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Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together (Book Review)

Last Updated: November 13, 2020

Jeff Fisher

Jeff Fisher and his wife Marsha live in Raleigh, North Carolina. They run PurityCoaching.com and have helped hundreds of sexual strugglers, spouses, and church leaders find help and resources. Jeff has podcasted for the last six years about sexual purity through his Top Tips For Sexual Purity Podcast (iTunes). Jeff can be reached at jeff@puritycoaching.com.

The title and subtitle are a perfect description of this book.  This book gives us:

  • A tour of the authors’ “real marriage
  • Truth from God’s Word
  • Frank discussions about sex
  • The importance of friendship in marriage
  • A picture of what a strong, Christ-centered marriage looks like: life together

Download our podcast about this book

The Authors

Pastor Mark Driscoll and his wife Grace, of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA, authored this book together. We are glad that Grace served as a co-author, rather than just offering a “Wives Chapter.” Her perspective throughout the book is very helpful.  The book should appeal to both husband and wife.

Research

The authors mention that they reviewed over 130 books on marriage in their research for this book. It shows. While the book is firmly grounded in Scripture, there are also accounts from church historians, respected counselors and others that really add depth to Real Marriage. In addition, the Driscoll’s share from their own personal experiences of 25 years of marriage, as well as from their notes from marriage conferences they have led, and Mark’s numerous sermons on the topic of marriage, dating, sex, and forgiveness .

As a reader, it feels like you are drinking from a fire hydrant of wise counsel.

What does a mature marriage look like?

Real Marriage reminds readers of the basic ingredients of a successful marriage: friendship, repentance, and forgiveness. But it also shows couples how to go deeper in their marriage. It’s an opportunity to sit down with a mentor couple that has agreed to be open and honest about areas of dysfunction in their marriage and hear how they became healthy and what they wish they would have done differently from the beginning.

Consider this quote the authors pull from William Henry Lazereth’s book on Luther: “It takes between nine and fourteen years for a couple to become not entirely unselfish, but rather less selfish, and begin to shift from ‘me’ to ‘we’” (p.159).

This book  also assumes we all need a marriage tune-up, which is why they share the following:

  • Wrong models of male leadership in the marriage
  • What respecting your husband really looks like
  • The importance of dealing with the hurts of the past
  • Why porn brings so much damage to a marriage
  • How selfish lovers can become servant lovers

Best Chapter in the Book (Jeff’s Perspective)

Chapter 6, “Sex: God, Gross, or Gift,” is a brilliant chapter. The authors want us to understand that God has given sex as a major gift to married couples. They emphasize the gift of sex by talking about two unhealthy views of sex.

  • God: Sex is our god and it consumes us. It is the only thing that matters. Our culture believes this and pushes this view.
  • Gross: For others, sex has negative messages attached to it. It is only for procreation and not for pleasure. Surprisingly, many of the early church fathers believed this. The authors give many examples of the unhealthy beliefs of church fathers and historians such as Tertullian, Origen, Augustine, and Thomas Aquinas.

The authors do a good job of presenting key Scriptures on sex and how the sexual relationship between a married couple helps us know God better and glorify Him with our marriage.

Best Chapter in the Book (Marsha’s Perspective)

Chapter 5, “Taking Out the Trash,” was full of insight regarding conflict, repentance, and forgiveness. Mark rightly says, “every married couple has to continually practice repentance of sin if they hope to have any loving, lasting life together.” He goes on to discuss bitterness, why it is so damaging and its ripple effects. That is followed by six tips for having a good fight.

A Smokin’ Hot Q&A

Chapter 10 in Real Marriage is called “Can We?” The authors share their thoughts on what sexual activities they feel are permissible (or not) for married couples. This is the chapter many guys will skip to and read first (I did).  I (Jeff) have not read a chapter like it in a Christian book.

Subjects addressed in this chapter: masturbation, oral sex, anal sex, menstrual sex, role playing, sex toys, birth control, cosmetic surgery, cybersex, sexual medication, and marital sexual assault. Wow!

The authors do a great job of running these sexual acts through the following filters:

  1. Is it Lawful? – Does it violate the laws of government or God’s law?
  2. Is it Helpful? – Does it pull us apart as a couple or tear us apart?
  3. Is it Enslaving? – Can it become obsessive, out of control, or addictive?

Who should read this book?

  • Married couples / engaged couples – Absolutely.
  • Pastors – Absolutely.  There’s a lot that will help your teaching and counseling.
  • Marriage Retreat – Oh Yeah!
  • Discipleship Class – Perfect. There is a DVD curriculum available.
  • Singles – You will get a lot out of the book, but the book’s target audience is married couples.
  • Support Groups – Not really. There are better books to work through.
  • Under 18-yrs-old – Not really. Parents should read it and talk to their kids about it.

Last Thoughts From Jeff and Marsha

We have already recommended Real Marriage to a number of our friends, as we have found it to be insightful, challenging and a great tool for building our own marriage towards Christ-likeness. Not only is it full of good theology, but it offers practical tips on how husbands and wives can be better communicators and navigate difficult challenges as a couple. We also appreciate the openness in which the Driscoll’s shared their personal struggles, as it reminds us that the illusion of the perfect marriage is just that, an illusion. We are all a redemption story in process, under construction until Jesus returns.

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