The man who doesn’t mince words, is not surprisingly equally candid when it comes to comes to marriage and intimacy in marriage. In Real Marriage, Mark teams up with wife Grace and reveals much in the way of personal details of their own marriage, both in its early days and presumably as recent as yesterday. It walks the fine line — without truly crossing it — of too much information; while at the same time making your marriage the focus of the book’s content.
The full title is Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship, and Life Together though a proper disclaimer would warn you that the book is divided into two parts, with sex being the theme of the second, and probably being the focus of much that will be written about the book both before and after publication. The book does warn more conservative types — and less urban types — to sit down while reading the Q & A chapter on what types of sex are permissible within the bounds of Christian marriage.
First person narratives written by two authors can be as awkward to read as they are tricky to write, so there are sections of “… I (Mark)…” interspersed with sections of “… I (Grace) …” but beyond that the book flows well and Grace’s background in public relations means she was undoubtedly a gifted writer long before this.
Mark — no stranger to print with more than a dozen previous books and tons of online copy — is especially vulnerable here as he is brutally frank about everything from his own sex drive to various conflicts that have arisen in their married life. As with so many pastors today, the availability of online audio and video means that you can almost literally hear Mark speaking as you read.
God does not give us a standard of beauty — God gives us spouses. Unlike other standards of beauty, a spouse changes over time. This means if your spouse is tall you are into tall. If your spouse is skinny, you are into skinny. If your spouse is twenty, you are into twenty. When your spouse is sixty, you are no longer into twenty, but rather into sixty. And if your spouse used to be skinny, you were into skinny, but now you are into formerly skinny. We are to pour all our passion and pursuit of sexual pleasure into our spouses alone without comparing them to anyone else in a lustful way. (p. 108-9)
Mark’s take on this subject is born not just out of theory and research, but from thousands of interactions with individuals and couples as a pastor and conference speaker. Just a page past the above quotation is this anecdote:
He had a beautiful wife but was never sexually satisfied. His mind was filled with sinful fantasies from pornography he had viewed, as well as sexually experiences he had enjoyed before marriage. Some would have been sinful to do even with his wife, others were not sinful but she was opposed to them because they violated her conscience. Over the course of some years in their marriage, rather than killing these sinful desires, he occasionally nurtured them by daydreaming about what it would be like to make his fantasies realities. One day he did — with another woman.
He decided to never tell his wife because in his flawed mind, it was better for her not to know the truth and be devastated. He actually considered his lying somewhat loving but she could tell something was different and so she pressed him for answers. Eventually he confessed. As we met during their counseling session, while his wife wept continually, he tried to downplay what had happened by saying it was only one day of their life, he did not love the other woman, and similar inane efforts to make his sin seem less sinful.
Nothing seemed to get through to him until I (Mark) simply told him he was not only an adulterer but had become an adulterer because he was first an idolator. The first commandments are that we are to worship God alone. If we obey, we then do not worship other people and things as functional gods. When we disobey we then continue to worship but do so as idolators treating people and things as gods. His sin was not just sleeping with a different woman, but sleeping with another woman as a worship act to another god. Sex was his god, a bed was his altar, their bodies were their living sacrifices, and he was a pagan priest committing idolatry. (pp. 109-10)
Again, I don’t know of anyone else who is a forthright as Mark Driscoll and who delivers a message with such passion and authority. With sections dealing with oral sex and masturbation, Mark (and Grace) face no question too difficult to deal with.
While I probably disagree with Mark’s doctrinal position in other books dealing with other topics, I was intrigued by how he would handle this, and I was not disappointed. The book has value to engaged couples, newly marrieds, and people like my wife and I who are a few decades in. Real Marriage releases January 3rd from Thomas Nelson.
An advance copy of Real Marriage was provided by Graf-Martin Communications, a Kitchener, Ontario firm which works with North American publishers and author agencies to provide additional promotion and publicity for books and book-related products.
Looking for more details? Check out Aaron Armstrong’s review of the book at The Gospel Coalition.