Can you remember the last time you sat down with a pen and paper to handwrite a letter to your significant other? If the answer is no, you’re definitely not alone. Living in the era of DMs and heart emojis, it’s easy to forget how one of the most treasured ways to say I love you is still a good old-fashioned letter. Whether you’re dating, engaged, or have been together forever, letting your partner know how much they mean to you with a tangible note is always a swoon-worthy move.
“The vulnerable authenticity of a love letter is what will take [your partner’s] breath away,” explains couples counselor and writer Donna Keehn. We caught up with her to learn how to write a love letter from the heart and find inspiration.
Meet the Expert
Donna Keehn is a marriage and family therapist and published author based in San Diego, CA.
“Remember,” she says, “your love letter is not meant to compete with all of the other love letters that exist ... [and] as long as the words expressed are sincere, it will be absolutely perfect for the person lucky enough to receive it.” Ready to get started? Below is everything you need to know to write a love letter.
What to Include in Your Love Letter
1. Start With a Meaningful Greeting
“With a love letter, the greeting can immediately reflect the depth of your connection and love,” Keehn shares. “But just because you’re being vulnerable and romantic doesn’t mean your tone has to be strictly formal.” Addressing your partner with a cherished nickname like ‘Sweetie Pie,’ ‘Love Nugget,’ or ‘Buttercup' can be just as touching as something like 'My Love.' Also, when in doubt, simply starting with your partner’s first name is intimate in its own way.
2. Recall Romantic Moments
Reflecting on and sharing specific moments when you “knew” you loved someone is a beautiful start to the heart of the letter. Keehn suggests asking yourself, “Did you experience a moment where you realized all of the ways having this human being in your life has changed you [and] your life for the better? Think about these shared moments in a timeline fashion, and capture the experiences and emotions in free-flow writing.”
3. Write Out the “Why’s”
Instead of going vague with statements such as “I love your personality,” Keehn encourages digging deeper and exploring the “why” behind what it is you love about someone. Without filtering yourself, try to articulate “why you love their personality, their character, their kindness, their generosity, their touch...” Capture that magic!
4. Close With Candor
This is the time to express how it really feels now that this person is in your life. “Don’t be shy!” Keehn laughs, “Put yourself fully out there at the end and toss insecurities to the wind.” As for the final line itself, you can of course never go wrong in baring it all through a simple, powerful ‘I love you.’
Tips for Getting Started (and Finishing Strong!)
Don’t know where to start, or having trouble finding a creative flow? “Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and think about your partner,” Keehn says, “[and] let your heart and head fill up with their presence.” By creating a safe space for yourself, thoughts, feelings, and words will start to bubble up without judgment. When they do, just write without worrying about how it sounds. Poetic phrases, concrete statements, and sweet nothings are all perfect. “If you’re feeling stuck,” she adds, “turn to outside inspiration such as existing love letters, marriage vows, and of course, Shakespeare, to guide the way.”
Take Your Time
For a love letter that doesn’t feel trivial or forced, Keehn suggests going slow and piecing it together a bit at a time. “The vast majority of us want to rush through something when it feels awkward or outside of our comfort zone,” she says, “but when you think about it, just about everything we do, even really big things, are done in small steps…”
Pick a Personalized Medium
Yay, you’ve written the contents of your letter! A fun and, often overlooked, component of the letter itself, is what you write it on. “Let yourself have fun!” Keehn says, “The love letter doesn’t have to be on a fancy piece of stationary to be special.”
As for a few example ideas? If your partner is a teacher, consider writing the letter on notebook paper and hiding it in their binder. Or maybe a chef? Create a “menu” front page that opens up to the letter inside. The possibilities are, truly, endless.
Iconic Love Letter Examples
To leave you feeling inspired, we’ve rounded up some of the most iconic love letters of all time.
Johnny Cash to his wife June:
“Happy Birthday Princess,
We get old and get used to each other. We think alike. We read each other’s minds. We know what the other wants without asking. Sometimes we irritate each other a little bit. Maybe sometimes we take each other for granted.
But once in a while, like today, I meditate on it and realize how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman I ever met. You still fascinate and inspire me. You influence me for the better. You’re the object of my desire, the #1 Earthly reason for my existence. I love you very much. Happy Birthday Princess - John”
Composer John Cage to Merce Cunningham:
“Today is beautiful and I am dreaming of you and enigma and how we are together today: your words in my ears making [me] limp and taut by turns with delight. Oh, I am sure we could use each other today.
I like to believe that you are writing my music now: God knows I’m not doing it, because it simply seems to happen. The pretissimo is incredible the way you are and is perhaps a song and description about you … Pardon the intrusion, but when in September will you be back? I would like to measure my breath in relation to the air between us.”
Frida Kahlo to Diego Rivera:
Nothing compares to your hands, nothing like the green-gold of your eyes. My body is filled with you for days and days. You are the mirror of the night. The violent flash of lightning. The dampness of the earth. The hollow of your armpits is my shelter. My fingers touch your blood.
All my joy is to feel life spring from your flower-fountain that mine keeps to fill all the paths of my nerves which are yours.”