Why are love letters so hard to write?

I think the challenge is that they’re deliberately romantic, but with the added pressure of needing to seem effortless. And whenever you try to do something in that category, it’s really easy to be self-conscious and unsure what the ‘rules’ are.

Should you use flowery, poetic language? Should you compare their eyes to a summer’s day? Is this the time for scented paper and a wax seal?

More importantly, how do you write a love letter that will make them laugh, cry and long for you, without sounding like you’re trying to resurrect Shakespeare’s ghost?

What I’ve found is that it’s a little like writing a short story or personal essay. It should be your best work, it should be polished, but still authentic and uniquely ‘you’.

Here’s my step-by-step guide to crafting a love letter your partner will treasure forever – whilst still sounding like yourself.

The opening

Step 1. Choose the best time to send a love letter

The best time to write a love letter is during a time of transition for one or both of you, especially one where it makes sense to reaffirm your bond and perhaps reassure them.

For example:

  • Times when you’re going to be apart for much longer than usual because of career or family commitments
  • A few weeks after you’ve become long-distance
  • For an anniversary or special occasion (although this will be more predictable and less spontaneous – it can still be a great time to send a love letter!)
  • Following a significant challenge, such as a health crisis, lost job, or other upheaval
  • In the run-up to relationship milestones, such as moving in together.

Which leads me on to…

Step 2. Tell them why you're writing

For instance, if you’re going to be moving in soon, you could start by saying something like: ‘This morning, I got up and made my coffee as usual, and I realised it’s only 100 days until we finally move in together. I got so excited that I just had to write and tell you!

Step 3. Be personal from the start

Another name for a love letter is a ‘Dear John’ letter (there’s even a movie of that name about a LDR). But that’s only one way to begin, and not necessarily the best way.

Here are three options besides ‘Dear [name]’:

  • Your pet name for them
  • Or their actual name – sometimes just dropping the ‘Dear’ actually improves the tone of your message
  • The classics – ‘my love’, ‘baby’, ‘my darling’ or ‘my dearest’ – the general stuff you’d find in a packet of Love Hearts 🙂

You’ll know best how these would come across to your partner and the general tone of your relationship. If you get stuck, go back and add your greeting last and see how it flows with the rest of your letter.

The main message

Step 4. Talk about your favourite memories

One sure way to make your letter truly unique to your relationship is to mention the memories that mean something to you.

The most effective way to do this is to pick a memory you haven’t mulled over many times with your partner already. Instead, choose a memory that may have seemed incidental or even mundane to your partner – like the time you got the car wheels stuck in the mud and you both had to get out and push it.

Try to link this to your overall relationship in some way and talk about what the memory means to you. If you’re stuck, think about the qualities your partner has. How did you discover them?

For example: ‘I was thinking today about that time the car got stuck in the mud on the way to that party and you insisted on getting out to push it with me, even though you knew it would ruin your dress and shoes! When we finally got it moving, that’s when I realised what a great team we make.

Step 5. Evoke the senses

A great love letter should make your partner feel like they’re there with you. How can you achieve this?

First, put yourself in the same mindset. What is it like to be with them? To run your hand through their hair, to kiss them, to wake up with them? Think about your favourite memories – what was it like to be there?

As an example, one of my favourite memories with my partner was of a boat trip I took with him. If I was writing about that, I’d probably describe the neon lights that were set up along the riverbank (art installations, on that occasion) and the taste of the free wine they were serving on board 🙂

No scented paper needed!

Step 6. Make them laugh

Romance doesn’t always have to be so serious.

Think about the weddings you’ve attended and how people go about writing wedding vows and best man / maid of honour speeches. What are the ones that you remember the most, that make you feel warm and fuzzy? Generally, the ones that make you laugh… and cry.

If you’ve been expressing a lot of deep emotions for several paragraphs, lighten the mood by throwing in a joke, or a funny memory, or even a funny hope you have about the future.

Step 7. Express gratitude

Love letters are all about gratitude! Say thank you to your partner for all that they bring to your life and how they’ve helped you through the challenges you’ve faced.

The finishing touches

Step 8. Bring it full circle and reaffirm your feelings

After all of these emotional paragraphs, what’s next?

Conclude as you opened, by bringing the attention back to the situation at hand and why you’re writing the letter. Reaffirm your feelings and end by talking about the future and your shared dreams together.

For example (continuing from the moving-in theme above):

‘When you get this letter, another few days will have passed, so it will be 97 days until our move-in date. 3 days closer to holding you in my arms, to finally waking up next to you.’

Step 9. Draft again and again before your final version

Does your letter have to be handwritten? Does it even have to be physical? No. But if you can do it that way, I’d recommend it – having the pages to hold in their hands (and possibly keep in their wallet, jewellery box or under their pillow) is probably more romantic. Drafting it up digitally does make sense, though – this will allow you to refine the message until it’s as good as it can be.

You might be wondering how long it should be. That’s up to you, but generally two sides of A4 paper, handwritten, should be enough.

Once you’re happy with it, put it away for a day or two and then read it back over one last time before sending. But remember, there’s no such thing as perfect 🙂

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