February, the month when we celebrate Valentine’s Day, is a good time to consider writing a love letter. While most people think such a letter pertains to romance, it can also be something you send to a dear friend, relative, or even a pet. The point is to express the messages of your heart. It’s just another intimate way to express your feelings.
A number of years ago, I attended a performance of the A. R. Gurney play Love Letters, which was originally produced on Broadway in the 1980s. The stars in this particular production were Carol Burnett and Brian Dennehy. It was a powerful performance featuring two stellar octogenarians. Andy and Melissa, the characters in the play, had been childhood friends who’d maintained a lifelong correspondence through notes, cards, and letters, which were read back and forth onstage. Even though the two were romantically involved way back when, their lives had gone in different directions with various partners. Over the years, through their continual correspondence, they’d served as each other’s confidants and “life anchors.”
In this fast-paced universe where email has just about taken over our lives, it’s fun to write old-fashioned love letters to those who are special to us. Even though it takes a lot of discipline to sit down and write a letter, the benefits are huge for both the sender and the recipient. Sometimes it’s easier to speak from the heart when not distracted by looking into another person’s eyes. Receiving a letter also allows us to more easily enter into the drama and emotions that are part of special friendships.
The writing of passionate love letters is something that has been around for centuries, but as a literary form, it probably began during the Renaissance as a way to keep the embers hot even when lovers were not in close proximity.
Like the characters featured in Love Letters, some lovers or special friends might not have the opportunity to become intimate and instead have a relationship that revolves around writing letters. This was the case with writer and prophet Kahlil Gibran, who had a 27-year affair with a schoolteacher through love letters alone.
Here are some tips for writing such a letter:
- Imagine that the person you’re writing to is sitting across from you. Think about everything you’d like to say.
- Remember that the idea is to inform, amuse, explore feelings, and most important, to express love.
- While writing, try to keep a photograph of the person in front of you.
- Be honest and sincere, and write from your heart.
- Share the qualities you love about the person.
- Be playful and whimsical.
- If appropriate, end the letter with a fantasy or a seductive thought.
- Consider spraying perfume on the envelope.
Similar to a book, the first lines of your letter will pull in the recipient. Here are some suggestions for starting your letter:
- Begin by letting the person know why you’re writing.
- Remind him or her of a special time you spent together.
- Transition to what you admire about this individual.
- Write about the influence he or she has had on your life and how your life has changed since meeting.
- Reaffirm your love.
Here are some beginnings of famous letters:
“You have been wonderful, my Juliette, all through these dark and violet days. If I needed love, you brought it to me, bless you.” (Victor Hugo to Juliette Drouet)
“In spite of myself, my imagination carries me to you, I kiss you, I caress you, a thousand of the most amorous caresses take possession of me.” (Honoré de Balzac to Countess Edwina Haska)
“I will cover you with love when next I see you, with caresses, with ecstasy. I want to gorge you with all the joys of the flesh, so that you faint and die. I want you to be amazed by me, and to confess to yourself that you had never even dreamed of such transports…When you are old, I want you to recall those few hours, I want your dry bones to quiver with joy when you think of them.” (Gustave Flaubert to Louise Colet)
“I look back to the early days of our acquaintance and friendship as to the days of love and innocence, and, with an indescribable pleasure.” (Abigail Adams to John Adams)
“I don’t know what is the matter with me. I am so exulted. I am almost mad, working, loving you, writing, and thinking of you, playing your records, dancing in the room when my eyes are tired. You have given me such joys that it does not matter what happens now.” (Anaïs Nin to Henry Miller)
Previously Published on Psychology Today