A little while ago, I put together a list of the most popular Christian marriage advice books. I made this list based on a variety of factors; I looked at a bunch of “best of” lists and found the ones that showed up on more than one, or had the most reviews– and the most positive reviews– on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christianbook . . . I also tried to limit the list to books that were extremely popular and well-known, that appeared frequently in church curriculum or pre-marital counseling materials. After I had the list, I put up a poll on the next book I should review as part of an extended review series. Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge was the winner, but the close second was Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll.
Since Real Marriage was only published in 2012, it’s not a book that’s been able to have a “lasting impact” of any kind, but it is a book that’s been in the public consciousness since it came out, most recently because of how it became a “New York Times Bestseller.” It’s also been a polarizing book and has caused a lot of controversy.
I’ve been aware of Real Marriage since it came out, but since it was written by Mark Driscoll, I deliberately didn’t pay much attention to it. I think I read one review and then shrugged my shoulders in a general feeling of “meh– just Driscoll. Again.” Since I decided I was going to review it, I’ve been trying to avoid read what other people have concluded about it so that I can have as much of an open mind as possible. I’m already aware that I’m not going to like it, but I don’t know much of anything about what’s in it. For Captivating I read a lot of other reviews before I started mine, and that meant that I noticed what other people had noticed, like all of their movie and pop culture references, and I think I might have paid more attention to things like that than I ordinarily would have.
I wanted to try to avoid doing that, but I still wanted to include how other people have received the book, so I came up with this: the star-rating system. So, here’s what the ratings say about the book:
Out of almost 3,700 ratings, 87% of them are positive, as in the were rated with 3 or more stars. On Amazon, about 60% of people gave it 5 stars; on Goodreads, 30% of the ratings are 5 stars, and 46% are 5 stars on Barnes & Noble. Apparently it’s a well-liked book, regardless of the controversy it’s caused. At this point, I’m hoping that there’s something in there that I can like or agree with. Flipping through it, I noticed a huge section of it is dedicated to sex, and from what I’ve heard about Driscoll’s “Song of Solomon” series, I think there might be something we can agree on in there. The back of the books is even, in a way, sort of promising.
In Real Marriage, Pastor Mark Driscoll and his wife, Grace, share how they have struggled and how they have found healing through the power of the only reliable source: the Bible.
They believe friendship is fundamental to marriage but not easy to maintain. So they offer practical advice on how to make your spouse your best friend– and keep it that way.
And they know from experience that sex-related issues need to be addressed directly. Five chapters are dedicated to answering questions like:
- Should I confess my pre-martial sexual sin to my spouse?
- Is it okey to have a “work spouse”?
- What does the Bible say about masturbation and oral sex?
Stunningly honest and vulnerable, Real Marriage, is like a personal counseling session with a couple you cannot surprise, you cannot shock into silence, who will respond to every question with wisdom, humility, and realism.
If you want to have a long-lasting, fulfilling marriage you should read this book. Wrestle with this book. Pray over this book. Sharke this book. And discover how God can use it to change your life.
See what I mean about sort of, though? Addressing sex directly, instead of euphemistically? That’s, well, a little different. How he is apparently going to talk about it, though . . . hmm. We’ll see.