Review of “Real Marriage,” by Mark and Grace Driscoll

Posted on December 7, 2011

Two weeks ago at Riv, I quoted from three fantastic books on the topic of marriage.  I have already reviewed two of the books (Sheet Music by Kevin Leman and  The Meaning of Marriage: by Timothy and Kathy Keller) and today I am reviewing the final book, Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll.


If you Google my name, one of the top responses will be an interview I gave the late Michael Spencer about Mark Driscoll back in 2007.*  In this interview, we talked about Driscoll’s confession of exhaustion, health problems, and how his growing church was affecting him personally.  At the time, I was encouraged that he appeared to be taking steps to make sure his ministry had longevity.  In Real Marriage, Driscoll gives a behind the scenes look at his life during that season and the impact it had on his marriage.  Further, he details the steps he and his wife took to make sure their marriage and ministry didn’t go down the tubes.  As a public figure, he lays his life honestly on the table (likely facing unfair scrutiny) in order to help anyone who is willing to pick up the book.

Real Marriage is the perfect second punch to the Kellers’ first we looked at last week.  In fact, I would recommend that couples consider reading these books back to back.  The Kellers really help us understand why we have marriage in the first place and what a Christian marriage should look like.  The Driscolls pick up at this point and give biblical advice on how to develop that type of marriage.

The similarities between these books are striking, even as their styles are world’s apart.  Each emphasizes the need for both an emotional / spiritual relationship (being best friends) and a intimate physical relationship (being lovers).  They both tackle selfishness head on and expose it as the #1 enemy of marriage.  Driscoll’s chapter on “Selfish Lovers and Servant Lovers” is the best chapter on marriage I have ever read.  Most struggling couples I have counseled merely need to read these pages again and again and repent of their selfish ways.

What did I like most about the book?

This book is unabashedly Biblical.  Mark and Grace present the unvarnished truths of Scripture in language that is very accessible to both men and women.  They challenge married couples to up their game without piling on the guilt.  The fact that they are willing to lay their own marriage on the altar of public criticism makes their message all the more palatable for even those who would criticize them.  I suspect that even those who don’t follow Jesus would find their challenges compelling.  A short section on fighting as friends is worth the price of the book alone.

The Driscolls spill a good amount of ink on the topic of sex in Real Marriage.  These sections are very frank, but not crass (which is a delicate balance often missed this days).  The chapter on porn is the single best chapter on that issue I have ever read and I recommend it to any man (or woman for that matter) who struggles in this area.

Would I recommend the book?

Absolutely.  Pre-order it today since it doesn’t come out until January.  Read the Kellers’ book first, then dive into this one after the holidays.

Key Quotes (These are from an Advance Reader’s Copy.  When the final copy of the book comes out, I will edit this section with any changes.)

“It is common to hear married people speak of ‘falling out of love’ with their spouses, and ‘falling in love’ with someone else in adultery.  In using the language of ‘falling’ they are cleverly avoiding any responsibility, as if they were simply required to follow their hearts.”
“…the husband gets to decide when he feels disrespected, and the wife needs to honor that.  And the wife gets to decide when she feels unloved, and the husband needs to honor that.”
“You will sin against your spouse, and your spouse will sin against you.  Couples who claim to never fight are either lying or living completely passionless, independent, parallel lives, so emotionally distant that hurting each other is virtually impossible.  You will fight.  The question is, will you fight well to the glory of God and the good of your marriage?”
“Much like a sexual predator who grooms the young and naive, pop culture with its increasing pornification is grooming young people for sexual sin and sexual assault.”

* – In the years since the Michael Spencer interview, I have had the privilege of getting to know Mark and Grace personally and ironically Mark’s advice has helped me to fine tune (and even change) some of the opinions on church ministry I expressed in that interview.


Buy this book on