When I was in college, I had a professor named Dr. Drullinger who often talked about his marriage in class. He was in his sixties and had been married a long time. The guy loved his wife, and every time he talked about her his face brightened up and his smile beamed. Sometimes he seemed like a middle-schooler talking about his first crush, but in an endearing way. Even as a nineteen-year-old punk, I knew that this was how marriage should be. I remember nothing from the class he taught, but I will never forget how he treated his wife.
In the first chapter of Real Marriage, “New Marriage, Same Spouse,” Mark and Grace talk about each other and the early years of their marriage. Mark came from a rough neighborhood, but successfully avoided drugs and alcohol to become class president and be voted “Most Likely to Succeed.” Grace was the daughter of a pastor, but learned to act like everything was okay on the outside when things were wrong on the inside. They were sexually involved while dating, but stopped as soon as Mark learned that this was “fornication.” When they got married, their married sex life was mediocre and frustrating. Mark became a workaholic before breaking down in his mid-thirties and putting his home in order. Since then, marriage has been great in the Driscoll home, and the book describes what they learned through the whole ordeal.
There isn’t much to evaluate in the first chapter, other than to praise the Driscolls for their honesty. So far, I think they have succeeded in putting a book together that is “personally vulnerable.”
One thing that has stuck out to me, though, is the way Mark talks (writes) about his wife. I think you can tell a lot about a person by the way they talk about their spouse. Do they honor their spouse? Do they complain about him or her? Do they seem to respect their spouse, or do they put them down? When they tell a story about their marriage, who looks good?
In recounting the couple’s dating years, Mark tells the following story about himself:
Upon graduation from high school, I was given a free senior trip to Mexico. The company representative said I would receive ‘VIP treatment’ that included lots of alcohol and young women to sleep with. A few weeks before the trip, I declined the offer because I loved grace and did not want to ruin my relationship with her. (7)There is a similar story about Grace. A few years into their marriage, Mark had a dream about what Grace did on her senior trip. He recounts the dream:
One night, as we approached the birth of our first child, Ashley, and the launch of our church, I had a dream in which I saw some things that shook me to my core. I saw in painful detail Grace sinning sexually during a senior trip she took after high school when we had just started dating. It was so clear it was like watching a film—something I cannot really explain but the kind of revelation I sometimes receive. I awoke, threw up, and spent the rest of the night sitting on our couch, praying, hoping it was untrue, and waiting for her to wake up so I could ask her. (11-12)The vision was true—Grace had in fact sinned sexually during her senior trip.
Do you notice the contrast in these two stories? How does Mark look in his story? How does Grace look?
If you have read the book, what do you think about the way Mark talks about his wife? Does he honor her?
A pastor friend of mine once told me, “I can tell within the first five minutes in my office whether or not a couple seeking counseling is going to ‘make it.’ I can tell by the way they talk to each other. If they respect each other, I know they can work through whatever differences they have. If they don’t respect each other, they have a tough road ahead.” I completely agree.