Saturday, March 21, 2009

Love and Respect 7

I have been challenged again to find why it is that some people find this book so good. I will cite a few passages which I think are rather useful and reflect a certain exegesis. It has often been said that Gen. 3:16 teaches that the wife will try to control her husband. But Eggerichs argues against this. He gave this piece of advice to one husband,

Look, women may seem to be out of control or it may appear that they are trying to control you, but their real motive is to connect in love. page 122
He spends some time on this principle, explaining that what the husband interprets as control is really a wife trying to connect. The wife desires to connect with her husband and the husband should understand this rather than accusing her of trying to control him.

Eggerichs does not mention Gen. 3:16 but his argument here supports the notion that the scriptures are saying that the wife desires to be attached to her husband, rather than that the wife desires to control her husband. Eggerichs is not using the typical exegesis of other complementarians and this is the strength of this book.

He goes on to say,

When the ocean of marriage emotions becomes turbulent, a husband can feel as if he is drowning. A wife, on the other hand, stays afloat quite naturally and comfortably. page 121

This accords with other research which indicates that men do not process emotions, either their own or the emotions of others, as quickly or as accurately as women. Therefore, their tendency is to pull back from conflict.

Eggerichs continues,

To wives, husbands often appear as mysterious islands. Wives keep paddling around their husbands, looking for a place to come ashore, but there is a fog holding them back. There is no place to land. He appears to refuse her access. page 138

He cites one woman saying,

It seems as though I am stumbling around in a dark room and the light switch is not where it is supposed to be. page 139
While Eggerichs instructs husbands to spend time offering more involvment to their wives, he adds,

I am not asking men to become women who sit at tiny tables at cappuccino shops and sip coffee as they share life face to face. You are a man, and your wife loves you for being a man, not a woman. She doesn't expect you to become feminine, just like her girlfriend. But when you move toward her, when you show her you want to connect in even small ways, watch what happens. This will motivate her. page 129
I love the images, the wife paddling around her husband looking for a place to land, the husband being afraid of having to sit in a coffee shop at a tiny table, and so on. He talks a lot about trying to communicate and decode each other's needs. He paraphrases Luke 6:31 in this way and earns a lot of brownie points here,

Just as you want you spouse to treat you, treat your spouse in the same way. page 130

He is explicit -

  • hold her hand
  • hug her
  • laugh together
  • go for a walk
  • set up a date
  • run an errand
  • be aware of her as a person with a mind and opinions
  • have pillow talk after making love
This sounds wonderful. So why am I concerned about this book? Eggerichs goes on to say that the wife is more "expressive -responsive" and the husband is more "compartmentalized."

A man has much more ability to to control his reactions. His blood pressure may be going through the roof, but he can keep it under wraps. He may be deeply
pained, but he shoves it into a "compartment" in his mind, saying to himself, What's the point in trying to talk about this if that's the way she feels. page 137
Susan Pinker, however, in the Sexual Paradox, writes,
So, similar to language, the hardware for women's processing of emotions seems to take up more space and have a more efficient transportation grid than men's. ... Given that language is lateralized on the left, and that most women also encode emotional memories in the left hemisphere, the researchers speculate that women are using some sort of internal language to process and evaluate their emotions as they experience them. In contrast, men would encode emotions in a more automatic way- in the right amygdala.

Keeping emotions accessible so you can remember them, talk about them or use them in decision-making is difficult if you can't identify them in the first place. pages 117-118
Pinker goes to cite another researcher saying that men are more prone to physical action while women opt for verbal tactics. Men are more likely to respond from the older limbic brain with a physical assault and women respond with "I am angry at you."

There is nothing in the research presented by Susan Pinker which suggests that men are less emotional or more in control of their emotions, or more suited to decision-making than women. I am concerned that Eggerichs is inserting this notion in order to justify his teaching that men should always have 51% of the say in a marriage.

It is important to be aware that those who identify as difference feminists, like Susan Pinker, do not in any way suggest that men and women should not have the same rights and opportunities as men, nor that intimate relationships should be hierarchical.

I will post again and respond to Patty's post which outlines her reaction to this Love and Respect by Eggerichs. Thank you, Patty for writing such a thoughtful post, and I will cite from it next time.

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