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How to write a love letter

Writing a love letter can seem daunting.  It’s not a style of writing most of us do.  There is a fear of sounding silly or “cheesy” to someone you care deeply for.  The idea of expressing your deepest feelings, even to someone you trust, can make you feel very vulnerable.

Fortunately, there is an art and style to writing a love letter that mitigates these concerns.  Expressing your heartfelt feelings does not have to make you feel emotionally exposed or silly.  Follow these steps to create a love letter.

Get serious (kind of...)

One mistake often made when crafting a love letter is trying too hard to be funny.  You certainly want to go for light-hearted and carefree, but if your letter starts to sound like one-liners from a Ron White comedy routine, you’re not doing it right.

The reason people use humor when giving romantic gifts is that they are afraid of revealing their true feelings.  If they couch those feelings in comedy, they seem less scary.  If something said falls flat, they can fall back on “just kidding.”   

Unfortunately, In humorous writing, someone is usually the “butt” of the joke.  When you express genuine admiration for someone, making them the punchline seldom works well.

The other way to try and use humor in a love letter is to be “self-deprecating” or poke fun at yourself.  The problem here is that the focus should be on them, not you.   It’s ok to reference a quirk you, they, or you both have, just make sure it’s relevant to the story you are telling and not thrown in just for humor’s sake.

Don’t fear intimacy

It’s natural to feel vulnerable when expressing your true feelings to someone.  All those old teenage fears of being rejected or being inadequate get stirred back up.  It’s ok if you feel a little nervous; in fact, it might be a good thing.  If you’re not feeling at least a little bit “raw,” you’re probably not touching on deep feelings.  A love letter is a way to express feelings that are not easily said every day.   Feeling just a little uneasy probably indicates you’re in the right state of mind to compose an excellent letter.

Keep the focus on THEM

The focus of your letter should be on your special someone.  What is it that makes them unique, and what traits or characteristics do they have that you admire?  If you’re writing about the butterflies you get, you’re probably not emphasizing their admirable qualities.  Simply put, a good love letter isn’t about you; it’s all about them!

Open with a great “hook”

The opening of your love letter should entice your reader to want to read what follows.  Instead of starting with “Happy Anniversary” or “Merry Christmas,” use something like “Why I would marry you again” or “Why I fell in love with you.”  Your intended will not be able to resist reading on.  After all, who wouldn’t want to read wonderful things someone has composed just for them?

Tell Your Story

A love letter will often take the form of a story, usually a short one.  The story might involve how you met, or when you first realized you were in love.  Usually, there are three parts to a story; the first part consists of some problem or conflict (e.g., I’d given up on love) then an obstacle to be overcome (e.g., I found you, but you’re in Madagascar and I’m in Poughkeepsie), and a resolution (e.g., it was so clever of you to suggest we winter in Madagascar and summer in Poughkeepsie).

Your story does not have to be epic; they probably already know how it ends.  It will provide a good framework for your love letter and can be the delivery mechanism for what you want to say.

Add in some affirmations, compliments, and promises!

This is where the real “meat” of a love letter lies.  What is it that’s so special about them that you’ve chosen to write about it?   There are some general rules about what to write depending on the gender of the person. In traditional and stereotypical terms, men want to be admired, and women want to be adored. 

The messages that will resonate most with your intended are when you describe traits or skills they value in themselves.  Are they committed to working with children or with animals?  Use that.  Are they particularly interested in being well-dressed and put together at all times?  Mention that.  Do they exercise regularly and focus on healthy eating? Let them know how proud that makes you feel.

On the other hand, if your intended only dresses up and puts on make-up a couple of times a year, mentioning how good she looks dressed up probably isn’t going to resonate since it’s not that important to her.  It’s not a bad thing to write; it’s just not as likely to stir up her feelings.

Figuring out what your intended values about themself will make your affirmations more effective.  If you happen to know their “love language,” that will also guide you on what to mention.

One thing to note about writing affirmations for men.  Most men are not used to hearing kind things said about them.  Women hear compliments about themselves frequently (usually from female friends and family), but in our society, we don’t often compliment men.  If you write sincere affirmations to a man pointing out things he values in himself, you may be surprised at the emotional impact it has on him. 

Wrap it up and end on a high note

Now that you’ve expressed those things you value in your intended (and hopefully those are the things they value in themselves), it’s time to go out with a bang.  You need to resolve your story, and this will generally take the form of reaffirming your love and admiration for your person.  Write about how fortunate it is you’ve found each other.  (e.g., “What are the chances that two data scientists with a passion for Navaho Indian poetry would have crossed paths!”)

Finally, close with a great line.  Since most of us are not skilled novelists or poets, it ok to borrow one, use it as is, or paraphrase it.  If you’re worried about not being original, don’t be.  You’ve done such a wonderful job with the affirmations that your intended is probably reduced to an emotional puddle by now and won’t get to the conclusion on their first reading anyway!

If you have some quote or saying you like, use it.  If you're looking for ideas, here are some favorites:

  • “True love isn’t finding someone you can live with, it’s finding the one you can’t live without”
  • "1 universe, 9 planets, 204 countries, 809 islands, 7 seas, and I was lucky enough to find you."
  • “Thinking of you keeps me awake. Dreaming of you keeps me asleep. Being with you keeps me alive.”
Your special someone will never forget the first love letter they get from you.  Like the first time you met, or the the first you kissed, it will be a milestone in your relationship, and a memento they'll keep forever.