There’s a strategy I’ve been endorsing for years. It’s for husbands (and wives) to literally make a list of things your spouse likes. Not huge, extravagant, budget-breaking trips or gifts. Small things. Things you can share with each other on a weekly or daily basis. Let me explain.
The very act of creating such a list works on about five different levels. You spend intentional time recalling positive experiences with each other. As you remember those experiences, you imagine a future in which you can re-live those moments.
That’s not all, you begin to realize that you are the only person in this world who can make such a list and the one person in the world who can truly fulfill the needs of your beloved. You experience the joy of meeting those needs. You experience the reciprocal joy of having your needs met. (More on that later.)
If this is not making sense — or the value of these lists feels a little unverifiable — that’s because you haven’t made your list yet. As a public service, allow me to present my list. And if my bride, Rita, happens to see it . . . well then good for me! She is already well aware of many of these items and ideas, but it never hurts to remind her.
Here are some things I like:
- down pillows,
- sock monkeys,
- petting doggies,
- warm feet,
- a good chopped salad,
- grilled pork chops,
- strawberry-rhubarb pie,
- brick sidewalks,
- holding hands with my wife,
- stopping on the stairs with her one step above for a kiss,
- comfy jeans,
- well-formed quotations,
- meaningful song lyrics,
- the Star Spangled Banner,
- watching my kids compete,
- beef jerky,
- black Sharpies,
- bending paper clips,
- a good pair of scissors,
- finding a piece of Scripture that applies to a real-life challenge,
- lying in the grass on a sunny day,
- strolling a flea market or art fair with my wife, son, and daughter-in-law,
- and so on.
Some of these concepts might take a bit of an effort. But it’s nothing insurmountable or burdensome. Most are cheap. Many are free. All will put a smile on my face, and that’s a goal my wife usually sees as worthwhile.
For the sake of fairness, here’s a list of things Rita likes:
- a powder room for company that says welcome, babies, cute babies, gurgly babies, pretty much all babies,
- television commercials with babies,
- frozen Cokes,
- sparkly glassware on her
- Thanksgiving dinner table,
- hanging out with her children,
- bling for Christmas,
- warm feet,
- clean kitchen counters,
- old sitcoms,
- sitting in the sun with a book,
- fresh flowers,
- fresh snow,
- drinking straws,
- craft magazines,
- and so on.
So are you tracking now? This post will not be filled with a bunch of long homework assignments that never get finished. Nothing burdensome, I promise. But I’m going to insist the two of you stop right now and make those two lists.
It’s not optional. Grab a couple of yellow pads or open a couple of Word docs. He makes a list of what she likes. She makes a list of what he likes. Take ten minutes. Or take three days. To get you started, you have my complete permission to steal any relevant items from Rita’s and my lists. Go for it. I’ll wait.
Done already? Super. Then begin today delighting your spouse with the listed items and ideas. Feel free to exchange lists, and sift through memories and emotions connected to each entry.
- My appreciation of sock monkeys can be traced back to one particular silly shopping trip with my kids.
- Singing the national anthem sparks memories of softball games when my daughter played at West Point.
- Rita’s fondness for parades is especially amusing because as alderman she represents the city of St. Charles in several annual holiday parades down Main Street.
The point is that you know more about your spouse than anyone else in the world. Which means you are the best person in the world to fill their needs and desires. Which makes marriage different than any other relationship in the world. That’s all part of God’s plan.
Moving forward, you need to give each other permission to add and subtract items without judgment. These ever-changing lists can provide a chance to learn new things about each other. If your spouse adds an item or two, look at them as opportunities to delight not demands to be met.
Which brings us to a few words of warning.
Please don’t use these lists as some kind of inventory of obligations. When your husband or wife fulfills one of these desires, the last thing you want to do is gripe, “It’s about time. How long has that been on my list?” That attitude takes all the joy out of giving and receiving.
Also, you did not just create two lists of bargaining chips. Some wives might be thinking, I can use this list to con him, distract him, or bribe him into giving me some of the things I want.
Some husbands might be thinking, “If I do what she likes, she’ll do what I like.” That’s a popular game for married couples, but it’s no way to run a marriage.
Marriage – and even making these lists – should focus on the idea of “two becoming one.” A verse that appears in the Bible three times — Genesis chapter 2, Matthew chapter 19, and Ephesians chapter 5 — reminds us that, “a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”
United as one flesh. Your hearts, needs, and desires are inseparable. In other words, if you give your spouse what he or she likes, it will give you joy as well.
Finally, these lists are probably best kept private between you and your beloved. As a matter of fact, I kept a few things off the above lists because they are simply none of your business.
Question: When will you exchange lists?
Portions of this post were adapted from Jay’s book titled 52 Ways to Connect as a Couple.