Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together by Mark and Grace Driscoll (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2012. 236 pp)

Mark Driscoll is the founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington. He was named one of the “25 Most Influential Pastors of the Past 25 Years” by Preaching Magazine. He received a B.A. in Speech Communication from Washington State University, and holds an M.A. in Exegetical Theology from Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. He is the author of fifteen books. Grace Driscoll is Mark’s loving wife, and a fellow founder of Mars Hill Church.

My Indie Rock Church

Photo by Mars Hill Church

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve been going to Mars Hill Church in Seattle since it was a burgeoning church of seven hundred people (it now holds services for 10,000+ people). I began going in 2003, when Pastor Mark still swore frequently, indie rock was a new fad, and both mohawks and tattoos littered the halls of Mars Hill Church. Being yelled at was fun—well, not so much fun, but it was needed. Pastor Mark and the worship pastor at that time baptized me and my roommate at the time, and I’ve had the pleasure of serving alongside him. Since my first time stepping in the doors of Mars Hill, I’ve become a deacon in the church, trained leaders, led a worship band, and baptized people—something I never thought would happen. I’ve seen tons of lives changed in my nearly nine years there. So obviously, my review of Mark and Grace Driscoll’s new book, Real Marriage, will carry a certain level of bias.

The Last Day Matters

Photo by Joy Candido

Driscoll’s newest book, Real Marriage is something that I think will change lives. Marriage is on a severe decline in the United States and across the world, either due to economic decline and the fear of monetary consequences, or due to a dramatic culture shift. Nonetheless, the Driscolls propose that it’s not the first day of marriage with all its pomp and circumstance that matters the most, it’s the last day that carries significance.

“To finish well on the last day of your marriage, it is not enough to simply have passion and principles. You also need a plan. Marriages start with passion and over the years accrue principles, but apart from a plan, the passion and principles are powerless. You must choose whether you will spend your time making plans or excuses” (204).

The Driscolls also outline, through a series of helpful questions, ways to reverse engineer your marriage so that it is successful. They break up the questions into annual, quarterly, weekly, and daily plans. The questions include topics on health, friends, learning, daily habits, housing, the bedroom, and more.

Candor 

What I’ve also enjoyed about Mark Driscoll throughout the years is his frank sense of candor. He shows his honesty in discussing two topics: marriage in general, and sex in particular.

Mark and Grace address men and women specifically regarding marriage in their own respective chapters. Grace discusses how to respect one’s husband, and Mark how to love one’s wife well. Mark says that the guy’s biggest obstacle in a marriage is a tendency towards prolonged adolescence.

“We are left with indefinite adolescence and a Peter Pan Syndrome epidemic where some men want to remain boys forever. If we do make the transition to manhood, many husbands and fathers revert back to adolescence with something called a midlife crisis. Even some old men revert back to adolescence, trading in their wives for the youngest girlfriends they can” (43).

Mark then suggests that it is appropriate for men to be tough and tender. Men need to be tough when defending their wives, daughters, and providing financially. But, they also need to be tender when caring for their wives and daughters. Rarely do men find this balance of tough and tender, or even worse, they don’t care to. As a result, many married men remain adolescent young adults.

Sex & the Celebrity Complex 

Photo by Bigger Picture Images

The second part of the book is about sex, which is a part of the Bible, believe it or not. The Old Testament book The Song of Solomon is actually dedicated to this physical act. But, in marriage, the Driscolls outline three ways that we can look at sex: as god, as gross, or as a gift. They then explore the best ways to view sex, and how to overcome some common obstacles in a marriage regarding sex, including sexual frequency, the problem of porn, and being selfish lovers. Perhaps the best sentiment they provide is,

“Sex is a part of your life, but it is not your life. If you allow sex to become your life, you will compare your spouse’s appearance and performance to other people in general, and sinful people in particular, thereby becoming dissatisfied. This opens the door to temptation” (152).

I think the celebrity complex is the problem of our culture. Popular culture has promulgated the idea that if you’re dissatisfied with your marriage, or if it’s too much work, you need to move on. Because we have become an over-sexualized, me-based culture, if our needs aren’t met, it’s simply not good enough. Driscoll and his wife address these issues head-on in an effort to save marriages all across the country.

It must be noted, however, that there is a certain controversy around Driscoll. He comes at marriage from a reformed Christian perspective, so people who aren’t Christian or are part of mainline denominations might not enjoy it as much as evangelical Christians. But, at the same time, I think that Real Marriage also speaks to people that might disagree with the Driscoll quotes that they’ve heard. Any marriage, healthy or not, could benefit from this book, if it’s approached with an open mind.

Verdict: 4 out of 5

Posted By: Andrew Jacobson

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3 Comments Leave a comment
  • Belgie

    I just have to say right from the start: if you honestly read this book and were offended by or feel as if the Driscoll's have “no idea” what they are talking about, you didn't really read the book with the mindset of wanting to change your marriage or relationship with your spouse.

  • Andrew Jacobson

    Belgie – hopefully people are reading this to save their marriage!!

  • adventure time

    An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a coworker who had been conducting
    a little homework on this. And he in fact ordered me dinner because I found it for him…
    lol. So let me reword this…. Thanks for the meal!!
    But yeah, thanks for spending some time to talk about this matter here on your blog.

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