Real Marriage: Part 1, Chapter 2 – Friends with Benefits

I am on to chapter 2 of Mark Driscoll’s Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship & Life Together. Sorry it took me so long to get the second chapter out, but I have had a few other things going on that have kept me busy.

This second chapter develops the idea of marriage beginning as a friendship. This is an interesting theme that, despite the Driscolls’ insistence that it appeared in none of the books they read on marriage,  I have seen in just about anything I have read on the topic. (No doubt, this is a curious inconsistency which I can only attribute to reading different books on the subject.)

Mark develops the story of Martin Luther and Katherine von Bora’s marriage as a prime example of marriage trumping attraction, and given what I know about Katherine, I would have to say you could not have picked a better illustration. Katherine was, to put it charitably, not a looker.

Katherine von Bora

Over time, Martin and Katherine seem to have developed a bond grounded more in their shared interests and their own peculiarities than on physical attraction. Given that they had six children (two lived to adulthood), one can assume that the couple got past their physical differences and found happiness.

Personally, I feel that Driscoll is right on about the necessity of having friendship with your spouse, and he develops a theme that people forget too easily in this world of easy-out relationships. He writes:

…true friendship involves conflict and hard discussions as God reveals sin and repentance, and reconciliation takes place.

This declaration is beneficial not just in marriage but in all relationships. I have any number of friends who, over the years, have found some kind of small fault or slight on my part and abandoned the relationship. The most recent trend seems to be to declare their intention by “unfriending” me on Facebook. This is rather childish, if you ask me, but it is grounded in a fundamental misunderstanding of friendship.

Driscoll hits the nail on the head. Friendship must involve those hard discussions. My friendship with my wife has had to incorporate some very difficult conversations, about our pasts, our present and our future. At times, we have screamed until we wept; and more times than we care to remember, we have sat across from one another with no words left. Because we bare our souls to one another, our souls are able to entwine more closely. We find the Spirit of God healing the wounds by knitting us together.

You cannot assume you are friends with your spouse. You must take the time necessary to build that friendship, to know when and where certain things are appropriate, to know each other’s boundaries.

Of course, then Driscoll descends to one of my least favorite mnemonic devices, acrostic, to drive home the point. I shall reproduce the acronym without comment because I loathe devices like this like a snail loathes salt and a Yankees fan loathes the Red Sox:

F – Fruitful
R – Reciprocal
I – Intimate
E – Enjoyable
N – Needed
D – Devoted
S – Sanctifying

I have no problem with Driscoll’s point. I just don’t like acronyms and acrostics.

Let’s close with the closing line, written by both Mark and Grace:

also found that by always working on our friendship, the rest of marriage seems to sort itself out in time. So we would commend to you the goal of devoting the rest of your life to being a better friend to your spouse.

(As an aside: I would heartily agree, although I would also recommend that you develop one other, confidential and trusting relationship with a godly friend of your own gender – someone who can encourage you in your relationship to your spouse as well as be an outlet for you. This can be your pastor, a friend, a mentor or a peer. What is important is that they are going to encourage you by letting you vent and then giving godly advice that will strengthen your friendship with your wife.)

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