By Jessica Yadegaran
For their 20th wedding anniversary, Kate Marshall did not give her husband, David, the traditional gifts of china or platinum.
Devoted to practicing the art of gratitude, Kate crafted a journal with prompts celebrating their union and singing his praises. She filled in answers to her own sentimental queries, such as "I love when you ...," or "Do you remember this romantic time together," and gave it to her husband.
He loved it so much that he made her a similar journal the following year, for her birthday.
"It was such a positive experience," says David Marshall, sitting close to his wife in their Moraga home. "It brought back all the reasons that we were attracted to each other in the first place."
Three years later, they've rewritten the book of love. "What I Love About You" (Broadway, $13.95) is the fourth fill-in-the-blank journal from the Marshalls, who collaborated on 1998's "The Book of Us," which helps couples chronicle their lives. That book has sold 125,000 copies.
Just in time for a Valentine's Day filled with meaning, "What I Love About You" makes anyone in a relationship reconsider: Does my partner really know how, or why, I love him? Like their previous books, this one draws from memories, but also playfulness.
"Seeing you makes my insides go ..." allows the giver to illustrate his internal butterflies; "Your laugh sounds like ..." lets her be goofy.
"This is a gift for the giver and the receiver," Kate says. "It made me feel wonderful writing it. And receiving a book about how wonderful you are is pretty great."
While Kate insists she's the less verbally intimate of the two, David says the prompt-concept makes expressing themselves easier on guys, who can have a tougher time in that department.
"It's easy enough to buy a beautiful greeting card where the sentiments are pre-written and just sign one's name," he says. "But quite often the personal feelings do not come through."
And if it sounds like something only two crazy young lovebirds can enjoy, think again.
"You can use it to reconnect with your partner, too," Kate says.
The act of remembering and writing down the ties that bind, especially during tough times, can be transformative, the couple says.
"Complaining is easy and sometimes feels more urgent," Kate says. "But ultimately there is nothing more important than saying 'I love you,' and nothing more rewarding."
Jessica Yadegaran is a lifestyle writer for the Times. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 925-943-8155.
Causes Kate Marshall Supports
Project Second Chance, an adult literacy program run by the Contra Costa County Library system in California.