Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship & Life Together

Too much tell-all in marriage guide

Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship & Life Together 

Mark & Grace Driscoll

Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship & Life Together takes the reader on a candid journey into Mark and Grace Driscoll’s marriage. The first part of the book deals with building a good marriage based on friendship; the second section is a discussion on sex.

Mark Driscoll is founding pastor of Mars Hill Church, Seattle, Wash., and has an active online presence. Grace is a stay-at-home mom with five children. Married 19 years, the Driscolls open the book with a very candid account of their story, and some of the hard lessons they’ve learned.

The book attempts to take an honest look at friendship in marriage – it’s about more than being business partners, but doing life together.

The first chapter deals with the different ways men and women communicate and build friendships. It has some good ideas on how we can learn to reach each other on a more intimate level. The authors believe men appreciate it when their wives participate in hobbies with them, or at least take an interest in their hobbies. Women appreciate being listened to without being given answers: “No wife likes feeling like a problem to be fixed rather than a person who wants to be intimate.”

I enjoyed the emphasis on friendship, having fun together, date nights, sanctifying each other, doing conflict well, becoming best friends. “We’ve also found that by always working on our friendship, the rest of marriage seems to sort itself out in time. So we would commend to you the goal of devoting the rest of your life to being a better friend to your spouse.”

Spiral into legalism
The book then starts a downward spiral into legalism as the Driscolls give readers their interpretation of God’s way of building a better marriage. There is a chapter devoted to men, outlining the steps of transition from boy to man: do these five things and you too can be a great husband. I was not impressed with Mark’s interpretation of Scripture, finding his tone condescending and legalistic. I often wondered where his ideas came from; do I read the same Bible as he does? His attempt to pass his own ideas off as gospel comes across as arrogant.

In the chapter devoted to women, the emphasis is on submitting to your husband/respecting your husband, and the many ways wives can do this. There are some good points in this chapter; however, once again, I felt like I was being spoken down to. The authors hold a very narrow and conservative view on a woman’s role in family and church.

The second half of the book is a very explicit discussion on sex. In Chapters 6–10, Mark and Grace crossed the line, in my estimation, into “too much information.” They share details of their personal sexual history that I didn’t want or need to know. They preface the discussion with a warning: “If you are older, from a highly conservative religious background, live far away from a major city, do not spend much time on the internet or do not have cable TV, the odds are that you will want to read this chapter while sitting down with the medic ready on speed dial.”

So, if I’m not modern or worldly enough, I will be offended, or not get it? The explicit nature of the discussion and especially the author’s interpretation of Scripture did offend me. The authors appear to hold some very liberal views on sex; this comes in sharp contrast to the previously stated conservative views on women, and marriage in general.

I do not feel that the Driscolls add any new or valuable information to the church or Christian community with this book. They tell us to build friendship in our marriages – good, but nothing we haven’t heard before. The chapters on sex will offend a great number of people in our churches, while not adding anything of value to the conversation or our resources.

I wouldn’t recommend this book to any of the newlywed or young couples my husband and I minister to through our church. Those looking for Christian resources on sex or marriage may want to start with Sheet Music: Uncovering the Secrets of Sexual Intimacy in Marriage by psychologist Kevin Leman, or Gary Chapman’s The Marriage You’ve Always Wanted.

Cindy Schellenberg is a member of Willow Park (MB) Church, Kelowna, B.C., and volunteer marriage mentor.

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