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The Attitudes That Strengthen Your Marriage

Original Air Date 10/26/2015

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In his characteristic humorous style, Pastor Mark Gungor outlines nine positive attitudes that are essential for a good marriage.

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Episode Transcript


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Pastor Mark Gungor: Life is tough. Marriage is tough. It's hard. It's really, really hard. But it's supposed to be. Anything worth having is hard. Look, what your spouse does may very well irritate you until the day you die. The good news is you die. (Laughter)

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John: Well, with that, we're getting set for quite a ride on the broadcast today, as we have a very humorous message for you to help you thrive and not just survive in your marriage. This is "Focus on the Family" and we're presenting one of our best programs from 2015, based on your responses. And our host is Focus president, Jim Daly. Thanks for joining us. I'm John Fuller.

Jim Daly: Well, as Pastor Mark Gungor indicated in that opening clip, marriage is hard. It's hard work, but you know what? It's worth it and the key is having the right attitude and that's what Mark will talk about today in a very fun and humorous way. He's the lead pastor of Celebration Church. He must be a fun guy to hang around with.

John: I'd think so, yeah.

Jim: And that's a multi-site church with four campuses in Wisconsin. You're from Wisconsin, John.

John: I am.

Jim: There you have it. He's also a relationship and personality expert and has been married to Debbie, (Laughing) poor Debbie, for more than 40 years. We're--

John: How ... how--

Jim: --praying for you, Debbie.

John: --how would you like to be married 40 years to somebody (Laughter) who's thinkin', but the good news is, I get to die?

Jim: Yeah. I mean, that's a lot of fun and I think you're gonna enjoy today's presentation.

John: Here's Pastor Mark Gungor and our thanks by the way, to Woodmen Valley Chapel, a church here in Colorado Springs, where the message was recorded.


Pastor Mark Gungor: Jesus gave on His Sermon on the Mount, what we call His "beatitudes," fancy word for "blessings." It's when He said, you know, "Blessed are the poor, blessed are the meek," Blessed are all the stuff like that. So, there were nine of those. I said, you know, I want to my nine "be-attitudes of marriage." Now they're not blessings; it's a play off the word "beatitude." Mine are attitudes you should be. Their be attitudes, all right? So, that's what we're gonna go over.

Now I realize, not everybody here is married. Some people are single and plan to stay that way. Some people are single, hoping to find someone to do life with. Others have been married and have been divorced. Some of you are happily married, and some of you are married, hoping to be single. (Laughter) Well, everybody's in a different place. I get it, okay? But these are all good principles for us and I want to through these be attitudes with you this morning, successful be attitudes that might help you to succeed in marriage relationships. The first be attitude is be nice. Everybody say, "Be nice."

Audience: Be nice.

Mark: Just be nice, for heaven sakes. Your mama was right. If you don't have somethin' good to say, don't say it. Now for some bizarre reason, we think marriage license is permission not to be nice. "I don't have to be nice; I'm married." All right? (Laughter) And some of the sweetest people in the world this morning in church, singin' songs (Laughter), until we get you home. Whaa! (Laughter)

And we think, not only do we have the right to be mean as a rattlesnake, we believe it is our God-given responsibility. But you would be wrong in thinking that. The reason we think this way is because of a line of thought that entered Western culture several decades ago and I'm sure you'll be familiar with this insane line of thinking, but it goes like this. The key to a successful marriage is, you have to be honest with how you feel, to be honest with your feelings, you know, for heaven's sake.

My wife and I just celebrated our 41st wedding anniversary. (Cheers and Applause) Yes, yes, what a lucky girl. And (Laughter) people always ask us, how have you been married for 41 years? And I always say, it's because we're not honest with how we feel. (Laughter) Who does that? Only crazy people do that!

Now, without question, you'll have issues you need to discuss and there'll be times you just have to flat-out fight, but you can still be nice; be civil about it. This license that we think to be mean, some of you all, you wouldn't be that mean to a dog, just go off on your spouse, "Ah! Flahen, flagenmo." If you apply that to any area of life, life would be a disaster. Can you imagine people tomorrow morning deciding to go to work based on how they feel? Calling their boss and say, "Listen, boss, I'd really love to come to work today; I really would, but I'm not feeling it. And (Laughter) while I'm at it, I feel you're a moron." (Laughter) Really?

And listen to me, the key to success in any area of life is not to listen to how you feel. This idea that you've gotta be connected with your feelings and your feelings help make all the decisions of your life is insanity. It's destroying our country. We need to stop.

No. 2, be content. Everybody say, "Be content." (Audience response) Just be happy. If you're the kind of person that you feel something in your life has to change before you can be happy, you'll be a victim all of your life. Don't live in the world of "I'd rather be," or "I wish I'd rather be." "Oh, if I just lived over there, and I didn't live here, if I just had a nicer house than the one I've got." "If I hadn't married this idiot and I would've married the other idiot," (Laughter) I could finally be happy.

No, stop. You need to be happy right now, even if your life is horrible. It's called "the secret." Paul wrote about in Philippians, pretty familiar verse of Scripture says, "I can do all things through Christ Who gives me strength." We all know this verse, right? It's the most misquoted out-of-context verse in the Bible today. People always quote it as, ah, Jesus'll help me and everything will always be great.

That's not really the context. The context is, I can handle anything miserable. That's the context of that verse. He said, "Whether I'm hungry, whether I'm full, whether I'm broke, or I have lots, whether I'm in pain, or no pain at all," he said, "I've learned the secret." Know what the secret is? He says, "To be content no matter what my circumstances." And that's when he says, "'Cause I can do all things." The all things he's talkin' about is the lousy stuff of life. "I can do all things through Christ, Who gives me strength."

Our joy has to come from God. James wrote. He says, "Count it all joy when your life is going terribly. [It] don't matter if your life is goin' good all the time and circumstances [are good.]. You gotta learn to be happy the first and you single people, if you are miserable and you think getting married is gonna make you happy, (Laughter) (Sound of knocking on pulpit), (Laughing) (Applause) oh, I'm sorry, that's very funny. (Laughter)

Look, one lonely miserable soul that marries another lonely miserable soul, just makes a marriage of two lonely miserable souls. Marriage isn't designed to make you happy. You're supposed to be happy in the first place. You need to learn to be happy even when he does the disgusting things he will do. You need to be happy even when she's "Bock, bock, bock, bock-aw!" at you all day long. You need to learn (Laughter) to be happy!

Enjoy life. Enjoy the journey. Quit waiting for everything to be perfect all the time. You need to enjoy the road, 'cause the road you're on might be a dead end. (Laughter) It could be; you don't know. People say, "Pastor, how will I know if I'm on a dead end?" "When you get to the end!" (Laughter) Sometimes it's, "Oh, man, this is the wrong way." So what? Enjoy life. That light you see at the end of the tunnel might be another train." (Laughter) Life is full of unexpected [things]. You need to learn to be happy!

I've never understood people who are like that, not Christian people, because our joy should come from heaven and that we're valued. It doesn't matter what you have, you know. You need to learn to be happy. Enjoy life. Okay, you want to a great marriage, learn to be content.

Next one,be connected. Everybody say, "Be connected." (Audience response) Get some friends, you people. Good night. And they went, "Oh, we have friends. I have my friends, and he has his friends." No (Chuckling), no. That's the problem. We all have crazy cycle people who think as dysfunctionally as we do. That's why they're our friends (Laughter), all right?

I'm not talking about your personal friends; I'm talkin' about couple friends. You want a successful marriage, you find some other couples, hopefully, those who have better marriages than you, and you share your lives with each other. Get together, have dinner, go out, barbecue, whatever, and talk life through. Just talk it through. See, people get so crazy and they fight over the stupidest little things. Get some friends. Talk it out. You'll find out they got the same problems you got. Maybe someone else figured things out. But we get so mad over stuff, we can't see. You want that off? I want the thermostat at 72. See, I want it at 70! Well, I want it at 72! Your friends might say, "Have you tried 71?" (Laughter) Oh, no, we never thought about that. (Laughter)

Get some friends, and don't think like this stupid American thinking that says, "In marriage, nobody should know our business. This is our business. Nobody should know our business, our business." That's insane thinking. No wonder some of y'all are so miserable. Marriage was never designed to be two people on an island all by themselves. If it's just you and your spouse on an island all by yourselves, you will turn into cannibals and you will eat each other! (Laughter) Get connected.

Here's the next one: be prepared. Everybody say, be prepared. Life is tough. Marriage is tough. It's hard. It's really, really, really, it's hard. But it's supposed to be. Anything worth having is hard. Look, what your spouse does may very well irritate you until the day you die. The good news is, you die. (Laughter) Life is hard. That's why you want to find someone of character. You single people, you're still datin', tryin' to find someone to do life with? Look for someone of character. Don't get caught up in how cute they are. Character will last through a lifetime. Sexy has a shelf life. (Laughter)

Life is hard; it's frustrating; it's unpredictable. You don't know what life's gonna bring you. That's why when you get married, we make you make the big promise, 'cause we know what's coming. You come to the office; you're so excited. "He, he, he. Tee-hee, hee. It's gonna be so great. It's gonna be great." You're like, "Yeah, yeah, yeah. Do you promise (Laughter) for better or for worse? Richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until you die?" (Laughter) 'Cause we know what's comin'. All right? You have to be prepared; life is hard, unexpected.

A couple of years ago, my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was so sick, almost to the point of death just that first week of chemo alone. Finally, we brought her home from the hospital. They'd given her too much; it was a bad reaction. She could hardly sleep at night, just off on the drugs, just ahh, ahh, ahh. Sunday morning I had to get up to go get ready for church and I looked at her and she goes, "Aah." So, I wanted to be as quiet as I could, you know.

Now at the time, I had a younger brother living with me, 'cause his wife had kicked him out of the house. He deserved it. And he's supposed to be there six weeks. Nine months later, he's still there. And he's all depressed and getting, ahh, ahh, ahh. I can't deal; I'm yellin' at him, "Dude, snap out of it!" Apparently, yelling at depressed people is not helpful. (Laughter) Who knew? (Laughter)

So, you know, I can't deal with him. I got my wife, you know, ahh, ahh! And he's all depressed. And I got, aah. So, I'm ignoring him and tryin' to help her and somewhere during the night that night, he had just totally snapped, total manic fit. He hadn't slept for days, and he just starts hallucinating and he walks into the kitchen. And he gets in a big argument with me and threatens to kill me, but I'm not there. (Laughter)

But my wife wakes up and she hears him in the kitchen arguing with me, threatening to kill me. And she gets freaked out. So, she gets 911 and she calls the police. "You gotta come right away. Someone's tryin' to kill my husband!" So, "Okay, hang on, we're on our way."

So, they come. So, finally I come walkin' out. She looks at me and goes, "Uh! What are you doin' here?" (Laughter) "I live here." "I thought you were in the kitchen. Your brother's tryin' to kill you! " Now see, I think she's hallucinating, (Laughter) 'cause she's takin' all the drugs, you know, ahh, ahh, ahh.

Well, the police, well, for heaven's sakes! But I run outside and the cop says, "Sir, someone's threatening your life!" And I look at the cop and I look at my wife and I look at the cop. Now you know that look your wife can give you, that "I'm gonna kill you look?" (Laughter) You should see that look when you're tryin' to tell a cop right in front of her that she's crazy. (Laughter) This is not a good look.

So, I thought, man, she's on a lot of drugs and everything and she's just, "Rrh," red in the face. And then all of sudden, cop cars come zoomin' in front of our street. Yrr, yrrh, yrrh. They stop and they jump out and they surround the house with their weapons pulled.

But at this point, I didn't care. I'm like, what'll the neighbors think? It's Sunday morning, the pastor's house. (Laughter) Police have surrounded it with guns. I could picture the guy across the street lookin' out his window goin', "I knew they had a crack house in there. (Laughter) Somethin' wrong with them people over there."

Life is hard. You want to find someone you can do life with. When you get married, it's about doing life together. It's not all about giggles and grins.

Next one, be proactive. Everybody say--

Audience: --be proactive.

Mark: That means, you gotta do life on purpose. People who have good marriages have them on purpose. The rest of you are waitin' for spontaneity. "Pastor, how do we have more spontaneity in my marriage?" Well, who cares about spontaneity? Phooey with spontaneity! What you need is intentionality! Amen.

Jesus taught us that you reap what you sow. The Bible's very clear. It says, God will not be mocked. You will reap what you sow. You say, "Well, He'll forgive me." Sure, but you're still gonna reap what you sow. It's the realities of life, okay? If your life stinks, it's because you're doing stinking things.

Now we don't like to hear that. We live in an America today where my life is bad, 'cause of everybody else's fault. It's their fault; it's their fault. It's my parent's fault. It's the government's fault, everybody else's fault. So, it's not my fault! My life is terrible. It's a mystery.

The truth of the matter is, if your life stinks, you're doing stinking things. Now if you don't know what those are, or are having a difficult time defining them, come see us. That's why the church is here. We've got pastors and people here that will minister to you and help you identify the stinking things you're doing. But you're going to have to be proactive. You get good life on purpose.

Here's the next one: be clear. Everybody say "be clear." (Audience response) Now this is an important one, because usually in a marriage, you have one very emotive person and the other one is much more not emotive. Usually it's the wife, but not always.

There are lots of marriages where it is the guy; he's all feely, touchy, emotive, ahh, ahh, ahh. Now the problem with emotive people is they think they're being clear, because they feel it so deeply. And they're convinced "Everyone can tell how I feel." And when you don't feel it, they think you're an insensitive cold monster. But it's not; it's as you've got to clearer. Don't just expect someone else is gonna get it, okay?

Now, most of the time it's women who tend to feel this way. It's just a stereotype, but it's just a stereo[type]. Now the reason you have stereotypes is because generally it's true. But it's not always true; there's always exceptions to stereotypes. Don't have a cow.

For example, a typical stereotype, men are more interested in sex than their wives. Why would you say that? 'Cause this is generally true, but it's not always true. There's lots of relationships where it is the wife who's much more interested in sex than her husband.

In fact, if you're listening to me right now and you happen to be in a relationship where your wife is much more interested in sex than you, I think I speak for all the men this morning when I say that we hate you. (Laughter) Please do not share. But it's just a stereotype, okay, so stereotypically, women are more emotive than men, and they think they're being clear when they're not.

So let me throw this little free thing for you this morning. How, ladies, this alone is worth the hassle of coming to church today; I'm gonna share with you how you can get a man to do what you want him to do, all right? It's important stuff. You might want to write this down, all right?

No. 1, ask for what you want. (Laughter) Be clear. "Well, if he really loved me, he'd know what I want." (Laughter) If you think he's gonna know just because he loves you, you're crazy. If you want him to know what you're feeling and thinking, you have to say [it]. You want something from a man, ask for it.

No. 2, you need to ask more than once. (Laughter) Asking your man to do something once is like never having asked him to do it at all. (Laughter) No. 3, you need to ask without insulting. "What's the matter with you? Can't you pick up the laundry?" No, I can't. (Laughter) I wish I could; I just can't do it." (Laughter) Of course, now we have very spiritual women, brr, brr, brr, very spiritual, I don't know, but if my husband was more godly, more like God, godly.

Really? You want your husband to be more godly? You like God? Let's talk about you and God. Now if you want something from God, what's the first thing you have to do? You have to ask for what you want, even though God, unlike your husband, actually knows what you want before you ask Him.

No. 2, Jesus taught, you need to ask more than [once]. He said you need to ask. Keep on asking. Knock; keep on knocking. Be persistent. And No. 3, you don't insult Godwhen He doesn't move according to your timetable. Hey! (Laughter) See, apparently, your husband is more godly than you thought. (Laughter)

Next one is be doers. Everyone say, "Be doers." Get the book, 'cause I'm running out of time; you have to read about that, all right. You gotta do the right thing. Just thinking and feeling the right thing doesn't mean jack. You might believe all the right stuff, but if you don't do it, it's not gonna help you.

Next one, be patient. Everybody say, "Be patient. (Audience response) The good news, ladies, is you can get a man eventually to where you want him. See, women do improve men, and they do … men don't like being improved. Men don't like being changed, but every study has shown that married men fare much better than single men. Same education, same everything, you take a married man, married men are happier; they are healthier. They live longer; they make more money, are more productive than single men.

In fact, studies show that being single is one of the most dangerous things a man can do in our culture. They say it's equivalent of smoking 2 ½ packs of cigarettes a day. Isn't that amazing? I guess the worst thing is a single guy who smokes 2 ½ (Laughter) packs of cigarettes a day. (Laughter)

So, women do improve men. You can eventually get a man to where you want him, girls. The bad news is, then he dies (Laughter), 'cause it took so long, you know. You gotta be patient. Marriage is a dance that is perfected over time. You ever go to a wedding and they have the slow dancing, and all the young people do the slow dancing. And they grab each other and waddle back and forth like penguins, you know. (Laughter) They're just terrible. They don't know what to do. They ahh … ahh … ahh.

But the older couples, you watch the older couples as they float around the room, and they twirl and they spin, because they've learned how to interact with each other. Marriage is a dance that is perfected over time. You have to be patient.

Finally, be dead. Everybody says, "Be dead." Well, what is that about? Listen, you can't possible read the New Testament without coming away with the idea that God wants to kill you. (Laughter) It's true; it's true. Not the physical you, but the selfish part of you. How many times has the New Testament talked about laying down your life, picking up your cross? Paul said, "I'm crucified with Christ." Jesus said, "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies," in other words, that it gets down in there and it transforms. It stops being what it was. If it doesn't die, it'll just remain a seed stuck in the ground.

But if it will die and transform, it will break out of the dirt into the glorious sunshine. But boy, if that doesn't describe a lot of people today, married, single, Christian, non-Christian. They get planted in the ground and they refuse to let go.

Which brings us to the final point about marriage, nobody gets everything they want. In fact, God doesn't even want you to get everything you want. At some point, you need to let go and let God. Do you know why God wants us to die? Because dead people are very easy to get along with. (Laughter) Very patient, dead people. You could ignore them all day, they don't care. Poke 'em with a stick; they never hit you back. They're very nice people. (Laughter)

You need to let go. "Well, pastor, how do I get such and such?" In fact, most of the questions, if I were to take questions from all the campuses and you could e-mail 'em, text 'em to me, most of the questions will be, "How do I get my spouse to do …?" And fill in the blank. That's what most of you are thinkin' this morning. How can I get this?

You don't get everything you want. In fact, you're not even supposed to have everything you want. God wants you to die to yourself. And there is no more perfectly crafted institution designed to kill you than marriage, (Laughter) because you can't do it and stay selfish. It's impossible. And all marriages end for one reason and one reason only. Somebody or both of them gets selfish. We need to learn to let go and to let God, 'cause Jesus said, if you hang on to everything you want, you won't get anything.


John: Pastor Mark Gungor on today's "Focus on the Family" with Jim Daly. And I hope you enjoyed his message on what he calls the be-attitudes of marriage."

Jim: Mark really had the attention of the audience and I hope you were able to come away with some good practical helps for your marriage and maybe laugh a little bit along the way. I know I was. He landed on the very serious point of dying to self and that's what the Christian life requires of us and that's what marriage requires of us. I've often said it. I think that's the design of it. He put us together to kind of break down that selfishness that exists. In fact, in Mark, chapter 8, the Scripture lets us know about this. It says, "For whoever would save his life, will lose it. But whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel's, will save it." That's the principle here.

When we lift the Lord up and put Him first and that means putting others first, you know what? We get that reward. Our marriages will be better off if we learn how to put our spouse ahead of ourselves. I struggle with it. There's no perfection here. Jean and I have to do that daily. Let's take that thought home with us today and put it into practice and if you're feeling yourself slippin' to selfishness, think back to Mark's words.

John: Yeah, he's offered some really good reminders and here at Focus on the Family, we want to help you have a stronger relationship. And we've got programs like this one and a variety of printed resources and DVDs, even counseling if you need to talk to somebody.

Now today we're offering the CD of this presentation by Pastor Mark Gungor and we've called it "The Attitudes that Strengthen Your Marriage." Ask for that when you call 800-A-FAMILY or you'll find it at . Now we'll send CD that to you when you contribute a gift of any amount to support the work of Focus on the Family. Did you know, in the past 12 months, over 800,000 couples have built stronger marriages with the help of Focus and our resources? Now you're a part of that as you pray for and contribute to the work here. So, please make a generous contribution today and we'll send Mark's CD out to you.

And this note, that the Day of Honoring Marriage is February 14th, Valentine's Day this year. It's a church-wide event that includes married couples, singles and children and we have a kit available for your church so you can participate and really honor marriage. Go to the website and you'll find out how you can get that kit and have an activity.

Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly, I'm John Fuller, thanking you for listening and inviting you back tomorrow. We're gonna hear from Dr. Henry Cloud. He's gonna help you establish healthy boundaries for your children.


Dr. Henry Cloud: You don't make up a strategy on the battlefield. You know, what general ever said, "Okay, let's go fight the war and when we get out there, we'll figure out what to do?" That's not what you do.

End of Excerpt

John: That's tomorrow, as we once again, help you and your family thrive.

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Mark Gungor

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Mark Gungor is one of the most sought-after speakers on marriage and family, with thousands of people attending his seminars and keynote speeches each year. He is the senior pastor of Celebration Church, a multi-site church with five campuses across Wisconsin. Mark is also the CEO of Laugh Your Way America and author of the best-selling book Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage. He and his wife, Debbie, have two grown children and six grandchildren. Learn more about Mark by visiting his website,