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Valentine's Day is the day to see loved ones in their best light
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The fall after my husband and I were married, we were expecting our first baby. We were on vacation with my family in Idaho, staying in a condo. I remember my husband and I getting into a terrible fight because we had different ideas of how to spend our vacation mostly, I was begrudging spending mine in the bathroom throwing up due to morning sickness while he got to enjoy some recreation.

We were fighting like cats and dogs and I stormed out of the room, past my dad who was sharing the condo with us, and plopped onto a bed and yelled as loud as I could, He is so stupid! while bursting into childish, tantrum-like, uncontrollable sobs. I really believed I had married the wrong one.

Admittedly, the previous months had been filled with ups and downs. And when my dad put down his newspaper, walked over to where I was sobbing and calmly asked me, Can I help? I considered it an invitation to open a floodgate of emotion and complaints.

You see, I had been unconsciously keeping inventory of all the grievances and perceived wrongs my husband had supposedly purposely done to bug me. As I started to list them out to my dad, one by one, I got more and more animated as I talked and it seemed to me like I had, in fact, been very mistreated and I was completely justified to complain. But my dad never spoke at least not until I was finished.

My dad didnt ask for me to clarify any of my statements. He simply asked, Are you finished? And not in any sort of accusing way.

Then, with the clarity of someone who has loved the same woman for over 30 years, he said, I know where this list ends. It ends with the two of you getting a divorce.

I thought to myself, What? Thats not fair. I dont want a divorce, I just

But as I looked at my dad, I could see the sincerity in his face as he added, Or, you can put this list away. Right now. And never get it out again. Start a new list. Even if you only have three positive things to say about him. Start there, and add to it as you go.

I dont remember how my husband and I resolved our fight. I think we gave each other an obligatory hug and said we were sorry and that was it. And Im not suggesting at all that we never fought again; certainly not. But I never forgot that advice from my dad.

Looking back, in the light of how dearly I love my husband, I have cringed that I ever made such a list and at the thought of where I might have let that list take me, had I not decided to put it away and never get it out again. I am sure at that time in my life I had given my husband plenty of material to make his own list of that kind, but he was too gentlemanly to give voice to such a thing.

When I first fell in love with my husband, it wasnt over a long, profound list of compatibilities. It wasnt because he was perfect and it definitely wasnt because I was perfect and ready for marriage.

Both of us were completely flawed then and are completely flawed now. It was the short list that attracted me to him, the simple things like the fact that we shared a mutual attraction, that it gave me then and still now gives me butterflies when he winks at me, and that he was as kind then as he is kind now. And his sincerity, honesty and willingness to work hard at the good things that truly matter in life.

Valentines Day shouldnt be about the emotional roller coaster that we love to watch in a romantic chick flick, nor about the hyper-sexualized messages we internalize from media and advertising this time of year.

Valentines Day is simply about starting a list, a list with our Valentine, and it starts with I love you.

I love the way you keep me company while watching TV. I love the way you do the dishes for me even if youd rather rest. I love the way you talk to our children. I love the way you help with homework. I love the way you hug me. And I love the way you forgive me and let me try again.

Our list, if we let it, will never end and will go on and on throughout our life, and that is what makes a relationship flower. That is how to make real, lasting love and how to make love last.

That's not to say there isnt passion, because there is. And it's not to say there aren't disagreements, because there are. But it is to say that nurturing a relationship is a choice: choosing to exaggerate the best in your partner and not draw attention to the worst, when it is possible not to do so. Loving your partner for his or her potential and encouraging him or her to reach it at every opportunity. The alternative is hen pecking one another to death, until both hearts are so hardened that no room is given for I love you.

Occasionally, the bad list comes out for a review. I dont think the bad list ever goes away completely; at least it hasnt for me. Its always tucked back in my memory and comes out at the slightest invitation to do so to stir up trouble.

The only way to treat the bad list is to silence it. Dont feed it. Dont pay it any attention.

Replace it with something from the good list. And hug it out. Always hug it out. I have found that the bad list has zero tolerance for hugs and even less so for kisses.