Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, & Life Together book review

Mark & Grace Driscoll are not new to me and my husband Rob.  We were introduced to The Peasant Princess series by some friends a couple of years ago and watched it together.  At the end of each of those sermons, Grace was brought out and the two of them answered marriage questions.  We then read Mark Driscoll’s book Doctrine together and then watched the sermon series that went along with it.  Rob and I each have read two other Driscoll books on our own.  We regularly listen to Mark Driscoll’s sermons and appreciate the gospel being preached in a truthful and loving way.  When we saw that this book was being released written by the couple, we were excited about reading it together.  Without expressing our desire to read it to her, my mom bought it for us as a gift when she was at the Christian bookstore (we have had her listen to some of Pastor Mark’s sermons too).

Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship & Life Together begins with a warning of how to read the book and what was in mind while writing it.  Although the book is written mainly to married couples, it could be very helpful and a bit of a training manual for someone who hopes to marry.

The first chapter is called “New Marriage, Same Spouse”.  We get a picture of the people that Mark & Grace were before they married and into their beginning years of marriage and how they may have improved and learned from their mistakes.  They are very open and humble themselves by confessing their faults, their hopes, their difficulties, and struggles.  They try to encourage the readers with ways to be able to grow together as a couple so their marriage can be revitalized as theirs was.

“Friend with Benefits” is a chapter that discusses how a marriage should include a deep friendship. This chapter shares the wonderful examples of Martin Luther & his wife Katherine.  I honestly didn’t know that he even married, so this was very interesting to me.  I was best friends with Rob before we started dating, and have always voiced the importance of forming a friendship with someone you are interested in possibly marrying, for it is easier to be honest with them and share your heart with them as well as be able to know their heart so you can forgive one another when wrong is done.  Throughout the chapter the Driscolls share an acrostic for the word FRIENDS: how to be Fruitful, Reciprocal, Intimate, Enjoyable, Needed, Devoted, and Sanctified.  They used Biblical reference throughout each part of the acrostic.  This was probably my favorite chapter in the book.

Chapter three was written primarily for the men to try to teach them how to be good husbands. It is called “Men and Marriage”, written by Mark.  He gives a bit of a human history lesson with the expectations of a man, but through a biblical perspective using scriptural references.  He shares what he notices about today’s cultural version of man and what your wife may think of you as a husband, how you should respect and honor her through your finances, how you talk to her, how you treat her emotionally and physically, and even technologically.  Throughout the chapter he tries to encourage men to be men, not little boys, to be involved in a church and how to lead the home. It was really beautiful!

It was obvious that chapter four was going to be written by Grace for the women. “The Respectful Wife” helps correct the wrong feminist vision that many women may get about being submissive to explain how a woman is not to be a floor mat for a husband to wipe one’s feet upon. Grace gives us an example of Esther.  She also writes about what Respect means through how you think, feel, and act.  She encourages that if you disagree with your husband, it should be done with respect according to the definition given earlier on.  There was a lot written against abuse and it is a very complimentary chapter to what Mark wrote to the men.

“Taking Out the Trash” begins with a bang on repentance and forgiveness. When you have two sinners who come into a marriage who have not dealt with their personal issues or shared their own issues before entering their marriage, they are bound to have conflict.  Likewise, because each person is imperfect, there will be conflict.  We learn more about Jesus and His perfection but how He loved and forgave us for our sins.  Page 91 states, “Therefore, our forgiveness of our spouses has very little, if anything, to do with them.  Instead, it has everything to do with God.  As an act of worship, we must respond to our sinful spouses as God has responded to our sin – with forgiveness – because it is a gospel issue.  We cannot accept forgiveness from God without extending it to our spouses.”   The chapter closes on bitterness and a good fight. We get to learn from the poor example of a marriage filled with bitterness from John and Molly Wesley, which surprised me, because I always heard him held up on a pedestal, though knew nothing of his personal life (just his Methodology). Charles Wesley, John’s brother had a loving and enjoyable marriage and the chapter ends with the words of one of his songs that can be used as a prayer for marriage.

In entering the second portion of the book, we get to learn about sex, a favorite subject for many people.  Chapter six is entitled “Sex: God, Gross, Or Gift?”  brings us back to the beginning of how God intended sex when Adam and Eve were created and the beauty of sex between them as God marries the two of them.  Sinful sex is mentioned and how “the Greek word porneia (from which we get the word pornography) is translated into English as ‘sexual immorality’ and encompasses all sorts of sexual sins.  It is frequently used as a junk drawer in which every sort of perversion is thrown because people are prone to invent new ways of doing evil.”    The great thing that I always love about the Driscolls, is how they always express how we need to make our spouse our “standard of beauty” and not society’s version of what beautiful is.  Throughout the chapter we learn how sex is a god and controls people and makes them make it so important that it has become a form of idolatry, which is what we often talk about on this site.  The chapter explains that “worship is offering our bodies as a living sacrifice” as mentioned in Romans 12:1, which is exactly what people give into in regards to sexuality today.  We learn about how some people view sex as gross and make it as if it is only as a use for procreation.  Of course this concept of sex being used only for procreation is destroyed in Song of Songs and Proverbs as well as the fact that we all have the ability for orgasms. This goes into how Sex is a gift in marriage: for pleasure, for creating children, for oneness, for knowledge of one another, for protection in marriage against temptations into other sexual sins, and even for comfort.

Chapter seven is called “Disgrace and Grace”.  More honesty is revealed by the Driscolls about their own marriage and I love how you can see the love they have for one another and how through their vulnerability, they are willing to grow through their oneness in marriage.  This chapter is mainly about dealing with our pasts through what we may have possibly gone through regarding being in previous relationships or gone through sexual abuse.  There are helpful ways we can get through those stories of our pasts and grow and help one another.  Many people have been sexually abused in their pasts, and this chapter will be extremely insightful and helpful to those people.  What do you do as a spouse married to someone who was abused? How can you, as an abused person work through your pain, guilt, shame, and other feelings?  This chapter covers those questions with very lovely responses.

Chapter eight is one that Rob and I started to disagree with the Driscolls over.  We agreed on the whole book until this chapter called “The Porn Path”, because what did not make sense to us was that it was mentioned about the sinfulness regarding pornography and how it destroys marriages, but that Mark Driscoll, who said he looked at porn as a child, but that he never had grown to continue and lead into that sinful life, seems to be in denial that watching “non-sexual nudity” in movies or seeing it in art was not considered porn unless you lusted after it.  Rob, being a recovering lust and porn addict for nearly two full years without falling back into those sin, while he had been heavily into pornography in his past – mainly soft-core pornography where women are still dressed in clothes, stated to me that any man who has been in sexual addiction in his past, and has been freed from it will indeed say that nudity, even in “art”, is a problem (and he has known quite a lot of guys who had porn addictions worse than him).  Rob often brought up while reading this chapter aloud to me, how pornography means “imagery with the intent to arouse sexually”. If a woman is dressed to arouse, she alone is considered pornography, especially because Pastor Mark states how men are visual and take mental photographs.  When a woman is in underwear, she is indeed going to arouse.  Nudity is so much more arousing.  While I once had the same mindset about “non-sexual nudity” as Pastor Mark shared; Rob says because Pastor Mark never had that drive towards pornography, he does not understand the force of lust that goes along with it. My response is that since according to 1 Corinthians 7:3-5, which was a passage they used in the next chapter even, states that a man’s body belongs to his wife and her body belongs to her husband’s, if I were to have a picture of myself nude without any sexual intent and shared it with someone, I would be in sin for allowing someone other than my own husband to look upon my body, even if that man were not lusting after me which is what is being done in movies that include “non-sexual nudity”.  This is the mindset that Rob and I have on this issue. While perhaps to some people, no lust is induced when looking at the statue of David or nude women statues in a museum or paintings, those bodies are not for us to see, but were for their spouse to enjoy and see alone, but they sinned by allowing us to view them. I used to actually love looking at what was called “erotic nudes” when I was 18 years old and had a subscription to a certain site that would send me updates with new photography for it. Although I was not tempted to sin by looking at these things, and thought them “tasteful” at the time, I started to notice that there were images I would look at longer and these were just photos of say a nude man sitting on a chair or a woman laid out on the grass as a naked man sat next to her. These things started to turn me on by seeing how beautiful these people were and how their bodies looked. I had to stop looking at them and removed my subscription after a few months, but I still have these images in my head, especially my favorite from that time that I wish I could erase completely.

Back to this chapter however, it is explained how the chemicals in one’s brain function through a sexual act which can form a porn addiction.  I had learned about these chemicals when I read Michael Leahy’s Porn Nation, but what was really interesting in the Real Marriage book, was that the Driscolls wrote, “In the best sense of the word, God intends for a devoted married couple to be ‘addicted’ to each other, bound together in every way.  Tragically when the source of this binding is someone or something other than one’s spouse, the person becomes so habituated to the pleasures it brings that it leads to an addiction.  This explains why, for so many men, pornography becomes a neurological pathway to sinful masturbation and addiction that becomes increasingly difficult to escape as each new ‘high’ causes the path to become a deep rut.  This also explains why God intends sexual pleasure to be experienced solely within marriage. “
The chapter includes information about how porn desensitizes our culture and what we allow in our home and allow our eyes to see.  I don’t want to give away the rest of the chapter, but it is very good and insightful and filled with information that people need to learn about.  It also talks quite a bit about lust.

Sex often includes a lot of emotions of selfishness.  In “Selfish Lovers and Servant Lovers”, it is expressed how we cannot enter a marriage expecting sex to revolve around our personal wants and needs, but to think about the other person and how to please them sexually.  Many times people divorce because of sexual reasons (be it affairs, pornography, etc).  This stood out to me the most in this chapter, which was brought up in Pastor Mark’s Peasant Princess sermon series as well: “The experts tell us that no less than 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce by year seven.  If you have ever heard of the seven-year itch, it is apparently true.  While there can be biblical grounds for divorce, the painful truth is that most marriages end simply because of selfishness on the part of one or both spouses.  selfish people who divorce without dealing with their selfishness then remarry only to repeat the first seven years of selfishness with another person and are more likely to divorce yet again.  Why? Because a selfish person who changes spouses has not changed his heart.”
The chapter gives encouraging examples of how you can try to work on being less selfish and more selfless in your marriage and in the bedroom; with reasons for why we are selfish lovers and ways that we are selfish lovers.  The chapter ends about how to be visually generous to your spouse using great descriptions through Song of Songs 6:13-7:13.

In the closing chapters, there is a q&a area in which the Driscolls answer questions that are pretty private and sometimes hard to ask in regards to what you as a Christian should or shouldn’t do in the bedroom together.  They are pretty good at giving answers without being too detailed and staying away from perversion.  Their point of this section is to make sure that as a married couple, you should be comfortable and willing to say if something doesn’t make you comfortable, and to be careful to keep things within a biblical standard.  The book ends where husband and wife can spend time getting to know each other more deeply by answering vasts amounts of great questions based on what the entire book discusses.

It felt good to finally finish this book (we spent six months reading through it together, since we tend to want to read our own books instead of reading aloud back and forth).  Although we had a few things we may not see eye to eye on with the authors, we saw the Holy Spirit flowing through the pages of this book, and the love of God longing to help a lot of couples who need to communicate and understand one another intimately with how God intended life for a married couple.

I’m going to give the book a 3.75 rating out of 5 stars!! Rob gave it a 4 out of 5 star rating!!

About Victoria / Justice Pirate

Victoria. Anabaptist, Wife of Rob, Mom of two boys, minimalist, quilt maker, Resources Adviser/Social Media Manager for anti-human trafficking awareness organization Justice Network (
This entry was posted in book review, Christianity, love, Mark Driscoll, marriage, pornography, relationships, scriptural, sex, sexual addiction, sexual content, sexual sin, sexuality, sinfulness and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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