While I dare not claim that regular letter-writing could solve all issues in a romantic relationship, this habit does help to mitigate many problems.
In this age and day, writing letters could very well be the most tedious activity. It requires a significant chunk of time to prepare the necessary stationery, settle down in a comfortable corner, and ponder and reflect on the topics that you want to pen for your recipient.
In this age and day, when connectivity apps hold sway over our lives and speed is the name of the game, who has the time?
I get it. No self-respecting tech-nerd worth his 2016 flagship smartphone would agree that letter writing is absolutely essential for anything.
But that opinion would quickly change, because for the past 3 years, I have been writing weekly letters to my then-girlfriend-now-wife. I didn’t miss a single week. I will not now, and nor will I in future. I credit this habit with the pretty Herculean task of saving my sanity, our sanity, and our relationship.
Just to be clear, I didn’t embark on writing weekly letters as some grand gesture of romantic love. It was a gesture of love, that’s for sure, but it sure ain’t a grand one at that.
In the second year of our couplehood, the friction that came from living together created sparks that ignited quite a few spectacular fights. The most inane topics could suddenly become tinder for one helluva-heck of a quarrel. And because my way of resolving arguments used to be all-right-I-give-in-now-shall-we-just-cuddle-and-make-up, nothing ever really got resolved because we never really got the opportunity to nip the issues in the bud. Didn’t help that I was a closet introvert, and opening up to another person was a proposition I would rather die than accept. Ah, that marvelous scent of vulnerability was something that I was keenly not used to. Thanks, Asian male chauvinism.
PSA: Quiet, by Susan Cain, helped me a lot to understand myself, and get out of the social ruts dug by decades of living in my society. I highly recommend a read!
Even though I was (and still am) fiercely devoted to her, the frequency of those conflicts wore me thin pretty soon. I was determined to make our relationship work (my previous relationship was a traumatic one, and one that I would never allow to happen again), and that meant I had to do something for our relationship’s sake.
At that point in time, I happened to be reading The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright. A stroke of ingenuity (for me, that is) struck when I read its excerpt:
Jack and Laurel Cooper are rare souls who have led quiet but exceptional lives. After a 39-year-marriage during which they raised a family and fulfilled their dream of operating a bed & breakfast in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, the two die in each other’s arms. Throughout their time on earth, they opened up their home and hearts and touched countless lives… While sorting through her parents’ belongings, Samantha discovers a hidden trove of letters that Jack had apparently written to Laurel every Wednesday up until the night they passed. Sam and her brothers, Matthew and Malcolm, eagerly devour them. Like the day-to-day business of marriage itself, their father’s letters are sometimes goofy, sometimes serious, and sometimes banal …
Why don’t I start writing to her weekly as well? This idea could be big! It could also potentially solve 3 problems:
Lack of meaningful communication: It’s complementary to our daily communication – and could increase the level of our intimacy with each other, emotionally and intellectually.
My vulnerability: It is an outlet for me to learn to manage my vulnerability, and how we can eventually be entirely open with each other.
Unrealistic expectations of each other: It provides a compelling and low-risk way for us to convey and manage our expectations of each other.
Therefore, the Tuesday Letters were born. I chose Tuesdays to send her the letters because it was on that day when I first met her on a date, and the first day when I got to grasp her hands in mine.
Her initial reaction? She utterly loved it – she loved the first few weeks of such unfettered insights into what used to be her clamped-up (ex)boyfriend. She loved that it was a gesture that showed I cared about us. She loved that I was making a serious attempt to understand her and open up to her. In fact, she loved it so much that she started writing to me as well – her Sunday Letters.
However, she also had her reservations. “Could you really maintain that routine? It’s extremely tiring to write weekly, what with work commitments and etc…” Her reservations were not unfounded – Working as a language educator consumed an unhealthy portion of my waking hours. It was difficult, many times at first, to sit down and pen down thoughts in the middle of the night after a 13-hours work day. The temptation to procrastinate was so strong, I remembered having to set reminders in my Google Calendar to jolt me back to delivering my promised weekly letters.
Ultimately, we persevered. 3 years and 2 large boxes of letters later, we realised that the rewards to our relationship were absolutely huge.
We enjoy incredibly open communication with each other.
We are very clear about our expectations of each other, and this clarity abolishes A LOT of misunderstandings and arguments.
If an argument could not be resolved verbally and immediately (in the heat of the moment), we use letters as a way to discuss about resolutions after we calm down.
We grow together as individuals and as a couple when we reflect upon and synthesise our individual and couple experiences.
We look forward to each other’s letters weekly, and this encourages a spirit of mutual gifting, passion and romance.
While I dare not claim that regular letter-writing could solve all issues in a romantic relationship, this habit does help to mitigate many problems. As an extension, it also helps both partners to pursue a path of mutual respect and love.
So, why not just try? You could be pleasantly surprised at the rewards!
Originally published on DanKoh.net
Photo: Getty Images