"Real Marriage" review: xi-xiv, "Preface" and "Introduction"


Ok, so I read four pages of Real Marriage this morning. There’s eleven chapters, so with that plus covering the preface and introduction today, I’m going to try to wrap this up in three months and avoid as much of the “multiple weeks dedicated to one chapter” thing that happened a few times with Captivating. I don’t think you or I could handle it.

Like Fascinating Womanhood and Captivating, Real Marriage will inevitably have statements that I agree with, mostly because they’re common sense. And, the first time I read these pages this morning, I thought I could agree with a good portion of what he said in the preface, which is subtitled “How Not to Read this Book.” And then I read it again, and even with some of the things that I started out kinda-sorta agreeing with, I have a few problems.

Don’t read sections of the book and tell your spouse, “I told you so.” This book is not meant to be a pile of rocks for you to throw at each other in bitterness.

That feels fairly common-sensical, right? In general, “I told you so” isn’t a statement that’s going to help bring healing and friendship back to a damaged relationship. No one enjoys hearing something like that. But, when I chewed on this for a little bit, I stumbled into a question: what else are you supposed to do with a marriage-advice book? Maybe not use the words “I told you so,” but if you and your partner are experiencing problems that you’ve tried to talk to them about before, and a book you read describes what you feel the problem is … isn’t pointing to a chapter and saying something like “this really made sense to me” or “I feel this way” or “she said what I’ve been trying to communicate really well in this chapter” something that will just happen? And isn’t that . . . sort of the point?

And I don’t think Mark would outright forbid someone from doing that– he just forbids us from doing it “in bitterness.” Which puts a horrible burden on someone who’s experienced a lot of hurt from their partner. Being honest for the first time can be messy and painful, and I feel that Mark might be trying to force happy-happy-joy-joy expressions onto people who are feeling raw.

There was one “Do Not” that struck me as both amusing and troubling:

Don’t read as a critic trying to find where you think we might be wrong. Although we seek to be faithful to the Bible, this book is not the Bible, and, like you, we are imperfect, so there will be mistakes. Take whatever gifts you find in this book, and feel free to leave the rest.

I didn’t exactly laugh when I read that– I snorted and smirked and rolled my eyes. A “mistake,” Mark, really? Like, oh, I don’t know, calling women “penis homes”? (Note: I do not agree with the title of that article, which implies a cause-and-effect relationship that doesn’t exist.) The problem is, I’m not going to find mistakes in this book. I’m going to find sexism and misogyny and since there are chapters dedicated to sexual assault, probably heaping, steaming mounds of victim blaming and rape myths. Those things are not mistakes. They are wrong, and the beliefs that Mark and Grace hold are directly responsible for churches excusing domestic violence and marital rape.

The last “Do Not” of the preface is probably going to be something I comment on a lot as we move through this book. In the opening salvo of Captivating, Stasi Eldredge tried to make it clear how different her book was from other “how to be a godly woman” books– she wasn’t going to give us a list. She was just going to show us . . . well, what turned out to be a rather gigantic list, although the items on it were more abstract that Helen Andelin’s “wear chiffon and florals.” Mark is doing the same thing:

Don’t copy our methods. The principles in this book are more important than the methods. Principles are timeless and unchanging. Methods vary from marriage to marriage and person to person. Many marriage books focus too heavily on methods that worked for one couple’s marriage, but because you and your spouse are unique, those methods may not work for you and your marriage.

On its face . . . there isn’t a glaring problem here, and I can agree with a surface-level interpretation of what he’s saying. However, when he says “principles,” what he means is complementarianism, which is, by definition, a method, so … yup.

What the Introduction makes clear is something we already knew: Mark is obsessed with sex. I counted, and in one-and-a-half pages, there are seventeen references to sex, including one mentioning how sexualized our culture is. Also, Mark wants to make sure that we know how incredibly experienced he is at the ripe old age of 41 (at time of publication), and how he’s a pastor so that means he knows stuff.

In fact, the whole section reeks, at least to me, of the “touch not the lord’s anointed” bullshit that I grew up with. It’s possible I’m being overly sensitive to that, but I don’t think so, not with “YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO CRITICIZE ME” showing up on the first page.

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  • Abby Normal

    As much of a tough guy that Driscoll presents himself as, he seems to be about as sensitive to criticism as your stereotypical beauty pageant diva. No matter how big of a deal he becomes, he can’t seem to handle the fact that there are people out there who can’t appreciate his awesomeness.

  • yamikuronue

    For the first point, I can see where he was going. There’s a way to share with your spouse that comes from a place of trying to solve the problem, where you say “This chapter spoke to me, please read it so we can discuss”, and there’s a place that comes from pettiness and a desire to be right, where you say “This chapter proves that you’re a shitty husband and I’m right!” It’s a struggle for me sometimes after a fight to ensure that I approach my husband from the former place and not the latter, but it always turns out better when I do.

    • I could see, that, too– and it would be the “I’m going to accept Mark Driscoll as well-intentioned and give him the benefit of the doubt” interpretation.

      • Samantha, Christian charity is entirely wasted on Mr. Driscoll. The totality of his opinions and pronouncements make it abundantly clear that he’s a pretty odious human being.

        • Crystal

          Right!! Like what I said all along!! No offence meant to Samantha, but you’re ABSOLUTELY RIGHT, yamikuronue!!!!

          • Crystal

            Sorry, that was meant for Peggy Trivilino, not yamikuronue. I apologise for putting people wrong there; can you edit my remark, Samantha, and take away this one, so that my first remark reflects that I was speaking to Peggy Trivilino if you can, please?

  • Crystal

    Samantha, I’m so glad you’ve finally started. I’m looking forward to your thoughts. This man is sex-obsessed and he’s so d–n arrogant he deserves a setdown. As I’ve said before, I IMPLORE you to treat yourself with chocolate ice-cream – if it agrees with your system, that is. Or better yet, read a fantasy book straight after doing with the post what you have to do so you can put the poison out of your heart and mind. That’s what I do when I analyse something; I can only take so much of the poison. I know someone with an exceptional mind who will read a fantasy or science fiction book WHILE analysing bad movements but he’s got an exceptional mind for all his faults.

    In my experience, some Christians are full of forgiveness because they want to be forgiven all the time while they CONSTANTLY trample on the rights of others and DO NOT truly apologise in their hearts, instead justifying their actions because they lead; there is a small amount of anger in that remark, I must admit.

    As for this bloke’s “mistakes”– his ideas of “mistakes” are vulgar! You are right in this little paragraph: “The problem is, I’m not going to find mistakes in this book. I’m going to find sexism and misogyny and since there are chapters dedicated to sexual assault, probably heaping, steaming mounds of victim blaming and rape myths. Those things are not mistakes. They are wrong, and the beliefs that Mark and Grace hold are directly responsible for churches excusing domestic violence and marital rape.”

    As for his big lists and little “prinicipals” – agreed entirely.

    And experience: He needs to see a psychiatrist and spend time with a group of men who KNOW what being a gentleman really means. Knows stuff, my foot. He is the epitome of VULGARITY AND CRUDITY to the point where it is almost vile. Do you think he visits – shudder – brothels? His obsession with sex is abnormal even for most men. Most normal men do not quite think about sex like that. He’s obsessed with lying with women because he knows he can control them.

    You are not allowed to question me indeed! Shows a sign of insecurity, it does. He loves himself so much. Mark Driscoll needs to be told to get his eyes off himself and onto Jesus – often. I don’t think Jesus would like his attitude or the way he behaves. I thought that’s what JOY was all about, but I guess JOY is for the great unwashed only. Too many religious leaders say “Touch not the Lord’s anointed” because they cannot tolerate criticism of their precious selves. They need to know that not everyone is going to like them and appreciate what they have to say. This stuff is nothing more than a sign of pride. Jesus died because of people, but these people want to make people die because of them.

    Just wanting you to see that I’m trying to pay attention to what you say and digest it. I’ve been itching to know what’s inside this book. It should be interesting.

  • magnusmagnolius

    I know Driscoll is kind of a psycho who has done/said plenty of bad stuff, but when he says things like the “penis home” comment, I can’t help but laugh and be amused rather than outraged. He’s just so cartoonish.

    • Crystal

      That man’s mind is like an abominably stinking sewerage tank. I don’t see what there is to be amused about!

    • Abby Normal

      It’d be a hell of a lot funnier if the guy didn’t have thousands of followers hanging on his every word.

      That’s the real kicker with Driscoll, in my opinion–if he hadn’t “found religion”, I’ll bet dollars to donuts that he’d have faded into obscurity, probably becoming one more nameless MRA nutjob internet troll. But no, all he had to do was wrap up his message in Christianese, throw in some “prophetic visions”, and suddenly there are thousands that will wake up Sunday morning and pay money just for the opportunity to watch him on a Jumbotron.

      I have to admit to a sick fascination with Driscoll but only because of how he makes me worried for society at large–he’s living proof that, in America at least, the right Christian image is all a warped little man (and it’s usually a man) needs to become an instant despot, and no one will really care.

      If I’m taking this too far, let me know, but I’d even venture to say that if America devolves into some kind of totalitarian wasteland, it’s not going to be at the hands of Islamic terrorists like the rightwingers like to think–it’ll be at the hands of some nice Christian boy who convinces everyone that he has a direct line to God.

      • Hattie

        And who capitalizes on our fear of The Others. Don’t forget that.

  • I am not concerned about loud ruffians like Driscoll. They always fall sooner or later. What concerns me are mild mannered zealots like John Piper. Those who can’t find any problem at all with God ordering massacres of entire cities, children included. Those people would happily burn the whole world down, if they believe that’s what God has commanded.

  • Funides remind me of the older brother in the story of the prodigal son. Ever thought how OB knew his brother spent his money on harlots? It’s called projection, that’s what he would do in the same situation. He’s thought about it and wants to do it, but has controlled that urge and is jealous of his brother who is being forgiven.
    Why is Driscoll and all fundies rabid about sex? It’s denied and the mind fixates on that which it can’t have. And as God’s anointed he’s jealous of a culture that tempts him and like minded believers. Wrap this up in the thought that the U.S. is a Christian nation they promote the social gospel where all things that cause them to be tempted becomes illegal.
    Why do fundies defend rapists, because they know at some point they won’t be able to control themselves just like an alcoholic temped with a drink; and when they lose control a woman’s wishes won’t matter. The only way they can control themselves is to control all women and if a woman refuses to be controlled then in their way of thinking (not mine) the woman is at fault.

  • Antimule: “Those people would happily burn the whole world down, if they believe that’s what God has commanded.”
    Good example is ISIS and what is happening as we speak in Syria and Iraq. Fundamentalism is the same mind set regardless of religion. The only thing stopping that from happening here is lack of opportunity.

  • E

    Hm, “if you disagree with me YOU are doing something wrong.” THAT brings back memories like a three-day-old taco.

  • Amanda

    Your words mean a lot to me, Samantha. I grew up in a conservative Baptist church, hearing the same messages it sounds like you did: women were made for men, especially for male pleasure. Wives owe their husbands sex whenever he wants it. Basically, that wives needs, wants, concerns, and even career goals, were adressed only after all the man’s needs had been addressed…if at all.

    I know now, intellectually, that all of these things are false. Every person has the right to their own body at all times, and no one else gets to touch you without consent. Women’s needs and wants are just as important as anyone else’s, and we deserve the chance to pursue our goals and use our talents.

    All that being said, I am still TERRIFIED to date men because of the ingrained expectations I have from my childhood. When I am in a relationship with a guy, I have a hard time feeling like I deserve to communicate my own needs and have them met.

    Have you experienced this too? If so, what has helped you move though and past the incorrect things you learned in your childhood? (If you care to share)