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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 19 April 2017
A fantastic book which has been really helpful.
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on 5 January 2012
Mark Driscoll needs little introduction. One of the most well-known pastors in America, the bad boy of `New Calvinism', he is certainly a polarising figure in contemporary evangelicalism, and so it was not without some interest and a little trepidation that I approached his new book, written with his wife Grace, on marriage.

To be fair, Driscoll has stepped back from his `cussing' ways, and given his reputation, the language in this book was generally pretty mild. In the chapter written directly to men, he didn't pull any punches, and calls bluntly for guys to grow up, and stop being boys who shave. Despite how some of his critics tend to portray him, Driscoll, in this book, rejects the blokey, physcial-oriented stereotype of masculinity, instead pointing out how true masculinity is about being a provider and a caring leader - being tender with one's family, and tough in protecting them. His wife, Grace, also writes a chapter directly to women, and while both clearly embrace complimentarian theology, she does a good job of dissembling the common stereotypes and misunderstandings of what that means, showing what submission & respect is and isn't (though committed egalitarians will no doubt disagree).

The Driscolls have written this book out of the experience of years of ministry and counselling, as well having to work through some deep and serious issues in their own marriage. In this respect, there are parts of the book which are raw, and brutally honest, as well as parts which give advice learned through the school of hard knocks. Thankfully, this is not a picture perfect couple telling us how to be all smiley, but a couple who have had to deal with serious brokenness and point to the gospel as the foundation of healing, and a solid marriage.

The middle section contains a number of chapters focused on sex, with a big reliance on (a somewhat questionable interpretation of) Song of Solomon. Issues such as abuse and pornography are dealt very seriously. This section also deals with the `can we...' questions, which we're told they are frequently asked when they teach on this subject. They helpfully offer a framework of asking 3 questions of any act in question: 1. Is it lawful? (biblically and legally) 2. Is it helpful? (does it build up) 3. Is it enslaving? They proceed to run a number of common examples through this. This feels a little overdone, in that a couple of examples to show the process would have sufficed, and let the reader do it themselves, rather than showing their answers on so many of the examples. As it is, it reads a little too much like the Driscolls giving their approval or not for various things (although I don't think this is at all what they meant). Another place where it felt a little too much like the Driscolls giving the reader too many specifics rather than principles, is when they begin to suggest what `date night' and other such things might look like. I can understand why they give examples, but to those of us outside of the suburban, middle-class context they are in, it just feels a little too much. Some people may, however, find them more useful.

From a structural point of view, the ending needs work. The closing paragraph of the book came at the end of a chapter about `reverse-engineering' your marriage (i.e. working backwards from where you see yourself in the future) and just felt rather jarring. It would have been better to have a short chapter recapping the big points of the book.

In many ways, there is not really anything `new' in this book, that others have not already written (it seems to be a bit of a Driscoll thing for him to rediscover the wheel as he goes along) but that is not necessarily a bad thing - they are old, true principles. There is a lot of great, timely, biblical writing about marriage, sometimes put in a way that only Driscoll could put it. Sometimes his style grates , but I hope that it doesn't get in the way of what is otherwise challenging stuff.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
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on 6 February 2012
So I'd had this book for two days and friends were asking me have you finished `the book' yet.

`No' I answered 'I'm still looking at the front cover'

After a week my husband thought he could see the benefits of me reading such a book.

I told him I'd only read the preface....

First things first. I'm reading this book as a married woman, married for 14 years, Mom of 4 children, aged 5, 9, 13 and 13. I'm reading it for my reviewing company Booksneeze, of which I'm required to write an unbiased review. I'm reading it for myself, my marriage and the diverse group of people who I connect with (namely you...)

Reputation is powerful, I'm expecting certain characteristics when reading Mark Driscoll. I've heard him speak but haven't read much of his writing. I know that he is staunch complementarian therefore the book is written from this perspective. Many people I know would struggle with this stance and would be irritated and frustrated by the writing, you can choose to read and ignore the tone or simply avoid the book.

Although. I find those who choose to avoid it are still intrigued to find out the content of the now infamous Chapter 10....

Controversial? The book is now a New York times best seller. Job done Pastor Mark.

Let's journey into Real Marriage. The authors encourage you to read the book for yourself, not to find out all about their marriage, shortfalls etc. Recognizing each marriage is so unique, that the principles of the book are important, not the methods, methods are yours to apply within a biblical principle.

The book is broken into three parts, the first being `Marriage`.

The first chapter takes us into a truthful, vulnerable introduction to the Driscoll's early years of marriage. The frigid fearful wife replacing the carefree fun loving fiancée and the revelation of secrets taken into marriage which set out to destroy their marriage. How the couple functioned in ministry, pastoring, serving and preaching, all from a place of hurt, resulting among other issues, a season of chauvinistic behavior.

Healing began to take place with burn out in ministry, an admission of need and root issues being dealt with. The result? A new marriage, same spouse.

Friend with Benefits. After much research, including reading all or part of 187 books on marriage, the Driscolls found there were few books which covered the subject of friendship in marriage. A healthy friendship takes trust and time. A true friendship involves healthy conflict. Friendship fuels the flames of romance and protects against emotional adultery.

With this I can only agree... I love being married to my best friend.

A quote by Spurgeon about his wife says this `I have served the Lord far more and never less for your sweet companionship' what a great testimony of fruitful friendship.

The book discusses back to back, shoulder to shoulder or face to face marriage. Challenging the reader to move on from working together in shoulder to shoulder to face to face intimacy.

Men and Marriage written by Mark `for the men' advises men to man up. Highlighting the fact that `boys to men' are no more, things have become confused with the addition of the adolescent, with men not quite recognising the need to let adolescence go. Men are called to be tough and tender - tough on defending the weak, oppressed and abused. Tender with their wives and children, tender with the broken. Some men lay all their masculinity on being tough alone or too tender.

The Respectful Wife follows men and marriage - written by Grace. She explains what respect is and how easy disrespect can become who we are. She describes fighting as friends not as foes. And the big one which women struggle with `submission'...

Wives. Don't you love the verse that says `Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her'? Husbands I presume you know that part of the verse?

Taking out the Trash. Observes the work of Dr. John Gottman, world renowned for his work observing the way couples respond to each other. Over the course of 16 years he observed 49 couples in laboratory conditions `the Love Lab', and recorded every feasible response, facial expressions, body language etc. He then predicted whether a couples marriage will fail or succeed. Using apocalyptic language, he described when conflict arises there are four horsemen who are certain to multiply marital pain.

In brief these horsemen are:

Criticism - criticism goes deep, attacking character, personality, the `person'.

Contempt - shows disgust for your spouse by name calling, mocking, condescending humour, demeaning body language. Contempt grows and can become aggressive.

Defensiveness - this often occurs when a person refuses to apologise or back down. Blame and superiority presides.

Stonewalling - oneness stops and parallel lives result. Separate everything. Tuning out.

When the four horsemen take up ongoing residence in marriage, divorce often occurs.

But when these areas are recognized, we can move towards repentance and forgiveness. Towards change.

Bitterness - another trash to take out, or this time dig out. Roots grow deep.

It's easy to write. The reality can be far from easy, but acknowledging can be your first step.

The second part of the book is `Sex`

Sex: God, gross or gift? This chapter challenges our view of sex.

A large part of the book is given to this subject. Statistics abound, they paint an ugly picture of the altered sexual landscape of the nations. With statistics such as `pornography revenues $90 billion worldwide. Porn sites account for 12% of Internet sites. 90% of children between 8-18 have viewed porn on the Internet, most unintentionally' The list goes on...

Stark, dark damaging facts.

Moving on to describe the gifts that sex brings - pleasure, oneness, knowledge, protection, comfort. Can you and your spouse be honest about your view of sex - gross or gift? For so many, gross is the answer. The Driscolls described their differing views of sex and how they had to work through this to come to a healthy place in their marriage.

Time. Honesty. Conversation. Counselling. Prayer. The question alone `gross or gift'? can begin a conversation of change.

Disgrace and Grace discusses sexual abuse and assault. A huge and painful subject to cover in a chapter but as it comes from a place of pain, of abuse that Grace Driscoll experienced it does have strength, describing the varying ways that abuse shows itself. Offering the reader empathy and connection and hopefully a pathway of healing for abused men and women. Grace explains the way forward she found in healing from her past.

The Porn Path describes more than anything else, the long term affect that porn has on the brain. I would suggest pastors and church leaders read this information with the growing obsession, availability and addiction to porn.

Onto the controversial Chapter 10.... Can we----?

This chapter was what most readers turned to first, the one described in the reviews which would shock. It's written from a place of cultural relevance, these are real questions of `can we do that' which Mark believes most are too embarrassed to ask.

The `can we' questions are answered with 3 responses: Is it lawful? Is it helpful? Is it enslaving?

The subjects covered are masturbation, oral sex, anal sex, menstrual sex, role paying, sex toys, birth control, cybersex, sexual medication... All within the context of marriage.

The scripture mandate used in this chapter is from 1 Corinthians 6:12 `All things are lawful for, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be bought under the power of any'

The approach here is one of understanding that much is technically acceptable and lawful but not mandatory. The aim is to open up the topic to married couples to discuss graciously, prayerfully, lovingly.

I hear that. I also hear that so many are unable to discuss lovingly or otherwise, so many are in pain, physical, emotional and mental because of abuse. So to skim over a few `can I, can't I questions'.... And `Oh yes you can' answers is not enough. Thankfully the last line of this chapter does state `we do not want this information to be used to force or violate his or her conscience'

The final part of the book covers `The Last Day` the most important part of your marriage is the last day. Finishing well, not through divorce, through a fulfilled life together.

To finish well you need a plan.

Mark describes how burn out, an ulcer, disconnection, exhaustion and multiple stress related symptoms hit him hard. At this time he sought help from many sources, including a friend in the church who gave him the priceless gift of `reverse engineering' anticipate life forward and live it backwards. The final chapter is an `assignment' for you and your spouse to work through. It's fairly intensive and requires a lot of question answering and face to face time to share answers and responses.

It all ends with an encouragement that they hope the book won't be merely information but marital transformation.

There are times I'm irritated as I read, I'm annoyed, I'm defensive of Grace (Marks wife) but I'm not throwing the baby out with the bath water because I also discern truth as I read.

Friendship, face to face marriage, honesty, growing up, respecting, healing, grace, educating, servant lovers, focusing on your future.

Surely this is a good thing?

I get this book, I liked this book, I would recommend it.

To some.


In order to comply with new Federal Trade Commission regulations, please note that this book was provided compliments of Booksneeze, in exchange for an unbiased, authentic review.
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on 26 January 2012
I had been looking forward to getting this book through the post for a couple of months, as I pre-ordered it shortly after hearing Pastor Mark mention it in a few of his sermons.

I have always enjoy pastor Marks practical teaching, especially for men, on how to live life the way God intends, and to be a man of God, not a man of the world. He has a great way of communicating with his listeners, and I have generally found what he has to say, to be sound doctrinally, and also challenging in a positive way!

After reading the book, I can say that it was nice and plain to read language wise, and it kept you interested enough to read good chunks at a time. Mark and Grace are both brutally honest in the struggles that they have battled through, throughout their married life, and also growing up. The book's sole goal is to help those that are married, to experience marriage the way it was intended, and for those that are not yet married, to not have to make the mistakes that many have, and to avoid the problems that follow.

Pastor Mark, and Grace hold nothing back when it comes to the section on Sex, notably the chapter 'Can We ___'. This chapter is definitely not for the faint hearted. It is an area which I have never seen covered in a Christian book, and I think its great that it has been addressed in this book. People have sincere questions of what they can, and cannot do as a married couple, but do not really have any resource to tell them either way. Obviously we cannot take advice in this chapter as Gods written word, but then neither is that what pastor Mark and Grace intend. It does use good techniques to shine a light on different issues, and whether or not something is beneficial or not. Listen to what they have to say, but it comes down a person conscience in each issue is my advice.

Overall I would say that the book is definitely worth a read, whether you are single or married, but be prepared for a 'hold nothing back' approach that covers a whole range of issues. 4*
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on 11 December 2012
If you want a book that puts things straight and doens't beat about the bush or use silly 'code' words then this is for you. This book packs a punch when it needs to. My only bad points against this book are the following: His grammer and sentance structuring is sometimes a little odd, and he's not clear enough when something is just his personal opinion.
Aside from that, you'll find this book challenging, and a breath of fresh air.
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on 20 February 2012
Nobody will agree with absolutely every word written in this book, except Mark and Grace Driscoll. However, even if people don't agree with their conclusions, it is hard not to admire their honesty, willingness to boldly go where not many Christian books have gone before, and their godly desire to see people enjoying God's amazing gifts of marriage and sex within Biblical boundaries. I thought both the last two chapters were the least helpful. The penultimate chapter,10, on "can we..." do all sorts of things in and out of the bedroom, could have just been posted on their website and the final one on "reverse engineering a marriage" lacked punch. It felt like the book fizzled out. That said, the candid way they discuss how they worked through differences and difficulties in their marriage, their complementary view of gender roles within marriage, and the emphasis on friendship all did my heart good. A lot is being written about whether their book or the Kellers' is most helpful. I'd like to throw a third- and my personal favourite- into the mix: "What did you expect?" by Paul David Tripp. His application of the gospel to life wins out for me!
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on 5 June 2014
“This is costly book.”

The above was the first sentence in the fairly bulky red book.

The authors were right, though. There are sections of this book that seem like an autobiography as both Mark and Grace Driscoll delved into their respective pasts, bringing up errors, mistakes, and wrong decisions they had made regarding their marriage.

I believe this is a different marriage book as it does not present the author(s) as having “made it” and holding the key to marriage bliss. As a matter of fact, a big chunk of the book was dedicated to explaining the things they did not do right and what they should have done in the light of God’s word.

While several religious relationship books shy away from sensitive subjects like oral sex, masturbation, sex toys, and pornography, Mark and Grace boldly peer into this modern issues with humility and godly wisdom.

For its openness, directness, unabashed”ness”, scriptural-based instructions (and admitting lack of biblical reference for some issues), I recommend this book to any married couple regardless of whether they are enjoying your relationship or not.
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VINE VOICEon 5 November 2012
Mark Driscoll is the poster-boy, kick-butt pastor for new-wave Calvinism. Here is an all-included marriage-manifesto in the inimitable Driscoll-speak. Real Marriage seeks to be biblical in its scope, practical in its counsel, and offers wide ranging views on what might serve to strengthen marriages.

What foundationally strikes me after two readings is that there is no apparent mutuality in the `Real Marriage' bedroom. The book doesn't discuss how a wife's felt sexual needs differ from those of her husband. The book's lack of mutuality concerns me because I think tenderness is one of the primary ways that God grows a husband's empathy for his wife.

The first half of the book is an intermingling of personal narrative and pastoral counsel. The personal narrative is primarily a specific and detailed litany of Mrs Driscoll's sins against Pastor Mark. Tragically in this writing, Mrs Driscoll remains the lead sinner, while Pastor Mark plays only a supporting role. More than concerning....

Chapter 10 is about adventure in the bedroom, with the conclusion being that almost everything on the list that a husbands desire is consistent with Scripture. The typical husband isn't as blameless as Chapters 9 and 10 imply. Driscoll notes that "the biblical pattern of for Christian marriage is free and frequent sex." The problem is his interpretation of "free". From a women's perspective, his interpretation could led to women being abused and men being tempted. This offers 90-plus pages about sex, 22-pages about friendship, and the rest muddles around about the life-in-between. It sadly not as unified concerning these themes, and will be best read on a chapter-alone basis, as it lacks flow.

There is not a meaningful theology of sex, intimacy or mutual indwelling offered. Mostly it reads as an adrenalin-pumped alpha-male approach, strongly protesting only complimentarian theology, rather than a joined-up man-and-wife approach. For marriage is not less than sexual union, but does sexual relationship truly equate to half-or-more of a marriage?!

Central to Driscolls thesis is this:- "There are no loving marriages apart from repentance and forgiveness. Marriage either gets bitter or better." They show how a difficult and broken marriage can be repaired, restored, resurrected, renewed, and rejuvenated by the grace of God. Serious brokenness is on display, but so is the more glorious hope and healing that comes through two lives looking and loving Jesus.
There are many subtle and substantive factual errors, like when the Driscolls state that Solomon was the child born of David and Bathsheba's adultery (when, in fact, that child died and Solomon was born later).

Kevin Leman, Mike Mason or Tim Keller offer more trustworthy wisdom in their writing. The hype about Driscoll is sadly overplayed here in this book:- More drama than originality, sadly not the best marriage book out there. Interesting,......sure, but imbalanced and very incomplete.
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on 3 August 2013
An extremely insightful book. Very honest, open and practical. Discusses issues that others steer clear of. Plenty of personal insights and stories from the authors but they don't overwhelm the content. Their views are extremely conservative in places and not always all-inclusive.
I would certainly recommend this book; to those who are getting married, are just married or have been married for a long time. It will change your marriage!
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on 19 November 2015
Absolutely the best book on marriage you will ever buy or need, albeit with all the Driscoll haters if you want a straight talking all honest book that will challenge you and equip you as you need to be than this is the book for you.
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