Marriage is a Mirror

Ever walk past a mirror and are shocked or mortified by what you see?  Your hair standing up in a weird way, your slip showing, your fly open, egg stuck in your teeth?  Mirrors can be real lifesavers.  Had it not been for that mirror, you may have gone the entire day looking ridiculous.

Marriage is a mirror.  By living so closely with another human being, you start to get a picture of what you really look like.  You start to see where you need to adjust and change.  This is why marriage is so effective at making people’s lives more rich and productive—if they adjust to the needed changes.

Unfortunately, many expect marriage to be something that makes them look better, not something that reveals where they don’t look so good.  Additionally, rather than see where we need to change, we opt to project our own negative images on our spouses and point out where they need to change:  She is so irritating….he is such a lazy slob….I don’t want to act this way, but she brings out the worst in me. In the Bible, Adam played the blame game like this:  “That woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

If we believe our spouse is present in the marriage to make us look better, instead of being a mirror to help us see who we really are, we will think our marriage is inadequate whenever one of our faults is revealed.  Like the witch in “Snow White” who became angry at the mirror for not telling her what she wanted to hear, we criticize the mirror—our spouse—in the marriage.  We end up communicating to him or her: This marriage isn’t good. You’re doing something wrong.  We need to get this fixed.

Once you are internally convinced that your marriage is wrong, you will never be able to change it externally; no matter how much you work on your attitude or behavior.  People in troubled marriages seldom grasp the fact that bad marriages cannot become good ones by external pressure.  External marriage-enrichment techniques do not work unless you begin by changing your perception of the marriage.

How do you see your marriage now?  Is it precious to you?  Do you honor, appreciate, and place worth on your marriage—as it is?  If your view of marriage is fundamentally flawed, all the energies and strategies you are using (thinking your marriage will be better if we just do this or we just change that) will end in failure.

Unless you honor your marriage union first—without conditions—your tactics will come across as manipulative strategies to get your spouse to do what you want.  This smacks of duplicity and insincerity.  You must work on your marriage because you believe it is valuable, not because you are trying to make it valuable.  Quick-fix manipulations do not a good marriage make.

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48 Responses to “Marriage is a Mirror”

  1. abigail says:

    Do these techniques help couples, for instance, where one has been abused (whether as a child, or adult by family members etc)? Can someone who is dating a person and sees so much potential but very little understanding of the other’s past experience be a negative to consider for a spouse?

  2. Hurting says:

    Very informative! It is so interesting that we as people can have concerns, hurts, pains that when fully explained are really the same issues our partner is experiencing but handling in different ways. It so difficult when one party refuses to accept any responsibility for their behaviour and attitudes. I think this “without conditions” is so-o important. Christ and God accept us as sinners – to belong to their family – our only condition is to accept Him. When we make “conditions” a deal breaker we are working to destroy and not build up. Thanks for helping me to reflect upon my own responsibilities and think of how I can improve myself and ask God to provide the way back to a healthy relationship in our marriage.

    May God Bless you for your efforts.

  3. Jean says:

    ET si ce site était aussi en français, cela pourrait toucher encore plus de gens qui se sentiraient concernés par vos propos. Qu’en pensez vous ? Dieu vous garde !

    • Andrew Buckman says:

      Thank you for your comment, our site is tested and supported in IE6, IE7, Firefox, and Safari. Unfortunately Opera users represent less than 0.3% of our site visitors and are not a browser we can justify supporting currently.

  4. Mrs.Anonymous says:

    Thank you for this article, What does a wife do if any concern experessed in the marriage is taken defensively by her husband? As a result nothing can ever be said. I often cannot contain my concerns inside any longer because I become depressed. As a result over many years I have used anti-anxiety/anti-depressants, talking to my close girlfriends, and prayer. I think my husband’s inner belief is that good marriages should never have faults/discussions/arguments (whatever you’d want to call them.) Note: I used to be out spoken and inappropriate in how I addressed anything to my husband but now I really try to deliver with care and respect but I still get a defensive response. I’ve been married over 10 years. I no longer feel secure, confident or loved. Is there a way to turn this pattern of bad communication around? A great book you could recommend? OR Have I got this all wrong and I am at fault?

    • Yvonne says:

      25 years here. My husband is the same way. I was depressed, anxious, having panic attacks (not until after year 20). He cannot consider that his reactions may be harmful. My husband becomes catatonic if his rather sensitive emotional buttons are pushed, and I have to reassure him any time anything bad happens, especially if that something bad happens to me. I cannot live my life making him feel like everything is okay when it is not. He will not change unless he wants to, and my husband, at least, chose not to address his rather serious emotional issues (diagnosed with adjustment disorder by MD). He blames me for all his anger and melt downs. I am sorry I did not leave him the time he got out the shot gun. Don’t believe his promises. Believe his actions.

    • Anonymous says:

      I am so sorry. Reading this was like reading my own words. I have been married over 12 years. I still don’t have answers…just get as much support as you can, surround yourself with others who will encourage you, and trust God. Go to counseling on your own if your husband won’t go with you. Try to find someone who is associated with the Gottman Institute. I would also read “Thriving Despite a Difficult Marriage”. I think the last name of the author is Misja but I don’t have it right here. My husband and I are finally in counseling…which at this point in our marriage is not for the faint of heart. Each session has been painful and explosive, though I think at home we are both softening some. Keep hope alive. May God bring healing to you and your husband.

    • Judy says:

      I think your husband needs some male friends in the church to help him to see his pridefulness. Keep praying for those relationships to open up. Keep yours and and your faith/respect for yourself,husband and above all-God:)
      P.S. A couple in the church(matured in marriage situations or counselling) would be great! God bless you-

  5. Claude says:

    Thanks for the info.I was at your service this morning at Rhema Ranburg in South Africa.You realy blessed us My Wife and my 22 old son.He is going to take his “Best Friend” with to your sessions at Rhema..

  6. Martin says:

    Good thoughts Mark. They often say that marriage can’t fix you if you’re not already an equilibrated person. That’s partly true, but what you wrote is also true… marriage helps you cut those rough edges (if you let it)!

  7. natalie says:

    My mom gave me the same advice on my wedding day in 2009. She was right. Marriage is not about someone there to make YOU happy. It someone there to love your flaws. Someone who will teach you patience, hope, faith, and love. Marriage at times is bliss and other days is a adventure. After 3 years I see how my marriage brings me closer to GOD.

  8. Yvonne says:

    When one person needs to define the emotional parameters of the marriage — without discussion — and requires that both people live according to his emotional rules, that is not a marriage. When he cannot speak with any human being other than his wife about anything emotional, when he is bound by his parents’ abuse and neglect and unable to consider that his emotional dependency is strangling the marriage, not to mention making his wife physically ill — what next? There are times when someone has to leave the marriage, because the only other option is to stay and risk being raped by a husband who cannot understand that his wife is unable to respond to a man who can not understand or express emotion without becoming catatonic.

  9. tonya says:

    What if there is a fundamental problem. A problem that psychological research has explained. And the problem has affected the marriage exactly the way psychological research says it would.
    How does the spouse without the “problem” live within the marriage?

  10. bill says:

    i believe my marriage is fundamentally flawed. how do i honor the marriage, without conditions? apparently everything we have tried is simply re-arranging deck chairs.

  11. Kristi says:

    Amen! the truth is what sets us free. As living true from the inside out is the most powerful tool we have to get the most powerful results. Truth and love are intimately aquainted and once we begin to live true, we begin to experience true love!

  12. Natalia says:

    I have been receiving marriage tips from Marks blog for about 3 months now and its just making my marriage better!
    I got married on February 11th and I noticed that there are many things that you learn about your husband only after you get married and, even worst, there are many more thing that you learn about yourself after you get married!
    I would like to thank Mark Gungor for all the tips and for his great wok with couples. =)

  13. Dotty says:

    Love the way you share the truth about marriage in a simple, effective way! We saw Mark Gungor in person down in Bradenton Florida one weekend and it really enhanced our marriage. We have been married 35 wonderful years. Praise God for laughter in marriage!!!

  14. Brandon says:

    This is very true. Have just recently been reading about this very topic in a book called “Sacred Marriage” by Gary Thomas. The subtitle sums it up well… “What if God created marriage to make you holy more than to make you happy?”

  15. Deacon Sonny says:

    I love the info you post. I’m doing a talk to couples in October on the subject of “What Men Think They Know About Women”. Do you have any resources I might be able to use?
    Thanks Deacon Sonny Pagnotta

  16. Ann says:

    does Mark do private phone consults ? i could really use help
    my husband too but wont admit it…been together so long we become business partners rather than romantic couple…can he help ? i sense he can……

  17. Carren says:

    I was so blessed to view:”The Tale of Two Brains”. I have never laughed so hard in all my life! It was so valuable for our marriage!! My husband and I have enjoyed our marriage relationship for 36 years, and it just keeps growing because we invest in our marriage by investing in each other.

  18. Leroy Tavira says:

    My relationship went wrong. I left things for too long,communication broke down.We did the blaming ,its your fault. we are not together at the moment. She moved out. She is younger than me. Could it be our age difference that cause our communication to break down. We have 2 children , a girl and a boy. We are not married. I really want to be happy in my relationship and would like to get married.Do I try change her mind about coming back to me ,do I just let her go. I dont know the answers and just want an insight to what I need to do. I do love her and she is a big part of me. We have been together for 6 years.

  19. Vicky Pretorius says:


    I’ve been married for 19 years. My husband is very attached to his mother. In fact we live on the same plot. She is very dominating & controlling. I have for the past 17 years put up with her interference in my marriage, & with my children. You know the Christian way to be the least & not argue! That did not help at all, she just walked over me. Now that I don’t keep quiet anymore, it is as if they have sided against me. My husband refuses to leave so that we can live as a normal family on our own. He says he is happy & I should learn to live with it. I have had it with my husband & his family. He is very short tempered, complains about everything & everyone. He & his mother always accuse me of turning the kids against them, while all the time they do it themselves. Their attitude toward life & us are repulsive. Just the way they tell you to do something makes you rebellious. I wish I’d NEVER married! I know that as a wife & christian you must be submissive, but I feel I just can’t anymore. He often visit’s his mother alone to discuss me although this is denied. Please help me I HATE my marriage. My mother-in-law is one who preaches to everyone else but does just as she pleases & when confronted will just deny everything. She will scandal about me behind my back but in front of people she will make as if she loves me. This is so plastic, there is nothing genuine about her! I always envy other marriages who have Godly husbands that fear & love God!! Is there any hope for me??? I have developed a hatred for men & feel they just get married so that you can cook & clean for them. Please help!!

    • Cindy says:

      To Vicky Pretorius –

      From someone who has been there. The solution is fasting & prayer! Get the movie Fireproof and then go and get the book. This will not be an easy road; however, it’s worth it. Plus, you’ve already had 17 years of a rough road so this will be a piece of cake.

      The Love Dare is exactly that….a dare. Once you accept, don’t turn back. God sees your heart and though it seems impossible now…NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE TO GOD! He did not call us to be in situations like yours but He can turn it away.

      Advice is the easiest to give and the hardest to follow – try the love dare and pray DAILY that God will bring you out of this valley and onto the mountain top.

      Also, get the Laugh Your Way dvd’s and ask your husband to watch them with you. I pray God gives you speedy release of this burden and lightens the load. Be the witness to your family that God has called you to be and He will fight your battle.

      In Jesus’ Name!

    • Sherri says:

      Hi, Vicky,
      I just read your comment and without presuming to be a professional (like Mark Gungor or a marriage counselor), I would direct you to the book, Boundaries, by Cloud & Townsend. It’s Biblically-based and gives you tools to take the appropriate actions and not feel like a victim that things are happening to. That book was extrememly helpful to me and I wished I’d found it 20 years earlier! And of course your heavenly Father knows what you need and loves you the most–keep calling out to Him. Hang in there!

  20. Barry says:

    I believe to be true in our marriage today getting parties to understand that is the hard part marriage is a commitment between we and God. If one in the believes that half the is won now God has ajod withe other, first He has to brake through the independentlife style, and the years of I can do it myself,when He changes that heart the marriage can be one body.

  21. Jen Troyna says:

    My husband and I have been through a lot in our marriage, but with much prayer and support from our church family, we have overcome and are stronger than ever.

    We have set out on a mission to help others in their marriages. We currently lead a small group at church and are doing the Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage study…we are absolutely in love with it. We are also partnering with your church to offer the Art of Marriage video event coming up in February.

    I just want to thank you for your mission and please know we are praying for the marriages in the world that couples will seek Jesus and serve!

  22. Christy says:

    Today’s email could not have been timed better. I liked “Marriage is a Mirror”. Thank you for this important reminder!

  23. Steve Wright says:

    Mark, your marriage advice is priceless. I love receiving these insights from you. After almost 30 years of marrige we still need all the advice we can get. We have been to the “laugh your way” seminar last year and can’t wait to do it again. Hope you have a safe trip home from Africa…see you at Celebration in a couple weeks.

  24. Cal says:

    I just read your blog on marriage being a mirror–I agree–it is a mirror into our heart and soul–into our relationship with our spouse but also a mirror into our relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Picking the egg out of our teeth is one thing because if we don’t there is embarrassment there is no hiding the egg. It is not a hard thing to pick the egg out of our teeth and move on with life. The mirror of marriage is totally different because when we look into it we see the core of who we really are–if there is something wrong it is not an easy fix–it could take weeks, months, or even years to fix it–it could cost us a chunk of money. And the worst part about when we see something wrong in the marriage mirror is that we can hide it–we can keep smiling in public and everyone thingks everything is fine. It takes courage and a deep commitment to work on what we see in the marriage mirror!

  25. Jude says:

    I’ve been married 35 yrs. We got married when I had just turned 17 and him, 18. I have almost bought every book tape CD DVD on marriage there is. The only problem with that is, my husband listens to part,rarely ever the entirety of them. I read or listen to them alone 99%,I want to at least make sure I am doing my role. He says the only problem in our marriage is that I think there is one. Oh how I wish I could think just like him, LOL! Besides the Bible, and of course, Laughing your way,the book “Boundaries In Marriage”has taught me that as a Christian woman; what boundaries I don’t have to submit to and still be in the Biblical lines of respecting my husband. I am learning to Love God more than I my marriage, but it is very hard. You wrote ” Do you honor, appreciate, and place worth on your marriage—as it is?” On our 35th wedding anniversary I didn’t get a card, a flower, not even a hug or a kiss. I did “honor” him with a card, I did “appreciate” the fact that I had one in the house because he was gone with the truck and I couldn’t go to the store, but I wanted to “Place” on him a full bowl of Pasta with extra sauce on his head(I did ask forgiveness for that). After 35 years of marriage I can honestly say that my marriage is not the way God intended “as it is’. However, I’m not how God wants me to be and he takes me how I am. I can’t say that I am not hurt, but what I have learned in 35 years of marriage is that sometimes sweating the small stuff could leads about him not

    • Jude says:

      LOL I wasn’t finished My point is that sweating the small stuff all the time can lead to having to cope with or pushing him into the bigger stuff!

  26. Debbie says:

    thanks for this insight. I just spent all weekend thinking there was something wrong with our marriage. Satan was working overtime in my mind…until my husband and I prayed together and he suggested I read Matthew 11:28-29. And I read your article- to honor our marriage union. The Lord brought us together for a reason- I need to honor that and seek Him first.

  27. Harry says:

    Mark I thought I heard you say something regarding marriage that there were conditions in marriage. Here you are saying unless you honor your marriage without condition.
    Thanks I watch and listen to you as often as I can.

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