The Secret to a Happy Relationship (Kate)

Gary Chapman, author of bestselling book The Five Languages of Love, writes that “the need to feel loved by one’s spouse is at the heart of all marital desires.” He explains that when one person invests energy in filling his or her partner’s “emotional love tank,” the other person naturally reciprocates and that this sets the course for a long-lasting, loving relationship. According to Chapman, Love Language #1 is “Words of Affirmation…best expressed as simple, straightforward statements of affirmation.”

John Izzo, PhD, author of The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die, claims that the secret to a happy marriage is sincere, loving affirmations. He sites a study that claims that couples who express seven positive affirmations for every one negative criticism of each other have longer lasting marriages than those who do not.

Do you agree? Of course, staying loving and positive is not always easy to do. Sometimes we lose it – nobody’s perfect. But when one of us is mindful enough to change the channel and sing each other’s praises it feels indescribably good. That’s what our two couples’ journals – The Book of Us: A Journal of Your Love Story in 150 Questions and What I Love About You – are all about. The writing prompts and fill-in-the-blank format help you find the words to affirm your partner in a way that can be read over and over.

Post-Valentine’s Day reviews – from people who got or gave one of our couples journals for VDay – are popping up on Amazon now. These reviews convince me that we’re on the right track with these journals. It makes me happy that they’re making a difference in people’s relationships.

The Amazing Adventures of Colin Kaepernick: 1987-2097 (David)

Who’s that galloping thoroughbred who just raced by NFL’s elite defensive players for a 56-yard touchdown? Colin Kaepernick came out of nowhere to capture the attention of America this season. At 25, he’s just in his second year in the NFL, has only started in nine games—yet he’s taking his team to the Super Bowl in New Orleans on February 3, 2013. The York and DeBartolo families are already dreaming of their second 49ers dynasty.

But we shouldn’t be so surprised. As a nine-year-old fourth grader in Turlock, California, Colin wrote a letter to himself foretelling his future with the 49ers.

So what’s in store for the rest of his life? We know he likes to envision his future. Here’s how this writer imagines Colin’s life—past, present, and future—as Colin might see it playing out:

Book Club on My Life Map (Kate)

A lively discussion has been going on over on about personal experiences with our life planning journal, My Life Map. We’re touched by the honest and sometimes deeply personal stories and reactions this group of woman share about what it was like for them to use My Life Map to examine their lives and begin to clarify what they need and want to live happy lives. We invite any of you using, or thinking about using, My Life Map to go join the conversation.

Karen Ballum, the capable and funny Book Club leader, opens each discussion with a blog of her own experience with the book and then poses questions.


The three main Book Club Questions:

1. What Does Service Mean to You: What does service look like in your life map? Are you more likely to give time, money or both?

2. Lifelong Learning for the Win: What would you like to learn?

3. Making Play a Priority: How do you play?

4. The Ten-Year Map: What did you learn during your My Life Map journey?


Some highlights from the last question:

“One of my favorite things about this book was that it encouraged planning for play. It serves as a great reminder that all work and no play creates a dull person!” -RhiRhi


“I learned that it’s ok to own goals that seem big. When I was younger I was more able to dream in huge ways, and then along the way I got to where I was ok planning out a grocery list but felt like big dreams weren’t part of my life “right now.” TiarasandTrucks


“The value of My Life Map doesn’t come from a creating a perfect map. It comes from taking the time to reflect and think seriously about things…I learned that I’m not quite as allergic to the thought of long-term planning as I thought I was. So thank you Kate and David!” – Karen


“The ten-year plan was exactly why I wanted to do this book…it has been so easy to say, “oh yeah, that is in our 10-year plan,” which really just came to mean “some day” which is totally vague and meaningless when it comes to planning. This book allowed me to put down the things we have actually talked about.” -SluiterNation


“My plans for the future were always a bit vague. So I learned to clarify and nail down some of the ideas and wishes floating around in my head. It was definitely an eye-opener in a couple of places.” – Tima


“I learned that I really NEED to write in order to plan…I need to be able to write, draw, branch off in tangents and physically put pen to paper.” – ParentingMiracles


“It helped me reflect on the things I truly enjoy and helped me create future goals that will provide me with a well rounded and happy life.” -OneFrugalGirl


My Life Map helped me to realize that looking ahead and planning and dreaming are so good for my outlook, because, in truth, I’m doing more than surviving.  It helped to shift the way I was thinking a bit.” – MyMommysPlace


“I’m most excited about the Learning and Play sections. I really did need the kick in the pants to figure out a few things in that regard. Do I have it all figured out? Nope, but I’ve got a lot more figured out than I did a month ago.” Karen


“I really liked this book, the quality of the paper was perfect for journalling, the examples were ones I could identify with and helped me to understand how to use the book for my own life plan.” -Kath


“The book made me really think about what truly fulfills me in life and reminded me that while making enough money to live comfortably is important, I need to carve out more time in my life for friends, play, and continued learning. “– AdaWrites


The Completely Unauthorized Life Map of Dave Eggers (David)

I have written several articles about how famous people might fill out My Life Map to describe what their future holds. The first one (complete with visual life map), on bestselling author Dave Eggers, was published today in

The Completely Unauthorized Life Map of Dave Eggers


P.S. – I look forward to San Francisco becoming the center of the book publishing universe.

Writing About Your Relationship Makes it Stronger (Kate)

We knew it all the time….

I just re-read a July 1, 2007 issue of the Bottom Line Personal article that should warm the hearts of writers in relationships everywhere:

“Recent Study: Participants were told to write about either their relationships or everyday things. Three months later, 77% of those told to write about their relationships were still together. Among those who wrote about everyday activities, only 52% were still together. Theory: Writing about a relationship may help focus your attention on it, making it stronger.

James W. Pennebaker, PhD, professor and chair, department of psychology, University of Texas at Austin and leader of a study of 86 dating couples, reported in Psychological Science.”

Two easy ways to write about your sweetie:

The Book of Us

What I Love About You

Heartwarming Story of Transformation (David)

I am proud that My Life Map helped this exceptional young woman find her path to happiness. Here is her review of My Life Map: A Journal to Help You Shape Your Future:


Sent Me on an Amazing Journey

As a former coworker of author David Marshall, I had the pleasure of reading an advanced copy of My Life Map nearly one year ago. At the time, I was working in publishing, but had the sneaking suspicion that I was looking for something else. But I didn’t know what that ‘something else’ was and, more so, I had no idea how to find it. When David gave me a copy of My Life Map, I was expecting a pleasant read and he was expecting some valuable feedback. Well…neither one of us got quite what we expected.
I don’t usually go in for self-help books and I’ve never really done any journaling, so I was amazed and surprised by the way this book drew me in. The straight-forward and helpful introductory information, the fill-in format, and the illustrative examples all came together and persuaded me, almost against my will, to do some life-mapping of my own. This book helped me make sense of the thoughts, desires, and dissatisfaction that were confusingly swirling around in my brain, bringing to light wants and visions that I hadn’t been able see alone.
It wasn’t until My Life Map provided me with both the guidance and the space to find and express what I did NOT want from life that I felt confident enough to take the next step and figure out what I DID want.
While David did gain some valuable feedback (and a big fan of his work), he lost a coworker. By reading and filling out the worksheets in My Life Map, I was inspired to follow my true passion — for organic, artisan cheese. I’m now 4 months into an amazing new journey, working as a local cheesemonger and writing and editing around food, and I have My Life Map and David & Kate Marshall to thank for inspiring and encouraging me.
– Bonnie K.


Therapy for $16? (Kate)

One thing I appreciate about this My Life Map review — besides the blogger’s thoughtful description of what it was like for her to work on her life planning maps — is her observation that, for people unable to work with a therapist or counselor, this little $16 journal is “a good alternative.” We certainly recognize the value of professionals and do not aim to replace them. But we do agree that going through this little journal will bring valuable insights in a gentle, self-paced way.

“Cook Scrap Craft” Blog Review of My Life Map

Letter from a Military Wife (Kate)

David and I have heard from a number of military couples who have used What I Love About You as a way to stay connected during training and deployments. It gratifies us to think that this little journal is giving some comfort to military families serving our country. Last week we got a sweet letter from a new bride about to give What I Love About You to her new husband, as he departs for training. She included two photos or her and her new husband beaming at each other on their wedding day. With her permission, I’m posting parts of her letter here:


“Kate and David,

I really wanted to thank you so much for creating What I Love About You. Me and my husband just got married 9/11/12. He is currently a U.S. Marine. He is training to be on the front lines – an infantry man. I send a lot of letters to him during his 3 months of boot camp since they aren’t allowed to make any phone calls, but maybe 1 or 2 to talk about travel arrangements or to let you know that they made it to boot camp. I’m always trying to find a new way to tell him “I love you” or to show him. He’s such an amazing guy! I got really sick and he stuck by my side. So we have both been through a lot. I was at B&N and saw this book and just HAD to buy it. Now I’m filling it out. It was a great idea to have a place to put pictures.

What I Love About You is more than a book to me and to my husband. There are times where I can’t talk to him, times where he won’t be able to contact me. He will probably take it with him on a deployment, and re-read it every day. Your book is so helpful – a life saver.  And it’s a way for J to always carry me with him. So when he’s sad, or down, or having a bad day on a 7-month deployment, he can open it up and know I’m always with him. That’s what this book means to me…

I hope that everyone gets the happiness with this book that I got.

Love,  S”

Waiting for My Life Map (Kate)

David and I are eagerly awaiting a box with the first copies of My Life Map: A Journal to Help You Shape Your Future. For authors, there’s nothing like opening the box and seeing your new book in hardcover for the first time, except maybe for seeing it in a book store for the first time.

My Life Map is a little bit different for Marshall Books, but it’s right up our alley personally. It’s about reflecting on your past and present, and then envisioning what you want your future and mapping it out.

When David was a child, his parents taught training courses that included a charting methodology to envision the future. They showed him how to create planning maps when he was a teenager and he has been using them ever since. David greatly attributes these tools to helping him fulfill life goals, such as graduating from Harvard Business School, spearheading high-tech innovations, and finding the right balance between meaningful work and family. Learning how to set smart goals is an important part of the work I do with tutors and students at the adult literacy program I work for. I recently used life mapping as a check up for my fiftieth birthday (no, I’m not telling how “recent” that was).

We’re excited to hear what you think about My Life Map and using charting to look at your life.