Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together
"The goal is progress, not perfection."
This is the most comprehensive book on marriage that I have seen; it is a combination of several books that I have read and would recommend. It is both written for pastors from a pastoral perspective as well as Christians young and old. It is helpful in developing a theology of marriage and looking at everything in marriage as something that is intended to glorify God. There are tools useful in planning and conflict resolution as well as developing friendship and intimacy. Even marital conflict can glorify God if done correctly, says Dever. It's one of the few books on marriage that also deals with working through past sexual histories and physical, emotional, and sexual abuse as a couple. The chapters related to sex and intimacy are modern--they are addressed to a generation that has grown up in a sex-soaked culture and feels no shame. The book includes plenty of statistics from within and without the church. It is not really a funny, light-hearted read. If you want that, check out the book Fun Loving You (my review).
The biographical info and testimonies of the Driscolls was helpful to me, these people are not "whitewashed tombs." One appeal of Mark Driscoll is his humility and use of others for support. He often (publicly) marches down a bad, angry road spiritually, mentally, and in regards to physical health but later listens to correction. He seeks wisdom from others ranging from biblical counseling to holistic health advice to hiring a life coach. To understand depression and addiction that he sees either in himself or his congregation, he reads books and seeks wisdom on the brain and psychology. Critics have faulted this book for he and his wife's detailing of their earlier marital struggles and dealing with her past abuse, but I find nothing off-putting about the content nor do I find it nearly as transparent and forthright as people claim.
"Men see everything as either respect or disrespect. Women see everything as either loving or unloving."
Usually, the first book I recommend on marriage is Love and Respect by Eggerichs (my review). Real Marriage includes chapters detailing the same concept, but Mark writes the chapter exhorting men to love their wives while Grace writes the chapter on women exhorting men to respect their husbands. This may be particularly appealing to women who felt brow-beaten by Eggerichs in his book.
The Driscolls contrast Martin Luther's ultimately good marriage-- a marriage rooted in and exemplifying friendship-- with John Wesley's ultimately destructive marriage. I think it illustrated the importance of marriage/family balance for busy pastors and theologians.
The chapter addressing pornography and sexual abuse is a difficult read, but necessary for the times. There is a chapter toward the beginning of the book where Mark pretty unflinchingly exhorts men to behave like men; there is not a lot of scripture just a lot of commentary on "immature" and "idiotic" behaviors common in American males that Driscoll is confronting. People may find that off-putting, but I probably agreed with everything he said.
One of the last chapters addresses sex in a shameless culture. This comes out of the Driscolls getting hundreds of questions on intimacy during premarital counseling as well as the conferences they speak at. They address every major question through the lens of: Is it lawful (1 Corinthians 6)? Is it helpful?
The final chapter seemingly borrows from Steven Covey to "begin with the end in mind." What does your last day of marriage look like? The authors lay out a list of goals to discuss with your spouse ranging from long-term like what you'll look for in churches and what types of ways you'll look to worship in your work to daily habits like what kind of books and how many meals to eat together. The specific goals and long-term planning are something I need to work on in my own marriage.
I give this book five stars, I would recommend it to any pastor doing premarital counseling, and some specific cases of marital counseling. I recommend it to all Christians as a helpful marriage text.