A Resolution for Romance: The 52 Loves Notes Challenge

by A Manly Guest Contributor on January 3, 2012 · 141 comments

in Dating, Marriage, Relationships & Family

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Joshua Gordon.

One of the marks of being a great man is the ability to love the same woman for over 50 years. That’s manly–hands down. It’s something that the airbrushed elite of our day can’t seem to figure out. It’s something that many in my generation have completely given up on. It’s something I’ve committed to, and in the spirit of Art of Manliness tradition, I look to great men of the past for inspiration.

As I flip through the dusty pages of history, I see some common themes. Men with long-lasting marriages (Winston Churchill, George Washington, George H. Bush, Ronald Reagan, etc…) tended to write love letters to their wives–with consistency. They cultivated an ability to express their feelings in writing.

And some of those men were quite accomplished letter writers; try this on for size:

My Darling Wife

This note is to warn you of a diabolical plot entered into by some of our so called friends — (ha!) calendar makers and even our own children. These and others would have you believe we’ve been married 20 years.

20 minutes maybe — but never 20 years. In the first place it is a known fact that a human cannot sustain the high level of happiness I feel for more than a few minutes — and my happiness keeps increasing.

I will confess to one puzzlement but I’m sure it is just some trick perpetrated by our friends — (Ha again!) I can’t remember ever being without you and I know I was born more than 20 mins ago.

Oh well — that isn’t important. The important thing is I don’t want to be without you for the next 20 years, or 40, or however many there are. I’ve gotten very used to being happy and I love you very much indeed.

Your Husband of 20 something or other.

The author? Ronald Reagan–a man who, over more than 50 years of marriage, penned hundreds of love notes to his wife.

Now if writing love letters could keep the marriages of the great men of history going–they who experienced the acute stresses and temptations that come along with positions of power–imagine what consistent love note writing might do for us regular joes! And last year, that’s what I set out to discover.

The Challenge

The instant communication tools of today have nearly obliterated the love letter, which is a crying shame. Don’t get me wrong, I really love the tech wonders of our day.  Email? I love it–so useful. Texting? Same deal. Twitter? Addictive as all get out. These are all fantastic tools for communicating with co-workers, making plans with friends–even asking for the grocery list.

At the end of the day, though, a well-written love letter communicates deep affection in a way that a bazillion texts, emails, and tweets never can.

In my own life, it was easy to see how my obsession with “instant” had steadily eroded the inclination to put extra thought and time into carefully written love letters to my wife. So last year I decided to change that. In January of 2011, I pledged to write one love note to my wife for every week of the year. That’s 52 of ‘em.

I knew going into it that it would be a real challenge for me. Mainly, I didn’t trust my ability to write one love note per week. I was sure I’d forget and miss weeks, and thus blow the challenge.

My solution was to write the notes in bursts. Sitting down for an evening, I would compose between 5 and 10 notes, and then distribute them over the course of the following weeks. This kept me on track, and as 2011 came to a close, I could look back over the year and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing I had delivered all 52 loves notes to my wife.

The challenge turned out to be something both my wife and I truly enjoyed. I had a blast hiding them in places I knew Sarah would find them. (Hint: The fridge is an awesome place. As is the bathroom counter. As is her pillow.) I loved watching Sarah find and read the notes. And she told me how special, cherished, and treasured she felt when she read the letters. I sometimes catch her re-reading old love notes and smiling to herself–and man! That makes me feel SO good.

Over the course of the year our relationship took on a new energy, a lightness. All in all, the 52 Love Notes Challenge was an unequivocal success.

Love Note Writing Tips and Examples

Love note from Johnny Cash to his wife June. From House of Cash.

Over the course of 2011, I began picking up on some things that helped me in the love note writing process. AoM has some really great posts about how to write swoon-worthy love letters (see here and here), so I don’t want to reinvent the wheel, but here are some guidelines I used for myself:

  1. Be thoughtful when you write.
  2. Be inventive in how you say “I love you.”
  3. Point out the little things you like about your wife.
  4. Use poetry for inspiration.

The hardest part is really getting started; I found that writing the notes became easier and easier as the year wore on and I got more practiced. If you need some help in getting your romantic thoughts going, Sarah handpicked her 10 favorite notes for you to check out. Feel free to modify them for your own use (someone else’s words can be a great starting point when you feel stuck):

Dearest Lover and Friend,
As I look back and reflect on this year, I can’t help but be overwhelmed by the impact you’ve had on me. You challenge me to be my best. Christmas is about recognizing the gifts in our lives, and when I contemplate the gift of you, I am awed.
With all my love
– Josh
====
Dearest Sarah,
Weʼve been through a lot — and weʼll encounter tougher times, too, of that Iʼm sure. When I try to imagine the difficult moments that lie ahead of us, Iʼm not afraid. My head tells me I should worry, but I donʼt. Itʼs because of you. You see, I know you, and I know that if we are walking through together weʼll be alright.
You are my safe place.
– Josh
====
To my wife and partner in crime.
The other day, I wanted to do something I thought would be adventurous. It was probably something sort of silly and insanely impractical — like selling our car and driving bikes everywhere, or relocating to Taiwan, or getting a massive tattoo. Any other person wouldnʼt have even let me finish my sentence. But you, you listened to me. You let me share my silly and insanely impractical dream. You let me be me — and that is one of the reasons I love you so much.
I canʼt believe how awesome you are.
– Josh
====
Sarah,
One of the things I like about you so much is that you really care about stuff. You engage with your world. You really want to make things better. So many people arenʼt like you.
You drive me to be a better man.
– Josh
====
Dear Sarah,
You do strange things to me. Sometimes, in the quiet, I feel strangely overwhelmed with how little of you I know. Yes, weʼve been married for years, and Iʼve delighted in learning you, but itʼs amazing how deep you are. Thereʼs always something incredible inside of you.
– Josh
====
Sarah,
I think back to our wedding day; most of it is blurry and surreal, but I do remember one thing with utter clarity. I remember hearing you say “I do.” I can see your lips pronounce the words, I can hear your voice settling in my ear, and I can definitely remember the surge of emotion that flooded me (which I handled in an extremely manly fashion).
No two words have ever meant so much to me.
Yours,
– Josh
====
Dear Sarah.
I love every bit of you. I love your mismatched socks. I love your mischievous grin. I love your quirky affection for goats. I love your fondness for coffee. I love your taste in fashion. I love your ability to really listen. I love your hospitality. I love your quietness. I love your laugh. I love your everything.
– Josh
====
Dear Sarah,
No matter how many times I tell you “I love you,” it never feels to be enough. I feel as though the deep affection and absolute commitment I have for you is far too great to be expressed through anything but a lifetime of saying “I love you.”
Thatʼs good, because a lifetime is what I have for you!
– Josh
====
Dear Sarah,
You have challenged so many of my preconceptions about life. Youʼve changed the way I understand compassion. Youʼve helped me to stop listening to myself talk and start really hearing what other people are saying. Youʼve realigned my priorities and reshaped my outlook on life.
Hands down, youʼve made me much awesomer.
Thanks!
– Josh
====
Dear Sarah,
As I experience you, I want more of you. The more of you I get, the harder it is to imagine life without you. Without realizing it, Iʼve built my world around your beauty and intelligence and spirit, and it looks amazing.
You are the cornerstone of my life, Sarah, and I am deeply in love with you.
– Josh

To read through all of the 52 love notes I wrote this year, check out: http://www.thenonconformistfamily.com/aom

Take the 52 Love Note Challenge in 2012!

So, gentlemen, there you have it. This year, I challenge you to make written love notes part of your romancing arsenal. Be the most romantic guy in your partner’s life. Express your love to her in a way that is deeply, meaningfully real. And enjoy a happier and stronger relationship with your main squeeze and partner in crime in 2012.

____________________________________

Joshua Gordon writes about living an awesome life at TheNonConformistFamily.com. Together with his wife Sarah, he’s leading his sweet fam as far from boring, template living as he can.

{ 141 comments… read them below or add one }

101 Rob January 7, 2012 at 11:23 am

What a marvelous idea. I accept and am looking forward to this challenge. First note coming right up!

102 Phillip January 7, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Wow. Thanks.

103 Henrique Fernandes January 8, 2012 at 6:49 pm

Man, that’s awesome! It’s commendable the fact that so many men nowadays think like this, wanting to be married to only one woman for the rest of their lives. This article was completely manvotional. Even though i’m not married and don’t even have a fianceé or girlfriend, i’ll be sure to write her as much as i can (of course this is not goin’ to be so great a problem, because i love writing) but i’ll take these advices. Thank you very much, and stay manly!

104 Barno January 9, 2012 at 2:02 am

Here’s the first letter I sent my wife in the first week of January to kick off the challenge. I thought it might be handy as a format if someone wants to copy it. She phoned me and called me an a-hole for making her cry and demanded I come home immediately.

Unfortunately I may have blown my load early, don’t know if I can produce work of a similar level next week.

I’m also feeling romantic and compelled to write you a love letter on my lunch break so here goes.

In the last eleven years we’ve had three kids, eleven pets (counting crazy crabs) I’ve had seven jobs, we’ve lived in six houses and moved house seven times due to spending a month living with your parents, we’ve owned ten mobile phones between us, I’ve had forty nine hair cuts and we’ve had four family holidays, two honey moon holidays and one awkward couples retreat to Pemberton we try and forget about. We’ve attended four weddings together, had dozens and dozens of dates and cuddled a number of times that is both very wonderfully high and not enough (although I don’t know what number enough would be). I’ve grown a moustache twice and bought two bikes I almost never use, you’ve joined three gyms and almost never go.

We’ve had some tough times as well, I was almost killed once in a car accident, you thought you had cancer once, but statistically these aren’t bad odds. Especially considering my driving skills. You’ve gotten lost over five thousand times, I’ve lost my temper too many times, and we’ve both wondered who this person is we married for a moment I’m guessing about once a year. You threw me out of the car once and I’ve slept on the couch twice (although again in eleven years I think these are good odds). We’ve had one snake in our house and one time being burgled. We’ve had far too many credit cards but I’m hoping in a year that number will have reduced to zero. We’ve made plenty of mistakes but we were young and stupid and compared to the mistakes some people make I think they were all pretty small.

What I’m hinting at is that things change, often dramatically, and things are always changing, sometimes for the good and sometimes bad. But the important thing that never changes is how much I love you. From the moment I asked you to marry me to the moment I kissed you goodbye this morning before going to work. I’ve loved you just as much if not more.

105 Nathan Merrill January 9, 2012 at 9:53 am

Josh’s 52 weekly lover letters and JP’s 12 days of Christmas are both great ideas for keeping the romance fresh and alive.

My wife and I were married last October. To make our first married Christmas special, I did something similar to JP. For each of the 25 days leading up to Christmas, starting on November 30th, I gave her a Christmas card with a love note and a gift. For instance, some of the daily gifts I gave were photos of special times we shared during the year, a gift certificate for a massage, and favorite desserts.

She loved all the surprises and she said she felt it made our first Christmas very special. I challenge others to do this some holiday season to make all the 25 days leading to Christmas special.

106 Chad Smith January 9, 2012 at 10:18 am

Challenge Accepted!

107 Dan Miller January 9, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Josh – man you’ve really raised the bar here. What a spectacular idea. I know my wife of 44 years would be blown away with a handwritten note from me each week. I’m going to do it! I can already anticipate the increase in my emotional bank account with her. Thanks for the prompting.

108 Teri @ StumblingAroundInTheLight January 9, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Well, wow.
I’ve sent this on to my husband, and all the guys in his small group.

Tho I changed the subject-line title to this:
“How to get more sex in 2012″

Cause seriously, when a woman feels more loved, appreciated, & romanced…she feels sexier!
Just sayin’…

109 Scott Stearman January 9, 2012 at 2:01 pm

May 21, 2008
Dear Hermine,
30 years ago today was the first day of our new life together. We didnʼt have any idea what was before us, but I remember thinking, “This is going to be good.” And it has been good.
The first time I saw you was just a glimpse of this shock of black hair darting into the door of our Old Testament class our freshman year in college, 1971. I remember thinking, “Who was that?” And as I learned who you are, I fell in love with you.
At first, I was taken by your grace… how you moved with such poise and confidence that belied how scared and uncertain you felt living so far from your home in Africa. And I watched you (which was easy)… and I listened to your words. “Sheʼs different”, I would say to myself. And I fell in love with you even more.
And I remember … I remember how it felt when you said you loved me. Everything about life suddenly came into focus. It felt so right and perfect when I asked you to spend your life with me. And you said yes…
You are my treasure. I am warmed by the thought of you. I love you with everything I am. And when I am away from you … I am embraced by the idea of you; thinking of your smile and your ways, your eyes and your laugh, your walk and your heart … always your heart. You are the kindest person I have ever known. Your enjoyment of life gives me new energy. You brighten every room and comfort every hurting person you touch.
If I could testify in front of the whole village, calling the elders from their counsel and the workers from the fields, gathering all the children and the old men sitting under the trees, the women stirring the pots and the young boys needing a vision to live by; I would speak about the warm embrace of the sun, the smooth taste of honey, the fresh awakening of morning dew, the sweet fire of spices, and the soft sigh of the distant surf…
…and I would tell them that my lover, my wife exceeds them all.
Happy Anniversary, Hermine. I Love You!
Scott

 

110 Curly One January 9, 2012 at 4:09 pm

i`m considering a harder variation of the challenge: write 52 poems to the loved one. without copying others, without using someone else`s idea consciously. just be inventive, creative, and a great lover…

111 dave January 9, 2012 at 7:14 pm

This is an awesome idea. I cannot tell you how underutilized the love letter is in modern dating. Guys, if you want to knock your girlfriend’s socks off, send her a real love letter (by mail) and watch what happens. The best $0.44 you ever spent.

112 Kevin Miller January 9, 2012 at 11:00 pm

Mr. Gordon, my brother, you are a bonafide rockstar. This is the stuff…what makes a marriage a romance. I love it, and need to do it. Bless you my friend.

113 Scott January 10, 2012 at 12:30 am

One of the best Valentine’s Day gifts I ever gave my wife (in her opinion) was writing half a dozen love notes each with a different reason for loving her that she was instructed to read at certain hours of the day.

This is a great challenge. I accept.

114 Ruth January 10, 2012 at 6:12 am

Speaking as someone who just entered their 33 year of marriage, and I aspire to my grandparent’s 50+ years, love letters are great, but not the only thing that makes a long lasting marriage. Having respect for each other tops my list because it covers so many things we say and do every day. We say “I love you” to each other regularly every day, but we also show each we respect each other too. My grandparents did the same thing. Grandma died at home at an old age secure in grandad’s love because he was the one taking care of her, just as she took care of him most of their lives.

115 Chester January 10, 2012 at 8:14 am

Josh,

You have not only raised the bar but inspired me. I know I’m a week late so I guess I’ll just have to write two letters this week.
Thank you for this wonderful idea

116 Patrick January 10, 2012 at 10:55 am

What an inspiration! I’m also a week off, so this week it’ll be 2 letters!

117 Jenifer January 10, 2012 at 9:26 pm

Which wife did Ronald Reagan write that to?

118 Kit January 11, 2012 at 12:31 pm

I decided to jump into this. I bought parchment paper and a fountain pen – after all, content is more important than presentation (i.e. even an email is better than nothing) but presentation is important.

Of course, once I got started I kept going. My wife got her 4th letter in 4 days, and I’ve got 4-5 more already written. I’ll probably have to slow down before long – but it is fun so far.

Also, she told me i should write some to my daughter too. Not a bad idea!

119 Zach January 16, 2012 at 12:05 am

Wrote my first before I was done reading Reagan’s note love the idea a push in the right direction for me

120 Wally January 16, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Two letters down 50 to go!!!!! Having fun

121 Wally January 16, 2012 at 7:52 pm

Two letters down 50 to go!!!!! Having fun doing these

122 Michael January 17, 2012 at 12:32 pm

I just started this a week ago or so…I love the idea!
I wrote a couple a stashed them in my bedside table, planning to give them to her one at a time. Then yesterday, she goes “I was cleaning the house and found some notes you wrote. When were these from?”. I had to respond “Um…next week? For you?”.
Luckily, the message was still communicated, but I need to find a better hiding place.

123 k January 17, 2012 at 4:59 pm

My husband writes me a sweet little love note every morning. Some days it is the only thing that gets me out of bed.

124 Marcus January 18, 2012 at 7:53 am

Josh,

Than you for the idea – I have done the first two letters and have noticed a big positive difference in my relationship with my wife. I have just finished writing one to my 3yr old son that will go in the post for mum to read tomorrow or the day after and plan to keep doing that throughout his life. I have always felt these loving feelings towards them both but the very act and discipline of writing them down so THAT THEY KNOW isd the most important part of allthis for me. Thank you again Josh and thank you AoM for providing this little nuggets on a regular basis where some just hit me right in the sweet spot!
Marcus.

125 Alyssa January 18, 2012 at 10:27 pm

My boyfriend of one year recently moved for work, turning our relationship into a long distance one. When I saw this post, I decided to write to him whenever I miss him dearly. I didn’t think I’d be able to write even close to a page, but hand-written letters have really provided me with the opportunity to say things that are difficult to express in a quick text or conversation. He just received his first letter in the mail and plans to write back. Thank you for your post, I believe these notes will make the distance just a little bit easier.

126 Ashley January 20, 2012 at 12:39 pm

LOVE this! My husband went away to boot camp just a month after we met. For the next 4 months, our love grew through letters. He returned, and we married then a deployment took him away for another year, and again, more letters, and again, love grew. We kept every one of them and they are my most prized of worldly treasures. Such a great idea.

127 Chef Nusy January 22, 2012 at 11:54 pm

I had to spend 2 years apart from my husband; him in California, me in my native Hungary. We sent each other love letters pretty much every week. Now I wish I could treasure those letters – but I had to submit the originals for my immigration file, and chances are I won’t be getting them back. :(

128 nate January 29, 2012 at 1:15 pm

This is such a great challenge for men and one that, if i’m honest, is gonna be tough to commit to. But regardless of it, I think that learning to fight for our wives’ hearts is awesome and this challenge is right on! Thanks.

129 Russell September 19, 2012 at 9:58 pm

While we were still dating, my wife and i used one of my hardback sketchbooks as an conversation/art peice. ten years, two kids, and the trials of long work weeks and opposing shifts, have left our relationship a bit emaciated. thank you for this. it’s opened my eyes not only to the woman that i love and why, but to the guy that she fell in love with that i haven’t been. i owe you a beer, or twelve.

130 Nathan September 28, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Challenge accepted. Starting today.

131 Marc September 29, 2012 at 12:31 am

AWESOME IDEA!!! With the economy the way it is, Anniversary presents had to take a back seat this year. So, I decided to take this challenge and give it to my wife as her anniversary present. I just got done writing #3, and can not begin to describe how amazingly wonderful it has impacted my marriage…wish I would’ve known about this years ago…

132 Caleb October 1, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Awesome post. I know that its now the first of October and not the first of a new year, but I will be challenging myself to write my wife a love letter for every week from now until next October. This is such a great idea, even for those like me who have not even been married a year. Can’t wait to see her reactions over the coming weeks.

Also, thank you to all of those involved with this website. It’s very refreshing to see that real men are still out there and that we haven’t all fallen by the wayside of life. Keep the articles and advice coming!

133 har October 29, 2012 at 2:46 pm

I love the most this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_FR30a75UM

134 Manda November 10, 2012 at 2:29 pm

I absolutely adore this.
I used to write notes to my boyfriend, and asked that he reply, but he simply refuses to write at all. Oh well, that’s just him.
But I do have one text that he sent me when we were parted because he had to travel to a different state. It was the sweetest thing, and I still have it saved on my phone to this day.

Love notes are one of the sweetest things you can do for your significant other- it shows you really think about them and feel strongly for them even when they aren’t around. And it costs hardly anything, to boot!
I’d appreciate a love note over flowers or chocolate any day! Well, maybe not chocolate…

135 Russ November 26, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Late to the party again! How did I miss this post? Another wonderful idea! I can’t wait to start tonight!

136 Jay R November 26, 2012 at 12:48 pm

I know most of the people in the world are straight, but I wanted to let everyone know, that this practice of ‘love notes’ goes for my gay brothers as well. I’ve been legally married to my husband for 4 years now, and a simple, but meaningful ‘love note’ is an amazing gift – to give AND to to get. I sometimes find an old photo of me and my man and put a little note that says something like, “more in love with you now that yesterday…”

Cheers!

137 A Lady December 4, 2012 at 6:33 pm

I love writing notes to my guy! I had to practically beg him to write me one though, so he did it as part of my birthday present :) Maybe he saw how happy it made me and will do it again soon. I love rereading it when I miss him.

138 Curt December 10, 2012 at 11:23 am

I am close to completing the challenge and it has been a lot of fun! My Wife is in the habit now of having her hand out on Friday to get her note for the week. The only issue is, I think I have created a monster. I think I have to keep this up, there is no way to not hand her a note on Friday! Hopefully there are more great challenges like this for 2013!

139 Jessica December 27, 2012 at 3:06 pm

I wish that there was an Art of Womaness to compliment this site. (I’m not saying that from a feminist point of view, I’m saying that from a want to love and cherish my husband in the way you teach men to love and cherish their wives- in other words, keep up the good work.)

140 Scott B. February 13, 2013 at 4:07 pm

I’m reading this much later than most people, but nevertheless it is a great idea. I will start this tomorrow! I have the benefit of seeing what has/has not worked for some of you as well! Note to self, find a good hiding place for these (thanks Michael)

141 John February 19, 2013 at 9:20 am

What a great idea! Any idea of a working link to the rest of his letters? Maybe his site changed?

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