Few things leave a person feeling warmer and more in touch with grace than a love letter, be it romantic love, familial love, or the bonds of love between friends.
What goes into a love letter is important. The letter must be honest, sincere, unguarded, and allow the light of day to show your soul, because that’s what they fell in love with in the first place.
Let’s see if we can tease out some of the finer points of doing just that.
Love Letter 101: The Introductory Course
Many of us aren’t used to writing letters, much less love letters. It’s a communicative exercise far different from a text, instant message, emoji string, or extended chat session. Love letters require more patience with ourselves than we’re generally told is worthwhile.
Your basic love letter must first situate you in space and time.
“Dear X, When I met you I…”
You can keep this factual: “…was already working two jobs; you made the third one seem like all three were nothing.”
Actual: “It was dark and raining and you silently leaned your umbrella over both of us at that dirty bus stop.”
Poetic: “…was flesh and hard bone; now I am spirit, never alone.”
Flowery: “…knew, for the first time, that angels were real, because either you were one or one had guided me to you.”
Then the letter must expand your personal universe: “You entered my life;” “you became;” “you…”
You became me. A merging.
Then boldly go: Love is a journey. Where is it taking the two (three, four, eight) of you? Write about this.
When your loved one reads your letter, they must not be made to feel as if they are merely a function toward your fulfillment, but that they are valued beyond belief for who they are.
Love Letter 102: Intermediate Course
Once you’ve found your flow, your next words should be those that show your growth as joined spirits in this material world of ours.
They focus on how the beloved not only changes you, but the world around them too: “I have never known a more generous, giving person.”
You allow your beloved to be themselves: “You fascinate me every single day, from talking about UFOs to knowing which plants in wild fields are medicinal.”
You acknowledge their own journeys: “I have never seen anybody honestly try to teach themselves quantum physics, and even though I’ve no clue what 90% of what you’re saying means, I hope you never ever stop explaining these fascinations to me.”
(Note: ‘though these examples focus on romantic love, all of them work for familial or platonic love as well. Unless and until one gets to the inclusion of saucy bits.)
You can speak of things other than love. Personal things. Talk about how they make you laugh. Or how nobody but them has ever gotten you to try, let alone appreciate, brussels sprouts. Speak of cherished memories, speak of shared dreams. These are the lyrical verses that let the beloved know that what you have built together is solid, lovely to behold, and primed for additional wonder.
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Love Letter 103: Graduate Level
Perhaps you’re feeling creative, or maybe this is not your first love letter and you want to do something a bit special. Your letter doesn’t have to be a letter. It can be a poem. It can be a story. A vignette. A song if you’re musically inclined.
Whatever you do at this point, realize that the output is likely to be so unique, potent, and private between the communal you, that ugly-crying may ensue. On both your parts.
This is where you turn down the lights…and strike a candle…
Some works that might help ignite your inspiration at this level:
Adore by Prince from “Sign O’ The Times”
Amazing by Tin Machine from the eponymous album
I Will Follow You Into The Dark by Death Cab For Cutie
Nobody Knows Me by Lyle Lovett
The Very Best of The Dramatics
Why Should I Love You? by Kate Bush from “The Red Shoes”
A Spy in the House of Love by Anais Nin
Bring On the Blessings by Beverly Jenkins
Griffin and Sabine by Nick Bantock<
Possession by A.S. Byatt
The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
To Find You by Cerece Rennie Murphy
Amélie, directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, directed by Michel Gondry
Il Mare, directed by Lee Hyun-seung
Time After Time, directed by Nicholas Meyer
The Wedding Ring, directed by Rahmatou Keïta
Wings of Desire, directed by Wim Wenders
You could do a visual collage about milestones and turning points in your relationship growth; create a candle full of symbolism and meaning for the two of you; record observations during a solitary walk where the unseen but felt presence of your loved one remained beside you the entire way.
Happiness is knowing that we are a joy to others, and what greater joy than communicating to someone that, in all the best ways, they are always on your mind, whether you’re surrounded by art (as in the list of books, movies and songs above) or simply walking through fall’s crunchy leaves?
Love Letter 104: Master’s Thesis
By now you realize a good love letter is not a laundry list of someone’s glowing qualities. It is an intimate detailing of who you are under the influence of another person’s life.
It can be as brief and surprising as “I need you” written on a napkin and slid to their side of the table after they’ve excused themselves to a restaurant’s bathroom, or as long as two Sundays strung end to end waiting for them to return from a trip away. Whatever the length or form, it should contain YOU laid so bare as to turn the paper itself into a sensual artifact.
Remember, sometimes it is not what you say or how you say it, it’s that you said it at all.
From The Heart
So think of a loved one. Think of the way you smile at random, passing thoughts of that time during church service they made you laugh. Think of how your day – no matter if it’s going splendidly perfectly – gets immeasurably better the moment they’re home. Consider their expression when they’re contemplative; be blessed in how protected and loved you feel.
If you can fill yourself near to bursting with all this, dear beloveds, you can write a love letter that will have them crying happy tears. You don’t need to have a way with words. You just need to know that you love someone for who they are, and write.
Because if you ever get to a point in your life where you’re compelled to capture the sentiment “I love you, have loved you since the stars caught fire, will love you when we’re sweeping their coals aside” – you, my friend, are in a good place indeed.