The concept of an ‘open when’ letter is simple: romantic letters which you send or give to your partner, sealed, and which they can only open on specific occasions!

They’re a fun, cheap and easy way to add some mystery and anticipation to your relationship. They can be short and sweet, like a message in a bottle (though if you feel like making your prose long and flowery, go wild) and the ‘occasion’ can be pretty much anything.

The best part – besides being able to shower your S.O. with romantic words – is that they can open and read your messages whenever you can’t be there in person to offer your love, support and encouragement.

If you’re not sure exactly how to put it all down on paper, check out my step-by-step guide to writing love letters and then come back here to read the list 🙂

Here are 10 ‘open when’ letter ideas to get you started!

1. Open when... you miss me too much

It’s really hard to stay enthusiastic and keep on top of life when you’re distracted by missing your partner. In fact, this is one of the major reasons why couples wonder if going long distance (or staying in the relationship) is worth it in the first place.

If you only write one ‘open when’ letter, make it this one.

How to write it

  • Tell them how much you miss them too. If they’re having doubts, letting them know how you feel, and that it’s okay to be sad about it, can be a big help.
  • Tell them what you love about being together – recall your favourite stories and private jokes that you share.
  • Focus on motivating them to live their life to the fullest and make use of all their opportunities and talents, even if you can’t be there in person right now – they shouldn’t put their life on hold until you can be together.
  • Finish on a high – encourage them to take care of themselves and remind them why it’s all worth it.

2. Open when... you've had a bad day

Has your S.O. had a terrible day at work? Unfortunately, they might not be able to share it with you as soon as they get home – thanks to the distance, they have to wait for you to be available for a chat (especially if you’re in different time zones).

So until you can hear all of it face-to-face, why not be there for them immediately with an ‘open when’ letter?

How to write it

  • Tell them that no matter what has gone wrong that day, you’re proud of them for doing their best – include examples of times you’ve been especially impressed by their tenacity, resilience or just general awesomeness 🙂
  • Tell them how you’d comfort them if you were there – would you run them a bath, get pizza, give them a hug? This is where you can show how well you know them!
  • Make them laugh (even if it’s only at how cheesy your jokes are)
  • Let them know that you’re happy to hear all about it over Skype/Zoom/WhatsApp or whatever is your app of choice

3. Open when... we argued

Your first argument with a long distance partner can be a bit of a milestone – though not a very nice one. However, like all challenges, you can come out of it with a deeper understanding of how to deal with conflict and non-ideal situations.

Writing a letter like this in advance can really help when that moment comes, as your partner might not yet feel like talking again, but might still want a reminder of how you feel.

How to write it

You can’t know what you’ll argue about before it happens, but if you know yourself well enough then you can probably predict how you’ll feel afterwards. You’ll probably be frustrated with yourself for hurting your partner (regardless of whether you feel you were in the right or not). You’ll probably be replaying things in your head and wanting to express them in a better way. Acknowledge these things and let them know that you want to talk when they’re ready.

4. Open when... you miss touching me

Physical intimacy is something you probably both miss a lot when you’re apart. Write this letter for when they miss waking up beside you, miss cuddling on the sofa, holding your hand, giving you a spontaneous hug when you’re doing the dishes… and everything else.

How to write it

  • Evoke all the senses! You don’t have to write anything NSFW (though you can if you want to – they probably won’t open this letter with anyone around) but focus on making them feel like you’re there with them
  • Include a small item that will remind them of you
  • If you wear perfume, spray some on the letter paper

5. Open when... we move in together

If you’re going to be closing the distance with your partner and you’ve set a moving-in date together, congratulations!

You’ll definitely want to celebrate. But when the day eventually comes, you might be so busy with packing and getting from A to B that you probably won’t have time to express how excited you are. That’s where this letter comes in 🙂

How to write it

  • Reminisce about how far you’ve come (perhaps include a little illustrated timeline of your relationship – this is always a cute personal touch)
  • Look forward to the future in a light-hearted way – e.g. tell them how much you can’t wait to decorate a Christmas tree with them or have a housewarming party

6. Open when... you're sick

Although colds and minor illnesses are over quickly, it’s miserable to be stuck at home with one, all alone. There are ways to care from a distance, but your partner might just be too tired and grumpy to have a romantic Zoom call. So, why not give them a cute handwritten letter which they can read any time?

How to write it

  • Let them know they deserve to rest – some people always feel bad about taking a break until someone tells them it’s okay!
  • Distract them with something pleasant – maybe tell them a nice story from your past that they’ve never heard before
  • Let them know you’re happy to leave them alone if they want – this takes the pressure off – but that once they’re feeling a little better you’d love to do something special together

7. Open when... you're on your way to see me

This is an especially cute idea if it’s your first visit, but it’s good for your 101st visit too!

How to write it

  • Talk about how much you’ve been looking forward to their visit and what you want to do when they arrive
  • If they like surprises, you could include tickets to a show or event in with the letter

8. Open when... you're anxious about something

Anxiety isn’t easy in any situation, but it can be especially challenging for long distance couples when you can’t be there to comfort and encourage them in the moment.

If your partner is anxious about one thing in particular – for example, flying or an important interview – you can be even more specific with your letter, e.g. ‘open when you’re about to get on the plane’. But a non-specific letter will work just fine too.

How to write it

  • Encourage them to press ahead with whatever challenge they’re facing, even though it’s difficult
  • Tell them that you believe in them and know they will try their best, and that you’ll be proud of them no matter what happens
  • If you think they will respond well to it, you could share some helpful distraction or relaxation techniques (perhaps some that have worked for you in the past)

9. Open when... you have no idea what to get me for Christmas / Valentine's / our anniversary

This one is great for people (like me) who are thrown into a panic every time a special occasion requires a gift. You might think it’s unromantic to tell them what you want, but if you go about it the right way it can still be romantic 🙂

How to write it

Instead of telling them exactly what to get you, talk in terms of categories, e.g. ‘I love playing with new art supplies’ or ‘I love cute computer accessories’ – this way they still have the pleasure of surprising you!

10. Open when... you can't sleep

Insomnia is a common friend of long distance couples. When you’re lying awake at 3 a.m., all you want to do is pick up the phone and send a text to the one you love… but you probably won’t, because then they won’t get any sleep either!

With an ‘open when’ letter, you can be there for your partner in that moment, without them having to feel guilty for keeping you awake.

How to write it

  • Talk to them as if you’re there – ask them to imagine being in your arms and drifting off to sleep.
  • One of the worst things for insomnia is actually stressing about the fact that you can’t sleep, so try to ease that stress for them. Remind them know that even if they don’t get to sleep, the world won’t end – everything will work out okay.
  • Recommend some relaxing songs – you could prepare a playlist for them on Spotify beforehand.
  • You could even include a gift card code for a meditation app, like Calm or Headspace.

More tips for "open when" letters

  • They don’t have to be pages and pages long. One piece of paper is probably enough (though if you feel like writing tons, they’ll probably love that too).
  • It doesn’t have to be snail mail! You can create a special email account and send your messages there. Though of course physical letters are a bit more romantic 🙂
  • Think about ways to make each letter different. For example, you could include some dried flowers, confetti, small items and so on. You could use different coloured envelopes, wax seals, stickers or doodles. Think about engaging the senses with scented or tactile items. Polaroids or photobooth pictures of the two of you are also incredibly cute additions – include them where you can!

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