The Love Letter: A Lost Art Form?
The art of writing a passionate love letter goes back thousands of years. Many people even find it enjoyable to read love letters that were written decades or centuries ago, whether because they relate to the passionate feelings or because they simply enjoy the poetic phrasing. These types of letters are undoubtedly less common in the digital age since most people find it more convenient to contact their beloved via phone, text message, email, or social media than a romantic letter. As a result, the act of sitting down to hand-write a letter to a person you love can represent an even more romantic gesture in the modern day. Read on to get tips on writing a love letter if you're interested in reviving this ancient art form.
The meaning behind a love letter
There are a few elements that can make a sweet love letter feel especially meaningful and thoughtful to bring so much joy to a recipient. First, it takes intentionality, time, and effort to write one. They’re not often written off the cuff, but instead, meticulously planned ahead of time so the writer can ensure they express what they feel in a way that’s enjoyable to read. It also takes time to then write out each word by hand, a process that can be described as a true “labor of love.”
Next, they’re either hand-delivered or mailed to the recipient, sometimes across town, across the country, or even across the world, which can make it feel even more special when it finally reaches the beloved’s hands. Finally, it is a physical object that your darling can hold onto that will always put them in a good mood. They know that the person they love touched and spent time with that exact object, that it traveled all this way to them, and that they now have it to re-read and enjoy with a smile on their face for years to come.
Quotes from famous love letters in history
Some love letters written by well-known figures throughout history are phrased so beautifully that they’re still read today. If you’re interested in this art form, you might find hope and inspiration in some of their most famous lines:
- “Dearest, I miss you and wish you were here. I want to put my arms around you and feel yours around me. More love than I can express in a letter is flying on waves of thought to you.” –Eleanor Roosevelt
- “I answer one of your letters, then lie in bed in apparent calm, but my heart beats through my entire body and is conscious only of you. I belong to you; there is really no other way of expressing it, and that is not strong enough.” –Franz Kafka
- “Your word travels the entirety of space and reaches my cells which are my stars then goes to yours which are my light.” –Frida Kahlo
- “Happiness is within you…so unlock the chains from your heart and let yourself grow—like the sweet flower you are. I know the answer—just spread your wings and set yourself free.” –Jimi Hendrix
- “Life seems emptier without you, the soulwarmth isn’t around…” –Allen Ginsberg
- “I don’t know how to tell you just how much I miss you. I love you till my heart could burst. All I love, all I want, all I need is you—forever.” –Marilyn Monroe
Some people on this list had careers in music or movies and were not writers by trade. This can be a comfort to those who want to write but can’t imagine they will be able to find the words.
Tips for expressing feelings with a love letter
If you’re interested in sending the perfect romantic note to your crush or partner, there are a few ideas that may help you in the process.
Choose your recipient wisely
Sending an unsolicited love letter to someone you’re interested in could be perceived as off-putting, uncomfortable, or even frightening. That’s why the first step is choosing your recipient wisely. Sending one to your long-time partner is generally always a safe bet, and writing one for a person you’ve been getting to know romantically could be as well. Just consider the fact that it’s typically best to make sure that it will be well-received before you pick up your pen since it could have the opposite of the intended effect if the person doesn’t feel the same way about you.
One of the elements of classic love letters that is often the most gripping is the raw honesty of the writer. The most meaningful letters are usually those that are honest. When you sit down to write yours to someone you care deeply about, it’s typically best to be honest and vulnerable and to speak from what you feel in your heart at that moment. After all, one study found that a lack of emotional intimacy was more likely to lead to a breakup even more than a lack of sexual desire or intimacy, making vulnerability an important element in most romantic relationships. The point is to tell the other person what they mean to you, so writing what you feel is often a wonderful approach.
Love letters that could apply to anyone may not be the most intimate gesture. Instead, you might make an effort to include all the things you love about your partner in particular. Start with a simple “dear darling,” but then get into details. What made you first notice them the first time? What do you love about them? Why do you feel lucky to be with them? What are your favorite memories of a special occasion or night that you had together? By customizing it to this person in particular, your letter is more likely to leave them in wonder, and it can serve as a snapshot of your connection in the future.
Getting support for your romantic life in therapy
Navigating romantic relationships can be challenging, and some people find the support of a therapist to be useful in the process. They can offer you a space where you feel safe to express your emotions, and they can help you build skills that can be useful in relationships of all types—such as communication, boundary setting, and conflict resolution. If you’re having trouble healing from past relationships, want to work through attachment issues, or are experiencing symptoms of a mental health condition that are interfering with your connections with others, they can help you address these as well.
Some people have a busy schedule that prevents them from meeting with a therapist in person, while others face financial barriers to traditional in-office care. In cases like these, online therapy can provide a viable alternative. With an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can get matched with a licensed therapist whom you can meet with via phone, video call, and/or in-app messaging from the comfort of home and for a cost that’s comparable to most insurance co-pays. If you’re interested in attending therapy with your partner, you might also consider an online couples therapy platform like Regain. Research suggests that online therapy can provide similar benefits to in-person sessions in most cases, so you can feel confident in choosing whichever method feels best for you.
What should be included in a romantic note?
Love letters can take any form that resonates with you, as they’re a deeply personal type of communication. That said, most include some words about your girlfriend, boyfriend, partner, or beloved and why they’re important to you. You might talk about the little things you love about them, look back on special memories together, or tell what you imagine for your future together with a focus on expressing feelings related to your connection.
What not to do when writing a romantic note?
When writing a love letter, it’s usually a great idea to make sure that it will be welcomed with joy and wonder by its intended recipient. An intense, heartfelt note from someone you don’t know very well yet or aren’t interested in could be unwelcome or even frightening, so make sure you consider the recipient’s point of view before sending.
What is the purpose of romantic note?
The general purpose is to express your true feelings about someone. When you feel strongly for another person, you might feel compelled to express yourself. Plus, in order to progress the relationship, if possible, it generally matters that they know about how you feel.
Does a romantic note have to be long?
There are no official guidelines for a romantic note, of course. What makes them special is that they’re highly individualized to both the writer and the recipient. That means anything can technically be a love letter, from a line or two on a sticky note to five pages of handwritten text to a heartfelt email. The best way to choose from all your potential ideas or formats is usually to write from the heart and see how it may play out. That way no matter what form it takes, it will be authentic to you and how you feel.
How do you write a romantic note without making it obvious?
If you don’t want your beloved to know that you’ve written them a note, but still want to express your feelings, you could write one without sending it. You could also keep it short and sweet and send it in a more casual format (e.g., via text or email rather than handwritten) if you want to express a bit about how you feel but without making it into something flowery, intense, or too full of romance.
Relationships generally take mutual effort in order to have a chance of success, so a love letter usually won’t be enough if that’s not there—no matter how strong the loving feelings may be. Communicating honestly, committing to working on your connection together, and speaking with a couples therapist are all alternative methods you could consider if you’re looking to overcome challenges in your relationship.
Some people find that writing love notes to themselves can be a practice that enhances their self-love and self-esteem. It can represent a unique opportunity to use kind words to reflect on your best qualities as someone else—someone who loves you deeply—might see them. If you’re interested in increasing your levels of self-love, writing your own love letter could be a potentially useful exercise.
A love letter can mean whatever you want it to. They’re generally expressions of romantic love, but above all, they’re characterized by personal authenticity and honesty about one’s feelings. That means the best approach is usually to say what you feel. If you express wanting to be with this person now, wanting to be with them over the long term, or wishing you could be with them but accepting that it’s not possible, then the love letter can mean any of these things. The only requirement generally is that it also expresses your love for them.
These do not necessarily have to be romantic. You can write one to express any kind of love to anyone you care for. For example, you could write one to a platonic friend to tell what you appreciate about them, your favorite memories from your friendship, and your hopes for a continued connection for years to come.
Traditional notes were more popular at other points in history when letter-writing was the only method of communicating with someone when you were not physically with them. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t or aren’t still written and sent today. If you want a love letter from someone, you could send one to your beloved first and see if you get a reply. Or, you could ask your romantic partner or a friend if they’d write you one, or if they’d like to exchange them.
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