The Love ListThe Love List
Dr. Les Parrott, Dr. Leslie Parrott
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Doctors have prescribed eight healthy habits well within reach of every couple that can refresh, transform and restore the intimacy of your marriage relationship. Filled with practical suggestions and assessments on implementing each behavior, this book will help you make daily, weekly, monthly and yearly improvements in your marriage.

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The Secret of "The List"

We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a
big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make
which, over time, add up to big differences that we often
cannot foresee.
Marian Wright Edelman

On any given night at our house, about the time our local nightly news airs, you're likely to find both of us perusing the cereal boxes lined up in our kitchen pantry for a late-night snack. Bran Flakes or Frosted Flakes? Shredded Wheat or Special K? It's a scene that has occurred countless times over the course of nearly two decades of marriage. We never planned this nightly ritual; it just happened. And now it's reflexive. A habit. Whoever gets there first typically sets out a bowl and spool for the other. We do it by instinct, and this seemingly inconsequential and mundane act at the end of our day has become one of the many panels in the quilt of behaviors we've sewn together as a couple.

Every husband and wife, knowingly or not has dozens of deeds similar to this that they do out of habit—some more helpful to the relationship than others. But rarely are these little habits intentional. They simply evolve. For example, a couple might make the bed together most days. They might read the paper on the front stoop most Saturday mornings. They may visit a favorite park most months, or maybe they always have Chinese food on New Year's Eve. All good things. So what's our point? Every day, every week, every month, and every year, we cut long-lasting grooves or habits into our relationship. We do so without thinking. Yet in the daily grind, few couples realize that, with a little thought and a little intention, they could consciously cultivate a set of specific habits known to work wonders.

After years of studying couples who live and love to the fullest, couples in the top ten percent, we now know what behaviors are bound to increase marital satisfaction for the rest of us. We now know that an intentional couple can revolutionize their relationship—whether it be floundering on the rocks or sailing along at a good clip. Couples everywhere who want to step out of the quiet routine of mediocrity and live life to the fullest, couples who want to love each other to the fullest can do so—if they know the secret of "The Love List."

Cutting a New Groove in Your Relationship

I (Les) have always liked lists. Shopping lists. Honor lists. Wish lists. Lists of goals and dreams. My favorite is the common to-do-list. I live by it. Maybe you do too. And if so, you know the wonderful feeling of checking an item off your list. With a simple check mark we know we've accomplished something we set out to do. We've made progress. The little check tells us we've taken another step—big or small—in the direction we want to go.

Short and to the point. That's the value of a good list. And we intend to make that the primary value of this book too. We cut straight to what you can do—starting today—to make your marriage better. How do we do this? By giving you the ultimate to-do list for couples. It's a proven list for pin-pointing specific behaviors, actions, and habits sure to keep your love life running at its peak.

But here's what most people don't know about a to-do list: Simply having it in your possession dramatically increases your chances of reaching your goals. Research has shown that people who make a tangible list and keep it handy are far more likely to achieve their goals than others who have the very same desires but don't make a list.

So we ask you, what's on your list? Do you have one? Do you have a tangible to-do list for making your marriage—one of the most important relationships on earth—all it was meant to be? We hope so, but if you are like the majority of couples, you probably don't. Sure, you've thought about things you'd like to incorporate into your relationship, but like a flare that quickly fades, the ideas pass through your mind for a moment only to be blown away by the next breeze of routine life.

That's why we wrote this book. We've seen far too many well-intentioned couples yearning to enjoy their love life to the fullest but never considering a strategic plan for doing so. They are simply lulled into a mediocre marriage that never reaches its potential. The to-do list provided in this book can change that.

The Love List—or the eight healthy habits, as we call them—is within reach of every couple. Let us allay some potential fears right at the start. The items on this list are not extravagant. They won't cost you more money. They aren't going to require inordinate amounts of time. And they are not just for the romantically gifted. The Love List, short and to the point, is not for perfect people. It's for busy couples who sometimes bicker, get stressed out, have communication meltdowns, struggle with money, are not always sure how to discipline their kids, and all the rest. In other words, the Love List is for real life. Plus, it's fun. It focuses on things you can do, and when you follow it, you will see results almost immediately.

How the Love List Works

The Love List begins by enumerating two things you can do once each day. For example, it will ask you to find something that makes you both laugh. Do this every day. You already know that laughter joins your spirits, but you've probably never intentionally set out to find something funny together. We'll show you how.

The Love List will reveal two things to do each week in your marriage. It will ask you to boost your partner's self-esteem, for example. Not a tall order for some, but you'd be surprised how many couples overlook the value of this simple ritual—or at least don’t understand what they are missing when they neglect it. We'll show you how to buoy up your partner with encouragement.

Next, the Love List will point you to two things to do each month. Ridding yourselves of harmful residue is an example from this part of the list. Every marriage, no matter how good, is bound to acquire a buildup of unhealthy attitudes and behaviors. Gunk is inevitable when you live day in and day out with someone. And, yet again, most couples rarely take the time for cleaning the system, for keeping the engine of their marriage tuned up. The chapter on this item of the list will give you several strategies for doing just that.

The final portion of the Love List points you to two important exercises you will conduct on a yearly basis. One of them is to chart your course for the coming year. We'll show you why this makes such a significant difference for couples, when it is most optimal to do so, and how to do it.

All in all, the Love List will give you eight healthy habits to cultivate. In our work with newlyweds, we tell them to choose their ruts carefully because they are going to be in them for a long time. And they are. We are creatures of habit; there's no denying it. Yet those habits can be honed to be more healthy, more positive, and more productive. We can step out of our mundane ruts and cut new grooves in our marriage that will serve us well—if we live by the Love List.

The Danger of Living with Lists—Les's Perspective

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright once told of an incident that seemed insignificant at the time, but had a profound influence on the rest of his life. The winter he was nine, he went walking across a snow-covered field with his no-nonsense uncle. As the two of them reached the far end of the field, his uncle stopped him. He pointed out his own tracks in the snow, straight and true as an arrow's flight, and then young Frank's tracks meandering all over the field. "Notice how your tracks wander aimlessly from the fence to the cattle to the woods and back again," his uncle said. "And see how my tracks aim directly to my goal. There is an important lesson in that."

Years later the world-famous architect liked to tell how this experience had greatly contributed to his philosophy in life. "I determined right then," he'd say with a twinkle in his eye, "not to miss most things in life, as my uncle had."

It's a good lesson, one I've tried to learn myself. Maybe like you, I can become so compelled by my to-do-list (it's neatly organized on my electronic date book) that I miss out on the spontaneity of a moment that offers far more than the satisfaction of completing another task. And maybe like you, I can become so driven to check tasks and goals off my list, I never stop to smell the proverbial roses, thinking I'll do that when I'm finished with my list. Like countless others, if I'm not careful, I run the risk of spending my entire life preparing to live.

Are you in the same category? Are you task oriented? Do you stay straight on course, rarely veering for fun? This discipline certainly has its place, but not around the Love List. As you begin this journey with your partner, lighten up. The behaviors and activities on the list are not meant to become ritualistic compulsions. They are not an end in themselves. They are a means to a deeper, more fulfilling love life with your spouse. So take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy the journey as you check things off the Love List in due course.

The Danger of Living Without Lists—Leslie's Perspective

Now, those of us who are happy to meander through life without an intentional plan face another kind of hazard. We may be missing out on more than we know, and it's time we wake up and smell the check boxes. It's time we recognize the advantages of having a few "to-dos"—especially for our marriage. Sure, we're content to go with the flow, dabble in this and dabble in that. Our free-spirited ways bring joy and spontaneity to life for the very reason that we are not slaves to a perpetual list of tiring tasks.

But the Love List is not your typical to-do list. Speaking from personal experience, I've come to view the eight healthy habits of loving couples more like a work of art Les and I are continually creating. It's not monotonous. It's not mundane. Every item on this list breathes freshness into our relationship—just when we need it most.

I've also come to liken the Love List to a compass. It keeps us headed in the right direction. It keeps us going where we both want to go. So, know this: I'm not particularly fond of to-do lists. I'm spontaneous to the core. Maybe you are too. Maybe you are a free spirit. If so, you are also a kindred spirit for me. I understand. You probably feel uneasy about the idea of attaching a to-do list to your love life. But don't throw the idea out until you've given it a chance.

Here's why. Truth be told, I can go for months and never make a list. I'm content to do whatever I think of doing from moment to moment. But once Les and I started putting the Love List into practice in our own marriage, the results amazed me. We are more in tune, more fulfilled, and more in love whenever we live by the Love List.

The Promise of the Love List

A few small actions—practiced on a daily, a weekly, monthly, and yearly basis—can change everything for a couple. Little, deliberate behaviors quietly lavish love on a marriage. There's no need for most of us to get bogged down in an intricate and elaborate overhaul of our relationship. The majority of couples can maximize their love life by internalizing a simple list of loving behaviors and activities that will soon become habits. And in return, these healthy habits will erect an impenetrable fortress, known as a great marriage.

But remember this: A great marriage is not built quickly. It is constructed thought by thought, action by action. It happens year upon year. We are always in process. Always growing. But as we live the Love List in our marriage, we can place our heads on our pillows each night knowing we have done our best. And that's a gift. Victor Hugo said it this way: "When you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake." So true. And God will do his work in us and our marriage.

Excerpted from:
The Love List by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott, copyright 2002. Used by permission. All rights reserved.