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Why You Should Write Her a Love Letter

Anka Radakovich on why it matters to tell her how you feel on paper

Woman reading a letter

After my parents died, I had to clean out the contents of their house. My mom kept everything — wedding invitations, baby announcements, pictures of my brother and me at every age. But what touched my heart the most were the love letters from Dad. 

I found them stuffed in the back of a packed drawer, in their original red, white and blue “air mail” envelopes. The stack was tied with a red ribbon, like it was a gift.

“I miss you,” he wrote longingly. “And I can’t wait to see you, honey.”

Before they married, he lived in Chicago and she lived in Pittsburgh, and the letters traced his attempts at wooing her from afar. My mom once told me that another guy was pursuing her at the same time, a lawyer who she also liked. But apparently, the letters worked their magic.

The love letters didn’t stop when they got married. Every time he took a work trip, a letter would show up. Sometimes he wrote her letters without even leaving the house. It wasn’t just how he won her over, it’s how he kept her.

When was the last time you wrote a love letter? Not an email or text or social media post, but something where you had to put pen to paper? It seems so antiquated and unnecessarily complicated, right? Who has time for that when you could just send her some heart emojis and be done with it.

“What makes [letter writing] special is precisely that it does require extra effort,” says Kory Floyd, a professor of communication at the University of Arizona and the author of The Loneliness Cure. “A written letter is also in someone’s penmanship, which is more personal than a typed letter. I think we feel a closer connection to the person who wrote it than when we reread a text message or a Facebook comment.”

Do you want to write letters your spouse will save and treasure for decades to come? Here are a few pointers.

Write like you aren’t going to send it.

My dad used to joke that “men don’t know how to be romantic.” But sometimes it’s just hard to know what to say.

“My advice is to take time with words,” says Floyd. “I often struggle to find exactly the right words when I’m writing, so I just slow down.” 

If you’re feeling self-conscious, write a first draft that’s for your eyes only. Don’t think about how she’s going to respond, just what you want to say.

“One trick is to simply write something, write anything,” says Floyd. “It could be writing out directions to your house or a description of the last conversation you had with someone. Start with something that is easy and not mentally taxing, and just doing that can kick-start the ability to write what you want.”

Or, as my dad used to advise my brother during family dinners, “A man has to be charming but down-to-earth. He has to make the girl laugh, and always has to be a gentleman. Always.”

It’s about her, not you.

Around 67 percent of people hold on to their old hand-written love letters, according to a 2014 study. Sometimes they even hold on to letters from lovers they’ve long since broken up with.

Why? “One of the reasons to revisit love letters was to ‘remind myself of what to avoid in a relationship,’ ” says study author Michelle Janning, a professor of sociology at Whitman College. “For example, if someone views an ex as a dirtbag, or as responsible for negative parts of a past relationship, they may view past letters to remind themselves that they didn’t do anything wrong, or that they’re good at relationships.”

It’s fine to write about yourself, but what she’s really looking for is how you feel about her. 

This doesn’t mean you need to lay on the schmaltz or channel your inner poet. My dad’s letters were complimentary without seeming obsequious and ass-kissy. He told my mom she looked beautiful in a photo she’d sent him, that he liked her dress and that she “was always the prettiest girl in the room.”

My dad’s other big seduction advice for my brother: Stay away from anything that sounds like “selling, coercing or begging. You want her to want to sleep with you, right?”

Keep it simple.

Twenty years after my parents got married, my dad got busy with his job and had to travel a lot. But he always sent Mom at least a postcard from the road. They weren’t as studied as the initial love letters, and basically just told her what every woman in any kind of relationship wants to hear: I miss you.

“I love Paris, but it would be so much better if you were here,” he once wrote to my mom. “I thought my French was better than it is, but people here are begging me to speak English.”

They were a pre-Instagram correspondence that just let her know he was thinking of her and of us. Even if you’re in the most stable, committed relationship, sometimes a woman needs to be reminded.