Do you need a new marriage?

Photographer: Will Foster Driscoll is pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington. Last week, my wife Grace and I … Continued

Photographer: Will Foster

Driscoll is pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington.

Last week, my wife Grace and I took the biggest risk in our ministry lives with the launch of our new book, “Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, & Life Together.”

In the book, we’re brutally honest about the hardships we’ve faced as a couple. We’re expecting a lot of criticism from both liberal and conservative critics, as we talk about relationships and gender roles in marriage in a very traditional and biblical way and also talk frankly about the sex questions people in our culture deal with. (Among them: masturbation, birth control, cosmetic surgery, cybersex, sexual medication, and marital sexual assault.)

Why would we take such a risk?

Simply said, the state of marriage in our country is perilous, and we want to help. Here are few of the startling stats:

• For the first time in U.S. history, single adults outnumber married adults.

• For those who do marry, over 40 percent of marriages end in divorce, according to the New York Times.

• Between 25 to 50 percent of Americans commit adultery, depending on the study.

• Some 59 percent of adults believe extramarital fantasies are OK.

Three out of four of Americans have premarital sex before the age of 20.

• An estimated 15 percent of married couples haven’t had sex in six months to a year.

• Over half of all first marriages are now preceded by cohabitation according to Population Studies, and this figure is rising.

Perhaps most depressing are the stats associated with cohabitation:

• Studies almost always find that cohabitation is associated with a higher divorce risk, with estimates ranging from 33 percent to 151 percent increased risk of divorce.

• Annual rates of depression among cohabitators are more than three times higher than among married couples, according to Psychiatric Disorders in America.

Women in cohabitating relationships are twice as likely as married women to suffer physical abuse, according to the Journal of Marriage and the Family.

• Two studies in Aggressive Behavior and Canadian Journal of Criminology found that women in cohabitating relationships are about nine times more likely to be killed by their partner than married women.

• Couples who cohabitate before marriage report less marital happiness and more conflict when married, according to the Journal of Marriage and Family and Family Relations.

The facts tell the story: Marriage in our country is broken. And the implication is clear: many people need a new marriage, which first requires a new understanding of marriage.

Sadly, for many this means trading in a spouse for a newer model in a never-ending search for the perfect relationship and happiness. But this isn’t the answer either, as the divorce rate for second marriages is even higher than first marriages, 60 percent! You can change spouses, but if you don’t change, nothing changes.

So, what is the answer? Start a new marriage with the same spouse.

This begins with understanding that marriage is not about you and what you want but about the two of you glorifying God together, serving one another selflessly, and redefining what makes for a great marriage for you and your spouse—all centered on biblical truths and Jesus.

For many this will sound crazy. But what’s crazy is everyone continuing to do what already isn’t working.

This is the essential truth Grace and I discovered in our own marriage, which was rough for both of us for many years, leading to a functional marriage that was not much fun.

We thank God that over the years, he has brought healing to our marriage. Today, we are great friends and lovers. But it hasn’t always been that way. It took stepping on a lot of land mines to learn some important lessons about ourselves and our marriage to get to a point today where we enjoy a great marriage together.

Some of these lessons for a successful marriage included the importance of friendship, a biblical understanding of the role of men and women in marriage, and the necessity of a fulfilling sex life for both the husband and wife.

These are the lessons we share in our new book, and which I will be sharing with you in part on this blog over the next few days.

About

Mark Driscoll Pastor Mark Driscoll is the founding pastor of Mars Hill Church, based in Seattle, Washington, and co-author of "Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together."
  • citizen_S

    72% of all statistics quoted in self-serving newspaper articles are made up.

  • Theophile

    Hi Mark,
    I hope Your book starts out mentioning God’s first reproof to man, when it comes to His Word vs.spousal pressure: Genesis 3:17 “because you have hearkened to the voice of your wife…” Of course this is not politically correct, to put forth the idea that the husband “rules over the wife”(3:16), but the Bible expands on that, with “the wife” being the wisest mans(Solomon) downfall & distancing from God, as his wives “turned his heart away from God”.
    When God describes His relationship with His people in the prophets, He calls them(Israel/Judea) His wives, and the “church”, the bride of Christ. When we try to twist the spousal relationship into a 50/50 equal relationship, we stand God’s analogy on it’s head. Are God’s people(as His wife) equal in station and authority with God? or the “Church” equal in authority with Christ?
    I think this attack on the husbands authority, is most apparent with “freedom of choice”/abortion on demand. The prospective father has no “say” in that matter, and if she decides to keep it, and dump the father, the state will back her up there too, and collect child support from him, for her. So, unlike “the old school” for better or worse, where a wife depends on the husband and the marriage, now she can always: move back with mom, and collect child support, and hey, mom will watch the kid while I go back to school and meet another guy!
    I think Isaiah 3:12 was written for “Christian” Americans, living today, and You know, Um.. amendment 18 was abandoned as Utopian wishful thinking, after it spawned organized crime, and the FBI, but 19 could not be undone once set into motion so easily. If You think this has nothing to do with the attack on the family, the role of the husband, and wife, then You are not considering, Satan has been at this game a long time. There is a reason Eve was tempted, I think it was because God had told Adam not to eat of the tree, Adam told his wife(personally I think Adam might have told her not to even touc

  • gonnagle

    What twaddle. Marriage has to be a pertnership of equivalents. Otherwise it’s servitude. But then that his how you intrepret Chritianity.

  • catatonicjones

    as long as you fools blame your satan god for your failures you’re going to keep failing. All these statistics – christian marriages. You want to claim this is a christian nation, then you’re responsible for your christian failures, not the rest of us.
    You have the most abortions, you commit most of the adultery, you do most of the wife beating, you get most of the divorces.

    Tell us again, how your way is better. Sure, and we’ll believe it.

  • WmarkW

    There’s a lot of reverse cause-and-effect between cohabitation and divorce (those least likely to divorce are least likely to cohabitate first.)

    Why not start by citing divorce rates for couples that are both at least 25 years old on wedding day, and marrying for the first time. Those rates are a lot lower than younger or previously-married partners.

    But it doesn’t push the right-wing, pro-marriage agenda to tell couples to wait until they’re both emotionally stable enough to commit.

  • Catken1

    “I think this attack on the husbands authority, is most apparent with “freedom of choice”/abortion on demand. The prospective father has no “say” in that matter, ”

    I have no say in the matter if my child needs so little as a pint of my husband’s blood to survive, and my husband doesn’t want to give. Why should my husband control my internal organs, just because your religious dogma says that he ought to rule me? Are you willing to subject your marriage’s structure to someone else’s religious rules?

  • Catken1

    If running a marriage on Biblical law is so great, how come the most Christian fundamentalist areas of the country have the lowest marriage rates and the highest divorce rates? Do you really think that only members of your religion have successful marriages? The statistics say otherwise.

    I have an extremely healthy marriage, with our 8th anniversary coming up soon (not long yet, granted, but we’re doing just fine). I also waited until I was 28 (and my husband 32) to marry, had premarital sex, cohabited with him for 2 years before marriage, and sometimes have extramarital fantasies (which I bring home to my husband, rather than indulging outside the marriage). We are not religious, particularly, unless you count my husband’s devotion to the ‘Skins. My parents likewise admit to premarital sex, though I don’t really want to know about their fantasy life, and likewise married in their late 20s. They’re going on 40 years, and still going strong.

    And we’re not alone, either. The most successful marriages I know are between couples who knew each other intimately (including sexually) before the marriage, and frequently between those who cohabited. Statistically, the most sexually-liberal areas of the country are the ones with the healthiest marriages.

    A lot of your correlation is just BS, and has very little to do with causation.

  • avalpert

    40% of all people know that

  • JustAthoughtt

    Catken1,

    You don’t site a single thing that you say…

    You dismiss data and research based on… I did it and I turned out ok…

    “I have an extremely healthy marriage, with our 8th anniversary coming up soon.. had premarital sex, cohabited with him for 2 years before marriage, and sometimes have extramarital fantasies.”

    So I guess you would also say that people don’t need an education bc you can become very successful without one right?

    He is simply showing the data for these things, and yes, there is such a thing as a right way and a wrong way to do things…

    Christians are sinners just like everyone else. They do things that they shouldn’t (divorce, cheat, etc), the main difference is that they know they are terrible sinners in need for mercy, forgiveness, and love (found though the life and death of Jesus).

    Are there absolutes, undeniable truths, or is everything relative and subjective? How do we come to right and wrong?

  • TKH2

    102% of statistics quoted in comments are inaccurate

  • Fontastinot

    “The prospective father has no “say” in that matter, and if she decides to keep it, and dump the father, the state will back her up there too, and collect child support from him, for her.”

    Although I am not pro choice (I don’t make a distinction between ending the life of a baby inside or outside of the womb), but I do think that this statement is flawed. The “prospective father” should know that anytime he has sex with a woman a possible result is conception. If he’s not willing to accept that possible outcome he shouldn’t have sex.

  • Fontastinot

    I would be heartbroken if my husband admitted extramarital fantasies to me and expected me to be ok with them. You may see this as part of a normal relationship, but I wonder if your husband’s sense of male pride is not secretly hurt by your admissions. Would you truly not be negatively affected by this sort of information from your husband after the initial lustful high wears off?

  • 4jkb4ia

    In the quoted document “59% say that sexual thoughts or fantasies are OK” in the context of porn in general. There is nothing extramarital about what is there.

  • 4jkb4ia

    Miriam’s husband had nothing to do with slandering Moses. You are thinking of why Aaron didn’t get tzaraas. Sorry.

  • 4jkb4ia

    The whole point of that was that Miriam was a prophet and her husband was not. Similarly Deborah and Esther were traditionally understood to be prophetesses. If you have that, “the husband is head of the wife” makes no logical sense. A prophet is someone you should listen to.

  • 4TAP

    Mark, I want to buy your book. Where can I get one?

  • cardinals717

    Anecdotal evidence does not mean that something is true or the norm.

  • haveaheart

    “But what’s crazy is everyone continuing to do what already isn’t working.”

    Actually, a lot of couples are continuing to do what has worked well for them in the long term — mutual respect, listening carefully, and having a sense of humor.

    None of this requires Jesus, religious belief, or purchasing yet another idiotic self-help book from yet another sanctimonious preacher (who is certainly very luckly to get these nice plugs in WaPo for his latest economic venture).

  • catatonicjones

    A recent poll found that 40 percent of men sign in the shower, while 60 percent beat off. Do you sing in the shower? Ohhhh, you don’t.

  • cosmopolite

    • For the first time in U.S. history, single adults outnumber married adults.
    ME. How many of those singles are in committed relationships?

    • For those who do marry, over 40 percent of marriages end in divorce, according to the New York Times.
    ME. This has been true since the mid 1970s.

    • Between 25 to 50 percent of Americans commit adultery, depending on the study.
    ME. I do not know what to make of rates that high. I will say that business travel is rife with occasions of sin, and married women do a lot more business travel than they used to.

    • Some 59 percent of adults believe extramarital fantasies are OK.
    ME. The moral opprobrium attached to lewd thoughts has hugely declined.

    • Three out of four of Americans have premarital sex before the age of 20.
    This has been true for a generation. Our popular and parenting culture EXPECTS people to have sex between high school graduation and eventual marriage.

    • An estimated 15 percent of married couples haven’t had sex in six months to a year.
    ME. An amazing fact. Nearly 10,000 people have joined the “I live in a sexless marriage” group at the Experience Project.

    • Over half of all first marriages are now preceded by cohabitation according to Population Studies, and this figure is rising.
    ME. This is true all over the North Atlantic, and needs to be studied internationally.

    • Annual rates of depression among cohabitators are more than three times higher than among married couples.
    ME. Cohabitation makes women feel insecure.

    • Women in cohabitating relationships are twice as likely as married women to suffer physical abuse. Women in cohabitating relationships are about nine times more likely to be killed by their partner than married women.
    ME. Cohabitation is common in the underclass, whose men are notoriously violent.

    • Couples who cohabitate before marriage report less marital happiness and more conflict when married. Studies almost always find that cohabitators who eventually marry are more likely to divorce.
    ME. This has been known for s

  • haveaheart

    Fontastinot,

    So, you’re happier that he keeps them to himself? (I guarantee you that he has them — as do most men and women).

  • lastmogul

    Number one divorce state: Oklahoma, Number two, Mississippi. Lowest divorce state: Massachusetts, first in the nation to okay gay marriage. Deal with it!

  • FloridaChick

    this author’s last name is cited differently in the byline than in the photo cutline. what is his name, Wash Post? is that too much to ask?

  • Fontastinot

    “So, you’re happier that he keeps them to himself? (I guarantee you that he has them — as do most men and women).”

    All things that occur should not be embraced

  • hokirob

    Tough topics. Big challenge. Good one to take!

  • amm72

    I think I know what “marriage is about serving one another” is supposed to mean, but phrased like that it sounds very Stepford. “We weren’t happy with one another, so we submerged our difficulties and chose to ‘serve one another selflessly.’”

    Well, that or like “we spiced things up with a fetish.” Pretty sure neither implcation is intended.

  • primalucem

    My healthy, monogamous, and loving marriage has absolutely nothing to do with Jesus. I should also mention that it began with cohabitation, which is a wonderful way to determine whether you and your partnership should take the next (and ideally permanent) step. Almost everyone I know who married right out out of high school is divorced now, which usually makes them single parents. Maybe they should have cohabited first, or payed more attention to their partner than to Jesus.

  • dpm367

    I think that’s the photographer’s name…

  • dpm367

    Could the author please cite his statistics. Numbers say a lot, but mostly they reveal the author’s spin. I have a strong suspicion that these statistics are either taken out of context, not examined by an objective body, or exaggerated.

    Also, plenty of people live good, moral and decent lives without the teachings of Jesus.

  • Ralphinjersey

    Let me get this straight, if my wife and I are Jewish or Hindu or Muslim or whatever, we’re supposed to convert to Christianity as a prerequisite for a happy marriage?

  • Ralphinjersey

    • Couples who cohabitate before marriage report less marital happiness and more conflict when married. Studies almost always find that cohabitators who eventually marry are more likely to divorce.
    ME. This has been known for some years, and I am very curious as to what is really going on here.

    Speculating here, but it may have to do with the lack of a legally binding commitment. When you’re married, you tend to tough it out or work it out because it’s a lot harder to get out of a marriage than into one. When you’re living together, there’s less of an imperative to endure, which may amplify the perceived seriousness of a later marriage’s routine ups and downs.

  • Ralphinjersey

    Thanks for putting this so well. What’s the over/under on how many months before the author’s gay-sex scandal breaks?

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