focus on the Family? My understanding, again, you had been on their show like three times. I’m guessing that you had an expectation of how they might respond. Tell me how they actually responded to your request.
SHEILA GREGOIRE 20:45
Right. So we sent them a 28 page report with story after story after story of women who said that they had been abused. And we thought that they would reply, that they would listen, to that something would come out of this. And I did not get a reply.
JULIE ROYS 21:01
SHEILA GREGOIRE 21:03
I sent that probably in March of 2019. And I did not hear. What I did start to hear though, was my readers were also contacting Focus on the Family. And they were getting a reply from the Focus on the Family PR department.
JULIE ROYS 21:18
So you’re not getting any reply at this point, but they’re replying to readers who are contacting them?
SHEILA GREGOIRE 21:25
Yes. And their reply was that the book is not meant for harmful relationships or for destructive relationships.
JULIE ROYS 21:33
So the email that you have, that you publish, this was not one that was actually given to you. This is one that a reader received correct?
SHEILA GREGOIRE 21:42
I did finally receive an answer a reply in October.
JULIE ROYS 21:46
SHEILA GREGOIRE 21:46
So several months later, and only that I think, by my that was my fourth email, where I said, I am going to publish this if you do not reply. And your lack of reply will be acknowledged. So so they finally did reply, I believe in January to that.
JULIE ROYS 22:04
SHEILA GREGOIRE 22:05
So a year later.
JULIE ROYS 22:06
I have an email from May 1, 2019. This must have been one that was given to a reader who contacted them. Is that correct?
SHEILA GREGOIRE 22:14
JULIE ROYS 22:15
Okay. And it says Thank you for writing Focus on the Family Canada team. Must have been a reader from where you’re from the great white North there. Due to the nature of your your concerns, correspondence has been forwarded to our office here in the United States for a response. So I’ll skim through some of this. But it says in response to the issues raised, we believe we need to begin by saying that we are certainly aware that many women are facing the kinds of dysfunctional and even abusive marital situations to which the post refers. We would be the first to condemn that kind of sinful behavior for men who are not committed to honoring Christ in their roles as husbands. It’s important, however, to distinguish between those resources that are aimed at fine tuning relatively healthy marriages, and those geared toward addressing troubling or even destructive patterns in a marriage. These are very different scenarios and simply can’t be dealt with in the same way. So it’s difficult to give guidance for both these types of marriages in the same publication. Indeed, where serious concerns may exist, there are other books and materials that are geared specifically toward providing practical advice and biblically based encouragement. And then they mentioned Dr. Eggerichs’ book. In particular, they say, we would suggest that demonstrations of love and respect and marriage are not mutually exclusive. In general, it may be that most men crave respect, and most women especially want to feel loved. But we also believe Scripture teaches that husbands and wives are to extend both love and respect to one another. Indeed, that’s the best way to ensure a thriving, fulfilling marriage for both spouses. Of course, it’s important to bear in mind that being respectful does not mean turning a blind eye to sin. So you received this not in May, you received it much later, a very similar response.
SHEILA GREGOIRE 24:05
I was sent that email by multiple people who forwarded it to me from Focus because they received it, but I never received anything. I do want to point out something though, that in Focus’ thing, they said that this that this book was not recommended for people in marital crisis. But in Love and Respect page two, he says this book is for people in marital crisis. spouses headed for divorce. Divorce he’s trying to heal, browbeaten husbands, spouses in affairs, victims of affairs, etc. And, and he has stories of of within the book, he says he talks about how husbands might be drinking or straying, but you still need to respect them. So basically in Love and Respect itself, it says it’s it’s for people who are married to alcoholics, people who are married to someone having an affair, people in marital crisis. So in the book, itself,, it says that.
JULIE ROYS 25:01
And so you got this email from Focus on the Family, finally, when you said I’m going public with what’s happened. And your response was to point out, I mean, pretty much what you just said, You sent them an email back, right? And you you quoted this part of the book and saying, Hey, you know, you’re saying that Love and Respect is not for people in these dysfunctional marriages, yet Eggerichs is actually touting it as a book for those, those kind of people. And then you wrote, Thus we implore Focus on the Family in the strongest possible terms, to listen to the voices of those harmed by Love and Respect, and to stop promoting this book. That was in I believe, September of 2019. What kind of response did you get?
SHEILA GREGOIRE 25:46
JULIE ROYS 25:46
SHEILA GREGOIRE 25:47
And then, and then a few a few emails later, I sent I sent an extremely long email to them, but they did send me a very short email when I said I was going to go public. And after I had sent in the long email, where basically they said that they believe that his intent was good. And that our problem is just a doctrinal difference. And that they stand behind the book.
JULIE ROYS 26:12
Okay, so so let me just deal with that. So they did say, and I’ve read some of your correspondence here that, you know, there’s there’s a difference here. Dr. Eggerichs is complementarian in his approach to a marital relationship. And for folks who aren’t familiar with that term, there’s two schools of thought: complementarianism and egalitarianism. Complementarians believe that men and women are equal in worth, but different in function; whereas egalitarians would believe that men and women are equal in worth, but same in function. And so there’s not a huge difference between the function of men and women. That is a very reductionist way of describing it. There’s a lot more to it than that, but are you inegalitarian in your approach?
SHEILA GREGOIRE 26:58
I certainly lean that way. But my issue was never with complementarianism. with Love and Respect. My issue was with abuse. Like, it doesn’t matter whether you’re complementarian or egaliterian. We should be against abuse. Like, like, I really felt that that was a red herring that they were bringing up. And it also really doesn’t matter what his intent was. I mean, I’ve been I’ve been writing and blogging since 2002. And there have been books of mine that I have deliberately taken out of print, because I no longer agree with them. You know, there’s been blog posts that I’ve taken down because I no longer agree with them, or because I’ve just realized I said something wrong. Like, a couple of months ago, I put up a podcast, and I just said something really stupid. I didn’t mean to say it that way. But it hurt someone. And so you know what I did, I took down the podcast, because that’s what you do. When you when something that you say, even if you didn’t intend it, I did not intend to hurt abuse victims by what I said in that podcast. But I said something stupid. And so I took it down, because that’s what you do. And this is not a doctrinal issue. This is about the fact that real people are getting hurt by this book.
JULIE ROYS 28:06
I do have their letter. And again, just to I want to be as fair as I can to Focus on the Family and give them a chance to respond. But they do say as a starting point, We can assure you that we are aware of your ongoing concerns about the book Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. However, it’s become clear that we have fundamentally different views about the book and whether its core message is helpful. For our part we believe it is. While we don’t have the capacity to address each of your individual concerns, we have observed that in many cases, your interpretation of the author’s intent do not match our own. And it’s just one example you write in your blog, Dr. Eggerichs’s overarching premise is that women only really need love, and men only need respect. However, Dr. Eggerichs clearly states otherwise. So let me just allow you to respond to that. Are you assuming that Dr. Eggerichs is saying that they’re mutually exclusive, love and respect?
SHEILA GREGOIRE 28:59
The way that Erickson defines respect, it’s actually impossible to give it to a woman. Because the way that he defines respect in the book is hierarchy, and is following the husband’s authority. So respecting someone is to follow through, he actually says, You have respect for your boss, but you don’t love your boss. And so he defines respect in a hierarchical way. And so it’s actually impossible for a husband to give a wife respect with the way that he defines it.
JULIE ROYS 29:27
I consider myself more complementarian; although, in truth, there’s been so many things associated with complementarianism that just turned my stomach, that I almost just don’t like the labels at all. I do think we’re different in our function. But when people define marriage by hierarchy, when to me that the most beautiful you know icon of marriage or symbol of marriage is supposed to be Trinitarian love; the one flesh union supposed to reflect this life and love of God himself of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you know, in mutuality and love and an honoring of, you know the different persons of the Trinity. We don’t primarily think of the Trinity as having hierarchy. That’s not the primary thing. And then, you know, in Ephesians 5 we see, it’s supposed to be a symbol of Christ and the church, of him sacrificing himself for the bride. It’s just to define our relationship. When I think of my relationship with Jesus, the first thing, you know, do I honor? Do I obey Him? Yes, I do. But, but it’s it’s love; it’s mutuality. That that’s the primary characteristic that I think of when I think of, you know, our relationship.
SHEILA GREGOIRE 30:40
Right. But in in Love and Respect, he uses the the CHAIRS acronym for respect, and one of those elements is hierarchy and also authority. But you know, what’s, what’s interesting about that is the way that he defines it is like a woman cannot bring up issues. And he never shows a way in the entire book, that a woman can confront her husband well in sin. He gives one example, for instance, where he was always leaving wet towels on the bed, crumbs on the counter and candy wrappers on the floor, and his wife would ask him to stop. He and his sons would do this. And they got really annoyed. And so his wife went away for a week. And when she came home, she said, Did you miss me? And he said, No, No, we didn’t. And she realized how much her nagging of them was bad. And so she stopped asking. So he was allowed to keep leaving wet towels on the bed. I just want to point out, it takes no more energy to put a wet towel on the floor than it does to put it on the bed. And at least if you put it on the floor, it doesn’t get the bedding all moldy. So he’s creating work for his wife by leaving the wet towel on the bed. But she was labeled disrespectful for asking him not to do this. And every time throughout the book, every every time a woman does something that he doesn’t like, he labels it disrespectful. And that’s the problem with hierarchy, is that you give him the ability to define what is disrespectful. And so basically, it becomes anything that husband doesn’t want. And in the appendix, he gives the only example in the whole book that I could find where a woman is allowed to bring up an issue. And it’s with a workaholic husband. And he shows exactly how she’s to do it. And basically, you’re allowed to say like two to three sentences. But that’s it. And then you must wait 10 to 20 days before you say anything else.
JULIE ROYS 32:30
That’s, that’s stunning. I also find stunning, just the fact that he that he even said in that little portion that I read from Love and Respect, that a woman does need respect. And if a man loves her properly, she will get that respect. I know there’s a lot of women listening, who are like, I’ve loved my husband a lot. And I’m in an abusive relationship. I’m not getting respect. I’ve seen an awful lot of marriages in the church, where that doesn’t happen. It’s not just a given.
SHEILA GREGOIRE 33:01
Right, exactly. And this is the problem, is that he keeps saying you need to assume that your your spouse has goodwill. But what if they don’t?
JULIE ROYS 33:08
SHEILA GREGOIRE 33:09
He never says how to deal with it.
JULIE ROYS 33:11
And is there any solution?
SHEILA GREGOIRE 33:12
Yeah, there isn’t. You just need to respect them more. I mean, even his mother was getting choked by his father, just needed to respect him more. Like, sometimes No, this person genuinely does not have goodwill. I mean, he has he has another story in the book about a guy who throws a plate or something at his wife and cuts her cheek. You know, but again, and then and then there’s he expresses disappointment that the man is forced to go to anger management therapy, because well, didn’t they know, he already repented? And he was sorry. Like, that’s not the way it works. And there needs to be some recognition that many people reading this book will not be married to goodwilled people. And so that’s why like, I know a lot of our listeners have read this book and loved it. And that’s great. I mean, if God used it for good in your marriage, that’s wonderful. But my two concerns are, first of all, what if your sister, that you recommend the book to, is a victim of emotional abuse and you don’t realize it? And how is this book going to affect her? But also, even if there’s not an abusive situation? What does it do to a woman or to a man to be told things like she doesn’t need sex, sex is only for his physical release. Even if it’s not an abusive situation. You know, to hear this about your own sexuality, and some of the other messages in the book that creates a very harmful dynamic that is not good for anybody.
JULIE ROYS 34:36
So Sheila, my understanding is all of this came to a head with Focus on the Family when they issued a statement on January 17, 2020. And they write, Of course, any book can be misinterpreted, misapplied, and quoted out of context by husbands or wives who hold nefarious intent. And then they go down to say 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. And they I’ll just read them and I’ll give you a chance to respond to them. One, Gregoire falsely claims that Love and Respect “asked women to defer to their husbands in everything no matter what the husband does.” That’s a blog post of yours, 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 and Respect, page 219. Let me just stop with that before I go to the second, second one. How do you respond to that, Sheila?
SHEILA GREGOIRE 35:49
Well, it’s funny. So they said that. So what I did was I went and I edited the blog post. And I said, Despite Eggerichs saying, a wife’s submission to God takes precedence over her submission to her husband. So he acknowledges that, he then in the book does not allow a woman to speak up when their husband does anything wrong. So he says that, and this is the problem with a lot of these books, is they’ll say a sentence, which says, you know, wives, you need to love God first or whatever. But then all of the other advice in the book tells a woman that she can’t contradict her husband.
JULIE ROYS 36:23
Let me read the other charge that they had against you. They said in another blog post, Mrs. Gregoire argues that Love and Respect’s message is that women only really need love, and men only need respect. We’ve talked about this. You’re saying not the thrust of the book?
SHEILA GREGOIRE 36:39
Can we even talk about the subtitle in the book?
JULIE ROYS 36:41
Sure. The subtitle is pretty funny. Okay, so the subtitle says, The love she most desires, the respect he desperately needs. So the subtitle says, she has desires, but he has needs. A desire is something you want and need is something that you can’t live without. So he’s already, in the very subtitle, setting up the husband as being the one that needs to be given respect more than the wife needs to be given love. So they put that statement out, right after I finally published my 6000 word open letter. I had sent that letter to them in October. They did not respond. And so I finally published it in January. And then they got so many phone calls and letters from readers that they did put out the statement. In their statement, they never linked to anything that I wrote. In my statement, I linked to their statements, so they seem afraid to link to what I’m writing. But nevertheless, they said that I selectively excerpted their replies to me. Now, Julie, the way you’ve been reading the emails that they sent me, and you got those emails from my blog, where I put the entire email there. I never selectively excerpted anything, but they, they, so they’re maligning me in their statement. And that’s just simply not true. I published the entire email thread, you can get it in a PDF and download it from my blog, and it was there the whole time. So my understanding, after this, is that you went from hearing and documenting these several accounts, well, actually dozens of accounts of women who said that this book was harmful to them. You went out and did a comprehensive study with 20,000 women, which is kind of the basis for your new book. And I would love to kind of unpack what you found as a result of that study.
SHEILA GREGOIRE 38:30
Yeah, so we figured that, you know, they ignored they ignored a couple of hundred women. So we were going to do the biggest survey that’s ever been done of Christian women and looked at their marital and sexual satisfaction. So we surveyed 20,000, and we looked at which evangelical teachings cause their sex lives to plummet or their marital satisfaction to plummet. And then we also left open ended questions where we asked, you know, what has been the most helpful resources for you in your marriage and what has been the most harmful resources for you in your marriage? And we got women from all different denominations. This was not just of my list, the link to the survey was given out by so many different bloggers. So, you know, over half of the people had no relationship to me whatsoever. We were testing the effects of several different evangelical teachings on women’s sexual satisfaction, marital satisfaction, incidents of sexual pain, and teachings, like all men struggle with lust, it’s every man’s battle, boys will want to push your sexual boundaries, you should you should have sex with your husband to keep them from watching porn. You know, all of these things are frequently taught in our evangelical books, and we wanted to see what the effects were. And they’re all very negative. And the nice thing is, we can now put numbers to it, you know. But one of the most destructive teachings was the idea, A wife is obligated to have sex with her husband whenever he wants it, which is very much what is talked about in Love and Respect. You know, your husband will be under satanic attack, if you don’t have sex, you need to have sex with him, etc. Well, when women believe that, their chance of having vaginismus, or primary sexual pain, which is an involuntary contraction of the muscles in the vaginal wall, and it causes such pain, that penetration is often extremely painful or else impossible. The chance of women having that is almost statistically the same as if they had been abused.
JULIE ROYS 40:32
SHEILA GREGOIRE 40:33
So our bodies interpret the obligation sex message in almost the same way as they interpret sexual abuse.
JULIE ROYS 40:41
So it really kills intimacy in a relationship. I mean, I’m even thinking of what love relationship is all about duty? I mean, just this idea, do we have a duty to warn one another? Well, yes, but again, it’s like the hierarchy thing. It’s like these things exist. But but it’s in the context of love. It’s, it’s in the context of giving ourselves to each other as a gift. It’s just bizarre to me that, that we would have this focus, that seems so harmful. And so you know, out of priority,
SHEILA GREGOIRE 41:14
Right, and yet, over 40% of evangelical women report that they were taught the obligation sex message, and almost 40, almost all of those women believed it, at least at the point that they were married.
JULIE ROYS 41:26
Wow, wow. That’s, I mean, that’s, I guess it’s becoming less surprising to me. I didn’t grow up in a church that was like that. And so I’m surprised sometimes that this is as prevalent as it is, but it clearly is prevalent. So at this point, what are you hoping to hear from, say, Focus on the Family now that you’ve done this, this major study? You’ve written a book? It will release on March 2? And what are you hoping to hear from Focus? Do you think? Are you hoping this will change their mind?
SHEILA GREGOIRE 42:02
I really am. You know, like I said, most of the people who came to the survey were not from my blog. And we, we were not asking, you know, did you like Love and Respect? We never mentioned Love and Respect. And you can see from the people who believe certain things, and the breakdown of people who believe certain things, the vast majority of people who took our survey were complementarian. So it’s not like these were all, you know, bitter feminists or something, okay? Which is what we’re often accused of. It really wasn’t like that. And yet, the number one most harmful resource named in our survey, was Love and Respect. So we didn’t put that like that’s what people wrote in. We never, we didn’t give them a list or anything. We just said, Were there any resources that harmed you? Love and Respect was number one, Focus on the Family was number five.
JULIE ROYS 42:53
That’s sad. That’s sad. And I will say, I mean, just again, trying to be fair, Focus on the Family, when I was a young mom, listened to a lot of Focus on the Family driving around in the car, carting my kids from place to place. And that was back in the Jim Dobson days. I know now things have changed a lot and Dobson’s gotten a lot more political. Back then it was it was about how how to love your kids and, and boundaries in the home. And and I’ll just say I have benefited from some things from Focus on the Family. So I don’t have any ill will towards Focus on the Family. But this is concerning. I think this book is concerning. I think this message is concerning that women, it’s like we’re not part of the equation. We’re not supposed to even be heard in the marriage.
SHEILA GREGOIRE 43:40
Yeah. And, you know, in terms of Focus on the Family, I agree with you. They have a lot of really healthy people. I mean, like I said, I was on their program three times. Some of the resources that were named as the most helpful Focus has also had on the radio program. The problem that I have is that they don’t, for instance, boundary, the Boundaries, books, okay, the Boundaries books are great. They were universally rated as very helpful. We came up with a 12 point rubric of healthy sexuality teaching, and we put the best selling sex and marriage books in the evangelical world. We put them on a rubric to see how they scored. The Boundaries books scored really well; they were in the helpful category. So with Gary Thomas’s books, like there were lots of books that were in the helpful category, and Focus on the Family has had them on as guests. But then what they do is they earn people’s loyalty and they earn people’s trust by having helpful guests on and then they turn around and they sell them Love and Respect. So they earn their trust based on Boundaries. But then they try to sell them Love and Respect, which says exactly the opposite message, which says women can’t have boundaries.
JULIE ROYS 44:49
And what do you think’s going on there? I mean, why, why do you think that is that they continue to promote this book? Is it because it’s become such a huge bestseller? That I mean, I think hate to say this but it money speaks.
SHEILA GREGOIRE 45:03
Yeah, I don’t know. I know that they’re promoting Emerson Eggerichs, which is like their, their mothers and sons program quite a bit as well, like on how mothers have to show respect to sons. I find that very problematic, because in the Bible children are always supposed to respect and obey both their parents, not just their fathers. So so I think that that’s God. And and considering that in Love and Respect itself, Emerson Eggerichs told his sons that they didn’t have to listen to their mother, when their mother told them to pick up the candy wrappers and the crumbs on the counter. I find that very difficult. But so so I know Focus on the Family is promoting a lot of this stuff. So I have no idea what the financial arrangement is. I know that they’ve been friends for a long time. But I don’t have any special insight on this. I just know that I’m very sad.
JULIE ROYS 45:55
Hmm. Sheila, I thank you so much for coming on. And I thank you for having the courage to stand up and speak, because I’m sure you haven’t gotten invited back on Focus on the Family’s radio program, which, which I know if you get on, that sells books. And so you’ve paid a price.
SHEILA GREGOIRE 46:14
I have burned bridges. And I guess what I would ask is that other authors do the same thing. We need to stop thinking about our own careers. And we need to start remembering that there are real people hurting out there and Jesus left the 99 to go after the one. And what are we doing? You know, there are books that do not harm, because they tell people it’s okay to draw boundaries. It’s so you know, that you matter. And then there are books that say, you need to let yourself be treated like this because you get your reward in heaven. And I’m hoping that with our new book, The Great Sex Rescue, we show dramatically how these teachings affect women’s sexual satisfaction, marital satisfaction, how they affect marriages, and we just show a better way. And I’m hoping to send a copy of the book to every board member in Focus on the Family. And say, you know, I’m glad Jim Daly never responded to my email. I’m glad that when they did put out a statement about me, they said that Love and Respect was a biblically sound empowering message for wives. Because if they hadn’t done that, I never would have written this book. But it’s a powerful book. And I believe it’s going to set a lot of people free. And I think personally, that God hardened their hearts, so that I would do this. I’m just excited to see what the book is going to do. Because already women are telling me, this is what I needed to hear. I needed to know that I mattered.
JULIE ROYS 47:42
It’s very empowering to women. The message is empowering to women. But I think it’s also extremely important for men to read, because I think they’ll love their wives a lot better as a result of it. So I do thank you. Thank you for what you did. I thank you for writing this book. I thank you for taking a stand. And I look forward to talking to you again sometime on the show.
SHEILA GREGOIRE 48:04
Thank you, Julie.
JULIE ROYS 48:05
Well, and thank you so much for listening to The Roys Report, a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And if you’d like to find me online, just go to Julieroys.com. Also, please subscribe to The Royce Report on Apple podcasts or Google podcasts. That way, you’ll never miss an episode. And while you’re at it, we really appreciate it, if you’d write a review and then share about this podcast on social media. We love it when you do that. It’s so helpful. Again, thanks so much for joining me. Hope you have a great day. God bless.