Really? A love letter? Yes, really. Sure, in this day and age, your options for how to say “I love you” are endless. You can text it. You can email it. You can say it face to face. You can write it in flour on the countertop, take a photo, and post it to Instagram. You can scribble a love note on a napkin and tuck it in a lunch bag. If you’ve got the courage, you could even write a song and serenade your sweetie.
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And all of those are great. You should definitely keep (or start) doing them to remind your love how much they mean. But when you really want to get your partner’s attention, there’s another tool to consider adding to your I love you repertoire: the good old-fashioned love letter.
Writing a love letter is the kind of gesture we 21st-century types don’t make every day—and that’s exactly what makes it so special. It’s something a little out of the day-to-day…unexpected…above and beyond. Odds are good your partner is going to want to read, reread, and hang onto it for a good long while. Love letters are just that meaningful.
Of course, the fact that letter writing is less common nowadays also means many of us are less than confident about how to write a love letter. (Is it a weird thing to do? How do I even start?) If that sounds like you, then read on for some helpful love letter writing tips.
Putting pen to paper gives you space to really open up, explore, and expand on what’s in your heart. That can be just the thing for when your feelings are so strong, you just know it’s going to take some extra time, thought, and heartfelt words to express all you’re feeling. A love letter gives you a chance to dive deeper and communicate things that can be hard to say face to face or capture in a text…even one with lots of heart emojis.
Here’s the short answer: Whenever you’ve got some saved-up affection, appreciation, and admiration to express to the one you love. To expand on that just a little, here’s a list of specific times perfect for a love letter:
- Official occasions: Valentine’s Day, your love’s birthday, Christmas, Mother’s or Father’s Day (if your partner is a parent), Independence Day (if you want to start some fireworks), or any meaningful holiday, really.
- Significant dates for your relationship: Wedding anniversary, anniversary of first date, engagement, the day you met, or any other date that has special meaning for the two of you.
- When things are great: A love letter when things are going well is a chance to appreciate your partner for all they to keep your relationship strong.
- When things are not as great: A love letter when things are tough is an opportunity to reset, remind, and apologize (if needed). It’s a chance to focus on the positive and recall happier times together, and most importantly, to express optimism in your future together, in spite of hard circumstances.
- A random Tuesday: Or Monday, or Wednesday, or Thursday, or…in other words, just because. A love letter from the heart can make any old day feel like an occasion. And sometimes, it’s the out-of-the-blue, utterly unexpected love letter that means the most…and that goes the furthest toward keeping a relationship strong.
Nice stationery and a quality pen can add an appealing touch of significance and permanence to your love letter, and in the long run, they’ll help it stand the test of time. But if a sheet of notebook paper feels more like you, or more in keeping with the personality of your relationship, then by all means, get writing. The key is not to let your momentary lack of the perfect paper keep you from even starting. On the other hand, if you do want to go fancier with your materials, keep in mind that pencil stubs and notebook paper can still be handy for…
Writing a Rough Draft
That’s right—rough drafts are not just for school essays, but for any important piece of writing, love letters most definitely included. Your rough draft might be as simple as a brainstormed list of lovable things about your partner in the notes app on your phone. Or it could be a fully fleshed-out practice letter you draft out on your computer or on scratch paper. Once again, go with the approach that feels most like you.
Date your letter: Before diving in to the body of your letter, start off by writing the date near the top right of your first page. This is more than just a letter-writing convention—it also helps create a record of your relationship. When your love rereads the letter years from now, they will know this is a snapshot of your passion at this particular point in time.
Salutation: The word sounds formal, but in truth, the salutation is highly intimate. It’s the “Dear Joe,” or “Hey, Babe:” just above the body of your letter. For a newer relationship, you might stick to a simple “Dear Jane,” but for a more established love, here are some more passionate possibilities:
- Darling (Jill), My Darling (John), My Darling Girl, My Love,
- Dearest (Jack), My Dearest (Joanne),
- My Wonderful (Jim), My Beautiful (Jess),
- Hello, Gorgeous: or Hi, Babe:
- Dear Sunshine, Dear [insert pet name here],
There are no hard-and-fast rules for what a love letter should say, except that it should sound like you, including your voice, your personality, your sense of humor, etc. In other words, you should feel absolutely free to write from the heart; however, if you could use a little help getting started, here are some ideas and guidelines.
State a “Why”
Start off by mentioning why you’re writing. This could mean anything from referring to the occasion, to saying you’ve been thinking about your partner:
- Occasion: On our first anniversary, I just wanted to remind you how lucky I feel…
- Just because: You know I love you every day, but today, I felt like putting it in writing….
- Miss you: I miss you seeing your face…
- Appreciation: Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about all you do for us…
- Compliment: Just so you know, you take my breath away…
- Tough time: Hey, I know things haven’t been the best between us lately. That’s why I want to make sure you know
- New love: Just wanted to tell you that I’m having the best time with you, and I can’t wait to…
- Thinking of you: You’re on my mind right now…
Go Into Detail
Go on to add some specifics that could only come from you:
- List things you love about your partner: The more specific, the better—I love the way your eyes crinkle when you laugh, instead of just I love your laugh. Getting specific shows you really know your partner.
- Be sensual: All day long, I look forward to the thrill of being back in your strong arms…I love the feel of your soft lips on mine…
- But don’t be R-rated: Imagine that your adult child or grandchild might someday stumble across this letter. It’s okay to make them blush, but try not to make them say, “Eeeeewwww!”
- Get physical: It’s great to admire your partner’s sparkly blue eyes or rock-hard abs…
- But try to balance it out: I adore your offbeat sense of humor…I’m constantly amazed by your ability to fix anything…Or whatever else you happen to love about who your partner really is.
- Share a memory/Tell a story: I knew you were the one for me the moment you…I was just thinking about our trip to San Diego—the one where I lost my glasses…
- Talk about “us”: I love this life we share…I feel like you and I are a perfect fit…I’m so grateful for what we have together. Thanks for sharing it with me…
You’ll want to end your letter with some real passion, so consider using one of these closings before signing your name
- All my love,
- Love you,
- All yours,
- Love always,
- Forever yours,
- All my heart,
- Always and forever,
- Hugs and kisses,
- Under your spell,
- With all my love on (Valentine’s Day) and always,
Beyond just the envelope, here are some additional ways to “seal” a love letter.
- With a kiss (lipstick optional)
- With a spritz of your signature scent
- With an enclosure (poem, quote, concert tickets, pressed flower, paper heart, candy, etc.)
- With a fancy wax seal or embossed sticker
- With your awesome origami skills in place of an envelope (hand-delivery only)
- With ribbon or twine tied in a bow
Almost any delivery method you choose will add an extra element of surprise. If you get in the habit of writing love letters, you can try them all…and invent some new ones of your own.
- Mail to your partner’s home or place of work (It can be surprisingly fun to get mail from someone you live with or see every day.)
- In their bag, purse, or briefcase
- On the driver’s seat of their car
- On their pillow
- On the bathroom vanity
Long or short, heartfelt or humorous, if you write from the heart, with genuine affection and appreciation, your partner is going to love and cherish your letter. The thought you put into it may seem like a little thing, but it’s one of those little things that can add up over time to keep a romance going strong.