I just finished reading Real Marriage by Mark Driscoll. I picked this book up with an Amazon gift card that Stefachap got for all of us in the Potomac District. I have had this book on my list since it came out, but was happy to stay away from it while all the controversy happened, as it seems to do every time Mark opens his mouth about something that could in any way be controversial.
First, Mark and Grace are right when they marketed the book. This is a marriage book unlike any other marriage book I’ve read. I won’t claim to have read a lot of marriage books, but it is an area that I have been focusing on lately, and I even have a bit of a list from all of Mark’s footnotes. I very much appreciated how different this book was from the other books I’ve read. It’s a book about marriage, and it’s broken down, primarily into two different categories.
The first half of the book is about friendship. Marriage as a friendship. Marriage as getting to know one another and loving one another and speaking each other’s love languages.
The second half of the book is about sex. The entire second half. Very detailed.
Mark and Grace take the time, and the effort, to let us into their story. It is through their story, pretty much all of it, that this book is written. The ups, the downs. The very highs and the very lows. Like other books that Mark has written, this one come across as very scholarly. It is footnoted everywhere. His use of studies, especially in the second half is very helpful. He is well read (or at the very least makes good use of his team that helps him prepare). He is also point blank and blunt all throughout the book. If Grace and Mark have come to a conclusion, there are points where it comes across as the only opinion you could have.
I will continue to say that I enjoyed the book and felt like I learned my fair share of things from it. I appreciated the emphasis on friendship in the first half of the book. It was not a only a good reminder but also a sobering reality that married couples have to learn to be friends and continue to be friends as they continue down the path together. I was most struck by the statistic that most couples don’t really get to know each other until after seven years of being together, which explains why so many marriages divorce before then and why those that continue can expect to continue to get to know each other better.
Driscoll quotes Gottman and Silver saying, ” The determining factor in whether wives feel satisfied with the sex, romance, and passion in their marriage is, by 70 percent, the quality of the couple’s friendship. For men, the determining factor is, by 70 percent, the quality of the couple’s friendship. So men and women come from the same planet after all.” (24)
Friendship really is important. Especially with the idea of co-missioning together to advance the Kingdom of God.
As always, Driscoll implores men to be men. Real men. Not sissies and especially not boys. His best quote here is when he says, “Being a man like Jesus is about being both tough and tender.” (44). Grace then helps the women to understand how they can be submissive and respectful while still holding to their own personalities and still driving, a bit, of the relationship.
I found their analysis to be within the case of being biblical. I even found the quote about Grace cutting her hair to be well within the realms of normal. This quote was the one taken out of context over and over again. Mark and Grace talk about when they were in a bad part of their marriage, where he was harboring bitterness and she had lied to him. It continued to spiral downward until the moment when she came home with her new haircut and they realized how wrong they had been living their marriage. It started a change in their trajectory.
I also thought that the chapter on taking out the trash was really helpful, especially the juxtaposition between a criticism and a complaint. I think this is language that I am going to work into my premarital counseling and my own home.
I don’t have much that I want to publish about the second half of the book. I will say that I think it was the best book I’ve read on sex. Honestly. I didn’t find Mark and Grace to have gone to far and they brought the soberness, the joy, and the freedom of what sex in marriage can look like. I highly recommend it for married couples.