It can be hard to put into words how you feel when your boyfriend has upset you.
When you’re trying to express hurt feelings in person, you might struggle to get your point across when your emotions are running high. Instead, writing everything down gives you the chance to get all of your thoughts across effectively.
It can be intimidating, however close you are with your boyfriend, to stand in front of him and tell him how you feel when you know he could get defensive or disagree. If you don’t like confrontation, writing down how you feel in a letter and giving it to him takes away the stress of trying to talk to him face to face or picking the right moment to bring up how you feel.
But letter writing isn’t always as easy as you might think. Just as you would need to take time to think about this if it was a conversation you were going to have, you need to take time to think about and formulate your letter properly so it can have the impact you want it to make.
When you’re out of practice writing things down (like so may of us are), it can take longer than you realize to get your letter sounding the way you want it to. With a blank page staring back at you and so many thoughts and feelings running through your head, it can be overwhelming to even know how to begin.
Writing a letter doesn’t have to be difficult, even if you’ve never written one before. It can be a cathartic exercise to get out everything you’ve struggled to say for some time.
To make the process less daunting, we’ll offer some tips on where to begin and some things to think about when you are ready to put pen to paper.
1. Take your time writing it.
Before you start your letter, take a minute to gather your thoughts and emotions.
This letter doesn’t have to be written in a hurry. In fact, it’s better that it’s not. Take your time writing it. Make sure to fully process the situation from all sides, and think about the points you want to get across.
It’s okay to leave and come back to your letter at different times. It doesn’t all have to be written in one go. When we’re emotional, we can say things and react in ways that later, once we’ve had some time to reflect, we feel differently about.
Once you write down your thoughts and share them, they can’t be taken back. They will be a constant reminder to both you and your partner of how you felt in that moment. Make sure you don’t write anything you’ll later regret by hurrying to finish your letter too quickly. Always read through it when you’re in a less emotional state.
Writing this letter isn’t something to hurry or take lightly, so take all the time you need to make sure it has the impact you’re hoping for.
2. Set out a structure.
Another way to go about writing your letter is how you’d start any good school essay. Taking you back to your classroom days, start by writing a structure of all the points you want to cover in your letter to help you frame what you want to say.
Writing all the points you want to cover first will help you organize your thoughts and find what the focus of your letter is. Is it a particular argument that you want to refer to where he’s hurt your feelings, or is it trying to make him understand how a collection of problems have mounted up to make you feel how you do now?
Think about what the main point is that you want to get across and what you want your boyfriend to feel when he reads your letter. What do you want from him after he reads this? Is it an apology or is it something else?
By setting out your structure, you can arrange your letter into the most important sections, giving you a rough guide when you begin writing. This should stop you from getting lost in your own thoughts.
3. Don’t be afraid to redraft it.
If you aren’t sure where to begin with your letter, especially if you have a whole range of thoughts and emotions running through your head that you don’t know how to get across, then it can help to try redrafting your letter.
Start by writing everything you feel and want to say, not worrying about the words you use or whether it makes sense.
Once you’ve done that, not only will it feel like a great emotional release, but it will help you clarify what you really want to say.
You can now go through what you’ve written, making sense of it, altering the language to get your point across, redrafting again and again, as many times as you need to get what you want to say out in the way you want to say it.
Beginning your letter in this way takes away the pressure of trying to make it perfect the first time around as well as helping you make sure you’re not saying anything you’d later regret.
4. Tell him why you chose to write a letter.
Writing a letter to express your feelings isn’t the way people usually communicate with their partner. For you to choose to write one, there must have been a compelling reason as to why you felt you couldn’t communicate your thoughts and feelings in any other way.
Your boyfriend might be feeling confused about this too. So to make sure he’s focusing on what you’re saying in the letter rather than why you chose to write one, address the subject right from the start.
Tell him if you find it difficult to express your feelings clearly without getting upset when you talk, or if you just needed time to think through what it is you wanted to say to him.
If it’s because you find him unapproachable when you try to talk to him, or don’t feel as though he listens or takes you seriously when you’ve tried talking to him in the past, then tell him this. He can’t begin to be better at listening to what you have to say if he doesn’t know you feel this way.
Here are some ideas of how you could phrase this:
“I’ve chosen to write to you because I wanted to be clear about how I feel to help you understand. I always get too emotional when I try to talk to you about it…”
“I’ve tried to talk to you about some of this before but didn’t feel as though you really understood. I always feel a bit intimidated when I try to explain things to you and I didn’t want it to turn into an argument…”
“I chose to write this down because I need you to take this seriously. I’ve thought carefully about everything I’m writing and I’m hoping that by giving this to you you’ll understand better how I feel so we can move forward together…”
5. Try to predict how he’s going to react.
You’re never going to know for sure how your boyfriend is going to react to your letter. But the fact that you’re expressing hurt feelings means that the letter will likely make him equally emotional reading it as it is for you writing it.
He might be defensive and disagree with some of your points, which is why you have to write it in such a way to make him see things from your perspective.
The best way to do this is to start the letter in a non-confrontational way. The start of your letter sets the tone and will dictate his reaction to the rest. You want his attention right through to the end, so you need to make sure he’s receptive from the beginning.
Don’t go in too strongly at the beginning, laying blame and accusing him of hurting you. Think carefully about how he might react to the language you choose and see if you can substitute any of it for less aggressive words. You want to avoid words that will spark a response and cause offense so he can focus on understanding the real feeling behind what you’re saying.
It’s not about being overly nice to him, it’s about making sure you write your letter in such a way that you get the impact and reaction you want and ultimately make him understand how you feel.
6. Try starting with the positives.
He may have hurt you, but if you didn’t want to be with him, you wouldn’t have gone to the effort of writing a letter trying to help your boyfriend understand how you feel.
If you’ve never heard of a ‘compliment sandwich,’ it’s a technique when giving criticism that is supposed to soften the blow. First you tell the person something good they’ve done, then the criticism you have, and then finish on another good note. It’s meant to help them be more receptive to the criticism you give and stop them from being hurt by your comments or becoming defensive.
You can apply this in your letter to your boyfriend. Don’t go in straight away telling them everything that’s wrong with them and all the ways that they’ve hurt you. If you ultimately want your relationship to work, then set a positive tone at the beginning of your letter. Tell them at the start that you hope this helps them understand how you feel so that you can move on and work at building an even stronger relationship.
If you only focus on the negatives about your partner, they could lose all confidence in your relationship, which isn’t the outcome you want. Just because you’re expressing why your feelings are hurt, doesn’t mean you need to ignore the positives there are in your relationship, and you want to show your boyfriend that what you have is worth working hard to keep.
7. Get to the point of your letter early on.
There will be a lot that you want to say, but when you think about it, is there one particular thing that you want to say to your boyfriend and make him understand more than the rest?
If there is, this needs to be at the heart of everything you write. You need to build your letter around the one thing you really want to tell him to make sure the message comes across loud and clear.
People’s attention span dims as time goes on, so to ensure that you have your boyfriend’s full attention, especially if your letter is long, make sure that your main point is one of the first things you talk about.
By structuring your letter this way, you’ll have your boyfriend’s full concentration for the main issue you want to get across to him. There is also less time for him to develop a tainted opinion against what you’re saying, which could happen toward the end of your letter if he disagrees or takes some of what you’ve said personally.
If you have a main focus, make sure that’s what he takes away from this letter above all else and put it first.
8. Don’t get overly emotional.
Telling you not to get emotional in your writing when everything your saying is coming from an emotional place might not seem to make sense.
Your letter is based on the hurt that your boyfriend has caused you to feel, so how can you not make it emotional?
Of course you’ll be discussing the way you feel, but just because you’re talking about your emotions doesn’t mean the language you choose to express them in has to be distracting and make you sound like you’ve lost control.
Keep to the facts, keep your sentences easy to read, and try not to go off on tangents.
Avoid writing insults or allowing your phrases to be fuelled with the emotion you feel to the point that they become confused.
You want your boyfriend to understand what you feel and the best way to get him to do this is to be clear and concise in what you write.
Don’t let your emotions overwhelm you and cloud what you’re trying to say with dramatic language. You can get across better how he’s made you feel by being clear and to the point, rather than getting lost in your feelings and becoming overly descriptive.
9. Tell him what you want from him.
You’ve spent all this time crafting a letter to your boyfriend to tell him about the hurt you feel, but when it comes to the end of the letter, what was the point?
When writing your letter, think about how your boyfriend will react when he reads it. Think about how you want him to feel and the outcome you want from doing this.
Is it an apology? Are you asking him to do something different or work on changing himself for the better? What is it you want him to do about the way he’s made you feel?
At the end of your letter, try to be clear about what it is you expect from your boyfriend following it. Write a tangible action for him to work on, even if it’s just to absorb everything you’ve said in this letter and take your feelings seriously.
Lay out your expectations clearly so he has something he can work on and be able to show you how he’s taken what you’ve written on board.
Leaving your letter open ended, without an actionable resolution is like leaving an elephant in the room. If you haven’t told your boyfriend your expectations, he might not realize he’s not meeting them and your letter will just cause tension between you.
Even if it seems obvious to you what you want from him, it might not be the same for your boyfriend. It doesn’t hurt to literally spell it out for him.
10. Keep a copy of your letter.
After your boyfriend has read your letter, it’s almost certain that he’s going to want to discuss it with you.
A letter can’t be misheard or forgotten, but your words can be read over and over again. The more your boyfriend reads it, the stronger his reactions might become, and the more questions he could have for you.
This is when keeping a copy of your own letter can come in useful. If he wants to have a conversation about the letter and refer to specific sentences you’ve written, you might not remember in exact detail what you wrote and become flustered when trying to respond. Having your own version to refer back to will allow you to have your words fresh in front of your eyes so you know exactly the part he means and what you meant to say.
It’s not something you need to keep forever, but could be useful as a reference when you have your first conversation with your boyfriend after he’s read it. You’ll be able to address the issues first hand and hopefully come to a better understanding of each other.
11. Give him time to process your letter.
This is something to remember for after you’ve written your letter and given it to your boyfriend.
Remember that famous Friends episode with Rachel’s letter to Ross? He falls asleep reading the 18 pages (front and back) she’d written to him before he gets questioned about the contents the next day, having never actually finished reading it. Needless to say, it didn’t end well for Ross and Rachel in that moment.
You don’t want to make the same mistake as them, so once you’ve handed over your letter, be prepared to give your partner time before they’re ready to talk about it.
A letter is significant because the words are there in front of you to keep reading. A heartfelt letter, especially one where you’re expressing hurt feelings, can be difficult to read and for your boyfriend to fully digest in one go, requiring him to read it more than once to fully understand what you’re saying.
He’s most probably going to have a strong reaction to your letter when he first reads it, so give him space to gather his thoughts. It might take a day, a week, or even longer before he’s ready to discuss the issue. But by taking time to form the right response, you can be confident that he’s taking what you say seriously and will be ready (unlike Ross) for a constructive conversation with you when you have it.
Writing a letter to express how you feel, especially when your feelings have been hurt, isn’t always as simple as it seems. But that doesn’t mean it has to be difficult or you should give up.
It can be a great way to fully process everything you feel as well as let your boyfriend know how they’ve hurt you, especially if you’re trying to avoid an argument and don’t like confrontation.
Putting your thoughts down into words means that they can’t be easily misinterpreted and you have a chance to fully explain how you feel.
However, it also means that whatever you write won’t be forgotten quickly. It can be re-read and revisited, and shouldn’t be something to take lightly. Take your time and take it seriously when you need to get something important off your chest.
Your letter may not fix the issues in your relationship completely, but it’s a good way to start the conversation and make sure that what you want to say gets heard.
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