Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2009. We’ve updated it.
We’ve previously discussed the idea that every man should strive to be a romantic lover, and how the date is one of a man’s best tools for wooing a lady. A man’s other major tool in the romance department is the love letter. As long as love (and writing utensils) has existed, so has the love letter. It has been the go-to way for millions of men throughout history to confess or reiterate their feelings of love for another.
Plenty of women, of course, have and will continue to write love letters. But as the sex that has historically been the “pursuer” in the relationship and often has trouble vocally expressing their feelings, writing love letters has traditionally been the purview of men.
It’s not always easy to express our feelings to our significant others. We’d rather show our love through actions. We feel that our love for someone is manifestly obvious, because after all, don’t we vacuum the house, and mow the lawn, and make them their favorite pancakes every Sunday morning? Our actions show that we’re faithful and true, and to us it feels like this should be enough.
But it’s not quite that way for a woman. Women definitely appreciate our acts of love, but their brains are also quite a bit more language oriented than ours. They want to hear the words behind the actions. They want to know exactly what’s in our hearts.
But it’s hard to not only find the right words to express how we feel about someone, but to also make it flow and sound real purty. It’s especially difficult when you’re sitting down with someone and trying to remember exactly what you wanted to say. Enter the love letter.
Why Write a Love Letter
Love letters were definitely more popular in the past when soldiers were off fighting the Big One and men left on trips that took them away from their love for months or even years at a time. With the rise of modern means of communication, love letters, and letters generally, have fallen into disfavor.
But as we talked about in our letter writing post, letters have special properties that no modern form of communication can duplicate. A handwritten letter is something tangible that we touch and hold and then pass to another to touch and hold. And they are preserved and cherished in a way that text messages or email never will be.
The love letters you give your wife or girlfriend are testaments in the history of your love. They constitute a record of your relationship that she’ll hold onto for the rest of her life (unless of course you break her heart and then the letters will give her the satisfaction of having something to burn or line the bird cage with).
Your love doesn’t have to be far away for you to write a letter to her. A love letter is appropriate even when you’re sleeping alongside your special someone every night. It’s a chance to express your feelings in a more ardent way than you do on a day-to-day basis.
A woman cannot hear too many times that’s she beautiful and that you love her. They’ll never get sick of it. They want to know that you still feel the same way as you did when you first met, heck, the same way you felt last Monday. When high-profile cases of infidelity are so often in the news, a lady can be forgiven for wanting regular reassurance that she’s still the only one for you.
How to Write a Love Letter
If you’re particularly in touch with your feelings and a great writer, then love letters may come easily to you. In that case, just sit down with pen and paper and let it rip. If you’re someone who has problems formulating a romantic love letter, we offer the following tips to guide the process.
1. Start off by stating the purpose of your letter. You want your love to know right away that this is a love letter and not a note to give her the brush off or to voice some kind of displeasure with the relationship. Begin with something like, “I was thinking today about how very much I love you, and how I really don’t tell you that enough. So I wanted to sit down and let you know how truly in love with you I really am.”
2. Recall a romantic memory. What’s special about couplehood is that the two of you have a shared history, a history that is unique to you and your love. Thus the best way to start a love letter is to refer to a shared memory; this conjures up feelings of your history together and scores you points for remembering details of your past. For example, begin by saying, “I still remember clearly the moment when you walked into Rob’s party, wearing that stunning red dress. You were smiling ear-to-ear and absolutely lit up the room. I knew immediately that I had to meet you. I went to the bathroom to try to summon up my courage and think of what to say. But it was no use; I was totally tongue tied when I approached you. I was smitten from the very start.”
3. Now transition to a section about the things you love about her. Move from your memory to the present with a line like, “And here we are more than a decade later, and you still leave me weak in the knees.”
4. Tell her all the things you love about her. Before you write this section, make a list on a separate sheet of paper of all the things you that you love about your significant other. Think about her physical characteristics, her personality, her character, and all the wonderful things she does for you. Then, turn the things you listed into sentences. “I truly think you are the most beautiful women in the world. I love the feeling of your legs intertwined with mine and the smell of your hair and skin. Your smile lifts my spirits on even my worst days. I love your laugh and your ability to find humor in every situation. I’m so grateful for everything you do for me, from your delicious dinners to your magnificent backrubs.”
5. Tell her how your life has changed since meeting her. “You truly complete me. These last few years have been the happiest of my life. I can’t tell you how lucky I feel to always have my best friend by my side.”
6. Reaffirm your love and commitment. “I will always love you, no matter what happens, through thick and thin. I will be absolutely true and faithful to you forever.”
7. End with a line that sums up your love. “I can’t wait to grow old with you.” “My love for you will never end.” “You are my best friend and soul mate and I will love you until the end of our lives.”
It’s okay to err on the side of cheesiness. The most important rule is to be completely authentic. Write only those things that you truly feel. This will prevent the letter from seeming over the top or incongruous with your personality and relationship.
If you need some inspiration before you start writing, read this letter and watch this video that we originally posted in our article about “How to Write a Love Letter Like a Soldier.” The letter was written in 1861 by Sullivan Ballou to his wife Sarah, a week before the Battle of Bull Run. The clip gives a shortened verison of the letter which appeared in Ken Burn’s Civil War documentary. It is set to the achingly beautiful “Ashokan Farewell” and definitely worth a listen.
July the 14th, 1861
My very dear Sarah:
The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days-perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write you again, I feel impelled to write lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more.
Our movement may be one of a few days duration and full of pleasure-and it may be one of severe conflict and death to me. Not my will, but thine O God, be done. If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my country, I am ready. I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in, the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans upon the triumph of the Government, and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and suffering of the Revolution. And I am willing-perfectly willing-to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt.
But, my dear wife, when I know that with my own joys I lay down nearly all of yours, and replace them in this life with cares and sorrows-when, after having eaten for long years the bitter fruit of orphanage myself, I must offer it as their only sustenance to my dear little children-is it weak or dishonorable, while the banner of my purpose floats calmly and proudly in the breeze, that my unbounded love for you, my darling wife and children, should struggle in fierce, though useless, contest with my love of country?
I cannot describe to you my feelings on this calm summer night, when two thousand men are sleeping around me, many of them enjoying the last, perhaps, before that of death-and I, suspicious that Death is creeping behind me with his fatal dart, am communing with God, my country, and thee.
I have sought most closely and diligently, and often in my breast, for a wrong motive in thus hazarding the happiness of those I loved and I could not find one. A pure love of my country and of the principles have often advocated before the people and “the name of honor that I love more than I fear death” have called upon me, and I have obeyed.
Sarah, my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me to you with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me irresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.
The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me-perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar-that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name.
Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have often been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortune of this world, to shield you and my children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the spirit land and hover near you, while you buffet the storms with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.
But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the garish day and in the darkest night-amidst your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours-always, always; and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; or the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by.
Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.
As for my little boys, they will grow as I have done, and never know a father’s love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue-eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the dimmest memories of his childhood. Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their characters. Tell my two mothers his and hers I call God’s blessing upon them. O Sarah, I wait for you there! Come to me, and lead thither my children.
Hopefully, you are now fully inspired to write your lady a romantic love letter. One need not wait until they are nigh unto death to make their feelings known. Each day could be your last; tell her how you feel right now.
And if you are single, write a love poem to hone your romantic writing skills.