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 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:
- Be thoughtful when you write.
- Be inventive in how you say “I love you.”
- Point out the little things you like about your wife.
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.