[I am currently mentoring several young couples that have either just recently married, or are planning to get married soon. I've encouraged them to read Gary Smalley's excellent book I Promise to help them prepare for married life. Periodically, I'll be posting my thoughts on the 8 chapters from this book. Whether you are newly engaged, newlyweds, or celebrating many years together, feel free to join in the conversation. The goal of these posts is to inspire you to experience life with God in your marriage. Enjoy!]
Chapter One: Why Promise?
Gary Smalley begins this chapter with a true life story of waking up in the middle of the night because his wife is convinced that there’s a prowler in the house! After 32 years with my girl, I can certainly relate to this story. As husbands, we want to keep our wives and our families safe. For Gary & his wife (who live in Branson, MO) they even installed an electronic security system in their house.
At 4:20 a.m. on October 6, 2004, Gary’s wife Norma’s greatest fear materialized. There really was an intruder in their house. Praise God, the story does have a happy ending…if you haven’t read Chapter One yet, sorry for the spoiler.
Gary uses this vignette from his personal life to talk about the need for security in our marriages…not electronic alarms systems but something far more important. “What I’m talking about here is emotional security–the security to truly open up and be known at a deep, intimate level without fear of being blamed, criticized, judged, or condemned.” (p.6)
Gary writes, “After directing a research team in years of study, my son, Dr. Greg Smalley, has determined that the number one key to a satisfying intimate marriage is for couples to maintain security.”
Gary reminds us in this chapter that our brains are hard-wired to seek a loving connection with others. Our need for relationship is built into us by God.
Dr. Bob Paul, director of the National Marriage Institute, has discovered that when you feel safe, you automatically open up and share more & more of your deepest self. (p.8)
Couples are always on the lookout for new and better strategies to make their relationship stronger. What Gary has found, however, is that all these strategies (date nights, reading books, attending seminars, etc.) are really only effective AFTER the vital element of security between partners is established. (p.9)
We all experience a natural resistance to openness. We’re afraid of being hurt or judged. Openness makes us vulnerable, and vulnerability means risk.
Gary writes, “Security reduces the risk…you don’t have to be the expert relationship guru, mastering all the strategies and techniques designed to enhance intimacy; all you need is to feel secure in your marriage, and the best possible relationship possible will happen naturally.” (p.10)
I enjoyed Gary’s illustration of the Bamboo Tree on pages 16-17. Like the Chinese Bamboo Tree, security is the root system of a flourishing marriage.
Here’s another thought that jumped out at me. “A secure marriage needs more than just that initial, under-girding, ‘forever’ promise (usually made @ the Wedding–my comment); it needs a series of subsequent promises to build safety into every facet of a couple living together and developing greater intimacy.” (p.21)
This first chapter concludes with this question: If security is the lock that protects every marriage, what is the key to that lock? That’s the subject of Chapter Two.
Questions worth asking:
How secure is your relationship with your spouse/future spouse? Explain why or why not.
What are you doing to make your relationship more secure?
Is the Bamboo Tree a helpful marriage illustration? Why or why not? At what stage of growth is your relationship?
Describe a time when you recently felt secure enough to open up & share your deepest thoughts, hopes & dreams without an uneasy feeling creeping in?
Building great marriages is another way we all can…
Live the Red,