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Real Marriage

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The Advocate

Real Marriage by Mark Driscoll & Grace Driscoll

Reviewed by Lori Fox

"Real Marriage by Mark Driscoll and Grace Driscoll is an interesting read. To those who subscribe to their way of thought, the book will seem rather enlightening and maybe even uplifting and helpful. To those who do not, it is potentially enraging..."

Mark and Grace Driscoll, pastor and First Lady of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, want you to have a good marriage. And what does it take to have a good marriage? Well, according to the Driscolls' new book Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together, the most important things to focus on is, A.) friendship with your spouse, B.) mutual respect, and C.) lots and lots of free and sometimes kinky sex. With your own spouse, of course.

Where did Mark and Grace Driscoll do the research for this book? Most of the anecdotes and advice come from the problems that they had in the beginning of their own marriage, and a few from couples that they've observed in their ministry. In addition to personal experience, the Driscolls also read or skimmed through as many as 187 books on marriage, none of which satisfied them.

The advice contained in Real Marriage by Mark Driscoll and Grace Driscoll is mainly sound, but fairly vague. At least, until you get to the chapter entitled: Can We______? which can get fairly graphic in describing what kind of sex is and isn't allowed in marriage. The idea is to present the method of determining whether or not a particular sex act is allowed in marriage by questioning whether it is lawful biblically and by the laws of the land, if it is helpful, or if it is enslaving. The couple is to discuss these three things together before deciding whether or not a specific act is a good fit for them sexually, and to only proceed if it is both lawful and helpful and not enslaving, and only if both partners agree to it. This section is mainly written by Mark Driscoll, and discusses oral sex, anal sex, and role playing, among others. The section on masturbation seems to be particularly long.

The anecdotal parts of Grace and Mark Driscoll's Real Marriage are definitely more interesting than their actual advice (you can only expound on friendship and respect so long), but also the most disturbing. The Driscolls are New Calvinist Complementarians, and if you don't personally follow their very strict view of the world, much of the book will make you cringe. Addressed is their sex life, before and after marriage. According to the book, Real Marriage, neither of them were virgins when they met, and they proceeded to be sexually active while dating until after Mark got saved (Grace was already a Christian, at least in name---her spiritual life isn't much discussed),
although in a recent interview with Christianity Today, Mark claimed that they were both virgins until they met. While Mark's back story makes him sound like a cross between The Beaver and James Dean, Grace admits to having been abused and controlled by a former boyfriend, and eventually even sexually assaulted. This part is rather confusing, however, as in one part, Mark blames his wife's frigidness in bed on her sinning sexually with another man soon after he'd begun to date her (i.e. she cheated on him in highschool). But, then goes on to mention her sexual abuse. While I believe that these were two separate incidences, the wording tends to come across as Mark blaming Grace for being raped. This, obviously, has ignited quite a firestorm of criticism. In addition, there are several stories that sounded as though Mark was being quite the jerk to Grace early in their marriage, and while he did say later in the book that he realized that he'd been boorish and harsh with her, it's unattached to any of the incidences that he'd recounted earlier, which makes you wonder whether he is even self aware enough to know how he'd hurt her. For her part, Grace regrets not being submissive and respectful enough.

Real Marriage by Mark Driscoll and Grace Driscoll is an interesting read. To those who subscribe to their way of thought, the book will seem rather enlightening and maybe even uplifting and helpful. To those who do not, it is potentially enraging, particularly as the writing style is not very clear and may lead to misunderstandings in
addition to ideological differences. Those who are uncomfortable with open discussions of sex should definitely avoid this book, as such talk is not confined to the chapters that are dedicated to it. Real Marriage is intended to help people to better their marriages by learning from Mark and Grace Driscoll's experiences and teachings. It
is not written by professional therapists or psychologists, nor were any consulted as far as I'm aware. While they have been able to help couples through their pastoral ministry, these are specific cases where the particulars are discussed. The book itself is not comprehensive and, as mentioned before, focuses almost solely on friendship, respect/submission, and sex. Unless these very specific areas are a problem for your relationship, or you simply want light reading that may help you open up to your spouse (there are some great discussion points listed in the back), then I suggest that you seek out a professional or a more tightly focused book.

If, at this point, you are still undecided as to whether you want to read Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll,  then I suggest reading the first chapter, which is available free online. Once you get a taste of the book, you should be able to decide whether you want to read more or not.

Lori Fox is a freelance writer who is working on her first novel as well as writing reviews for TitleTrakk.com. In addition to writing, she enjoys reading, making jewelry, and taking as many trips to Walt Disney World as possible with her wonderful husband Kyle. Visit her online at her website.