Real Marriage. The Truth about Sex, Friendship and Life together. Mark & Grace Driscoll

 Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together

So I’d had this book for two days and friends were asking me have you finished ‘the book’ yet.

‘No’ I answered  ‘I’m still looking at the front cover’

After a week my husband thought he could see the benefits of me reading such a book.

I told him I’d only read the preface….

First things first. I’m reading this book as a married woman, married for 14 years, Mom of 4 children, aged 5, 9, 13 and 13. I’m reading it for my reviewing company Booksneeze, of which I’m required to write an unbiased review. I’m reading it for myself, my marriage and the diverse group of people who I connect with (namely you…)

Reputation is powerful, I’m expecting certain characteristics when reading Mark Driscoll. I’ve heard him speak but haven’t read much of his writing. I know that he is staunch complementarian therefore the book is written from this perspective. Many people I know would struggle with this stance and would be irritated and frustrated by the writing, you can choose to read and ignore the tone or simply avoid the book.

Although. I find those who choose to avoid it are still intrigued to find out the content of the now infamous Chapter 10….

Controversial?  The book is now a New York times best seller. Job done Pastor Mark.

Let’s journey into Real Marriage. The authors encourage you to read the book for yourself, not to find out all about their marriage, shortfalls etc. Recognizing each marriage is so unique, that the principles of the book are important, not the methods, methods are yours to apply within a biblical principle.

The book is broken into three parts, the first being ‘Marriage‘.

The first chapter takes us into a truthful, vulnerable introduction to the Driscoll’s early years of marriage. The frigid fearful wife replacing the carefree fun loving fiancée and the revelation of secrets taken into marriage which set out to destroy their marriage. How the couple functioned in ministry, pastoring, serving and preaching, all from a place of hurt, resulting among other issues, a season of chauvinistic behavior.

Healing began to take place with burn out in ministry, an admission of need and root issues being dealt with. The result? A new marriage, same spouse.

Friend with Benefits. After much research, including reading all or part of 187 books on marriage, the Driscolls found there were few books which covered the subject of friendship in marriage. A healthy friendship takes trust and time. A true friendship involves healthy conflict. Friendship fuels the flames of romance and protects against emotional adultery.

With this I can only agree… I love being married to my best friend.

A quote by Spurgeon about his wife says this ‘I have served the Lord far more and never less for your sweet companionship’ what a great testimony of fruitful friendship.

The book discusses back to back, shoulder to shoulder or face to face marriage. Challenging the reader to move on from working together in shoulder to shoulder to face to face intimacy.

Men and Marriage written by Mark ‘for the men’ advises men to man up. Highlighting the fact that ‘boys to men’ are no more, things have become confused with the addition of the adolescent, with men not quite recognising the need to let adolescence go. Men are called to be tough and tender – tough on defending the weak, oppressed and abused. Tender with their wives and children, tender with the broken. Some men lay all their masculinity on being tough alone or too tender.

The Respectful Wife follows men and marriage – written by Grace. She explains what respect is and how easy disrespect can become who we are. She describes fighting as friends not as foes. And the big one which women struggle with ‘submission’…

Wives. Don’t you love the verse that says ‘Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her’? Husbands I presume you know that part of the verse?

Taking out the Trash. Observes the work of Dr. John Gottman, world renowned for his work observing the way couples respond to each other. Over the course of 16 years he observed 49 couples in laboratory conditions ‘the Love Lab’, and recorded every feasible response, facial expressions, body language etc. He then predicted whether a couples marriage will fail or succeed.  Using apocalyptic language, he described when conflict arises there are four horsemen who are certain to multiply marital pain.

In brief these horsemen are:

Criticism – criticism goes deep, attacking character, personality, the ‘person’.

Contempt – shows disgust for your spouse by name calling, mocking, condescending humour, demeaning body language. Contempt grows and can become aggressive.

Defensiveness – this often occurs when a person refuses to apologise or back down. Blame and superiority presides.

Stonewalling – oneness stops and parallel lives result. Separate everything. Tuning out.

When the four horsemen take up ongoing residence in marriage, divorce often occurs.

But when these areas are recognized, we can move towards repentance and forgiveness. Towards change.

Bitterness – another trash to take out, or this time dig out. Roots grow deep.

It’s easy to write. The reality can be far from easy, but acknowledging can be your first step.

The second part of the book is ‘Sex

Sex: God, gross or gift? This chapter challenges our view of sex.

A large part of the book is given to this subject. Statistics abound, they paint an ugly picture of the altered sexual landscape of the nations. With statistics such as ‘pornography revenues $90 billion worldwide. Porn sites account for 12% of Internet sites. 90% of children between 8-18 have viewed porn on the Internet, most unintentionally’ The list goes on…

Stark, dark damaging facts.

Moving on to describe the gifts that sex brings – pleasure, oneness, knowledge, protection, comfort.  Can you and your spouse be honest about your view of sex – gross or gift? For so many, gross is the answer. The Driscolls described their differing views of sex and how they had to work through this to come to a healthy place in their marriage.

Time. Honesty. Conversation. Counselling. Prayer. The question alone ‘gross or gift’? can begin a conversation of change.

Disgrace and Grace discusses sexual abuse and assault. A huge and painful subject to cover in a chapter but as it comes from a place of pain, of abuse that Grace Driscoll experienced it does have strength, describing the varying ways that abuse shows itself. Offering the reader empathy and connection and hopefully a pathway of healing for abused men and women. Grace explains the way forward she found in healing from her past.

The Porn Path describes more than anything else, the long term affect that porn has on the brain. I would suggest pastors and church leaders read this information with the growing obsession, availability and addiction to porn.

Onto the controversial Chapter 10…. Can we——?

This chapter was what most readers turned to first, the one described in the reviews which would shock. It’s written from a place of cultural relevance, these are real questions of ‘can we do that’ which Mark believes most are too embarrassed to ask.

The ‘can we’ questions are answered with 3 responses: Is it lawful? Is it helpful? Is it enslaving?

The subjects covered are masturbation, oral sex, anal sex, menstrual sex, role paying, sex toys, birth control, cybersex, sexual medication… All within the context of marriage.

The scripture mandate used in this chapter is from 1 Corinthians 6:12 ‘All things are lawful for, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be bought under the power of any’

The approach here is one of understanding that much is technically acceptable and lawful but not mandatory. The aim is to open up the topic to married couples to discuss graciously, prayerfully, lovingly.

I hear that. I also hear that so many are unable to discuss lovingly or otherwise, so many are in pain, physical, emotional and mental because of abuse. So to skim over a few ‘can I, can’t I questions’…. And ‘Oh yes you can’ answers is not enough. Thankfully the last line of this chapter does state ‘we do not want this information to be used to force or violate his or her conscience’

The final part of the book covers ‘The Last Day the most important part of your marriage is the last day. Finishing well, not through divorce, through a fulfilled life together.

To finish well you need a plan.

Mark describes how burn out, an ulcer, disconnection, exhaustion and multiple stress related symptoms hit him hard. At this time he sought help from many sources, including a friend in the church who gave him the priceless gift of ‘reverse engineering’ anticipate life forward and live it backwards. The final chapter is an ‘assignment’ for you and your spouse to work through. It’s fairly intensive and requires a lot of question answering and face to face time to share answers and responses.

It all ends with an encouragement  that they hope the book won’t be merely information but marital transformation.

There are times I’m irritated as I read, I’m annoyed, I’m defensive of Grace (Marks wife) but I’m not throwing the baby out with the bath water because I also discern truth as I read.

Friendship, face to face marriage, honesty, growing up, respecting, healing, grace, educating, servant lovers, focusing on your future.

Surely this is a good thing?

I get this book, I liked this book, I would recommend it.

To some.

8 thoughts on “Real Marriage. The Truth about Sex, Friendship and Life together. Mark & Grace Driscoll

  1. It looks like a fair review, when we think the book is based on their experiences as well as opinions/interpretations. I find that in most books even if I don’t agree with everything, there is usually something to be had or learned. I love Gottman’s books on Marriage/relationships.


  2. Was at the bless talks on Saturday ( ) great day 12 speakers lots to ponder & internalise or not. But the funny thing is I had never heard of Mark Driscoll before Saturday then he’s mentioned twice in 24hrs – but in two totally different ways.

    Speaker Jenny Baker co-founder of the – called for the men present on Saturday to speak out and not be complacent about the damage such high profile leaders are doing in spreading the ‘good news’ of Jesus in relationship to gender. So I went on Wikipedia as you do these days to get more background and this jumped out at me:

    “When the Episcopal Church elected a woman as its bishop, Driscoll wrote on his blog, “If Christian males do not man up soon, the Episcopalians may vote a fluffy baby bunny rabbit as their next bishop to lead God’s men.” No comment for now save that for a discussion with my local group at Chawn.

    I just like to know the type of bath water the baby washes in – sounds from your excellent review that together Grace and husband speak alot of truth. Think I am a egalitarian (if that’s how you spell it) as I try to love my husband as Christ loved the church, think we miss out if we think that’s just meant for men!

    Love to all – keep writing,

    Joanne H
    (from the centre of the small island aka UK)


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