There’s no better way to say, “I love you” than by putting pen to paper and writing out a good old-fashioned love letter.
Writing a love letter is more than just a romantic gesture; it’s a testimony of who you are and how this person makes you feel.
If you want to tell someone how much they mean to you but don’t know how to do it without scaring them away or looking foolish, jotting down your feelings and thoughts in a simple love letter is a great way to do it.
That said, knowing how to write a love letter isn’t always simple or easy — especially when you’re in a new relationship.
Writing a Love Letter in a New Relationship
When you first fall in love, it is always good to be thoughtful of what you want to say and how you want say It.
If what you most want to express is a confession of love and you’re somewhere in the first one to three months of the relationship, you do need to watch your step as you walk that fine line between “person of their dreams” and “potential stage-five clinger.”
Writing a love letter to someone you’re still getting to know is obviously different from writing one to a long-term partner, so in addition to a beginners guide on how to write a love letter, we’ve included some additional tips for going deeper when penning a missive to someone you’ve known and loved for years.
You’ll find helpful ideas in both sections below, but if your relationship is new, you’ll probably want to stick with the low-pressure, sweet, fun version in the first.
No matter how long you’ve been in your relationship, a love letter should communicate how you feel, what you like so much about your partner, and a sense of connection between the two of you. It should be genuine, caring and authentic above all other things.
How To Write A Love Letter In 4 Easy Steps
1. Start with Post-It notes.
When you’re in the early stages of a relationship, there is a risk of overdoing it. To avoid taking too big of a risk by investing too much too soon, you can test the waters with Post-it notes.
Also be aware that not everyone is receptive to words of affirmation. If you don’t know what your partner’s love language is, Post-It notes are a great place to start.
Start with sweet love messages like, “Hi Handsome/Beautiful” or “Thinking of you” hidden under in their pillow or somewhere else you know they’ll find it where it will be a pleasant, rather than intrusive, surprise.
If that even seems like too much, starting with text messages is another option you can try.
2. Tell them how you feel in the present rather than what you’re dreaming of for the future.
When you think of love letters, you probably think of profound, grand gestures of love that speak of a future together. Depending on where you are in a relationship, that can be really overwhelming.
When you tell the person you love how you feel, tell them how you are feeling in the present or tell the story of a shared memory that you treasure.
It’s easy to get caught up in the emotions and excitement of a relationship and get carried away. But this can scare someone away if they’re not on the exact same page as you.
One of the most famous epistolary (a fancy word for “letter-writing”) relationships was between iconic American painter Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, who first fell in love via letters, then had a steamy romance — including a marriage and separation — that lasted more than 30 years. The two of them wrote more than 5000 letters in that time!
One of the most beautiful aspects of their letter-writing is how well they express adoration in the moment, without necessarily looking toward the future (aside from expressing desire to seeing one another soon) while still being sexy, romantic, and adorable.
Here’s a great example from Steiglitz (though you may want to take it easier on the dashes than he did!):
“How much we have in common. — Traits. — Both turn everything we touch into something really living — & amusing — for ourselves. — Both can laugh — really laugh — even at our heartaches…”
This is such a lovely passage because it shows why he loves her and what bonds them without pressuring her for anything.
Keeping your love letter in the present respects the other person’s need to do things in their own way and in their own time, just as you would like them to respect your own feelings.
The best way to do this is to stay with what you like about your relationship and your partner now. Keep your excitement for the future to the near-future: like this weekend or a trip you’ve been planning.
3. Keep your tone fun, light, and sweet.
It’s all in the delivery. Not all love letters need to be serious — not even a handwritten letter! And sometimes it’s not about the words; it’s about the way they’re delivered.
You can write a letter, then fold it into an origami love heart or a swan for a light-hearted message sure to make them smile rather than cringe.
One of the many sweet love letters Johnny Cash wrote to his wife, June Carter Cash, is a great example of how to show your love while keeping it simple.
“Hey June… You’ve got a way with words and a way with me as well. The fire and excitement may be gone now that we don’t go out there and sing them anymore, but the ring of fire still burns around you and I, keeping our love hotter than a pepper sprout.”
Give a compliment. Add a personal touch by referencing an inside joke. Write something that winks toward sexiness without getting explicit. Use adoring phrases but don’t dive too deep into the heavy love stuff.
Romantic love isn’t always heavy, after all! For instance, “I absolutely love your big brown eyes” might be better in this phase than, “I am so madly in love with you.”
4. Meet them where they are emotionally.
It’s important to match how the other person is showing up in the earliest stages and go with the flow. Read their reactions to any in-person compliments or professions of love and adapt accordingly so as to not put too much pressure on them.
If you aren’t saying “I love you” in person yet, don’t put that in a love letter. If they give you simple compliments like, “You’re so cute,” maintain that tone in your love letters by calling them cute or sweet or adorable.
You need to be authentic to yourself, for sure, but let your partner’s intensity level guide yours.
What To Write In A Love Letter To Someone You’ve Been With Long-Term
Start your love letter with a list of things you love about them.
When you decide to write a love letter, you might feel intimidated at first. It’s hard to know where to start! That’s why it can be helpful to sit down and make a little list of things you love about your partner.
His eyes, her hair, their cute toes… these are all great things to talk about in your note, but try to go a little deeper, too. Maybe you love that she is such a giving person or he is so kind to everyone he meets.
Maybe you truly believe they are your soul mate and you want to share that.
Take for example, the message Johnny Cash wrote to June on her 65th birthday in June 1994 (and which has been voted the greatest love letter of all time):
“Happy Birthday Princess, We get old and get use to each other. We think alike. We read each others minds. We know what the other wants without asking. Sometimes we irritate each other a little bit. Maybe sometimes take each other for granted. But once in awhile, 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”
Add to your list some reasons why you love having your partner around. How do you feel when they’re near and when they’re not? What is better now that they’re around. Be specific!
Explain why you’re writing a love letter now.
Have you been away from your partner a long time? Were you just sitting around and happened to start thinking about how lucky you are? Or is this love letter for a special occasion, like your anniversary or their birthday?
No matter the reason, it’s nice to explain why you’re doing it. A love letter is special, and it will be all the more so when the person reading it knows exactly what inspired you.
Ease into the emotional or dramatic language.
Think of how the most beautiful songs and powerful movies often start kind of mellow and then build in intensity.
If you need inspiration in order to write the perfect love letter, listen to Jeff Buckley’s classic power ballad “Lover You Should’ve Come Over.” The music starts with a simple tune, then builds into one of the most powerful electric guitar-inspired love songs of all time.
The lyrics also start out quite simple: “Maybe I’m too young / To keep good love from going wrong / But tonight you’re on my mind so / You’ll never know.”
But by the end of the song, Buckley is pleading: “It’s never over, all my riches for her smiles / When I slept so soft against her/ It’s never over / All my blood for the sweetness of her laughter.”
This song is a great example of a beautiful love letter, just set to music.
Use words that are more sweet than powerful at first. Flatter and flirt. Then, as your letter builds, make a confession about the intensity and longing you feel.
Describe why you love them and why you love being together.
The love letters shared by Frieda Kahlo and Diego Rivera are famous for their intensity. It’s no surprise they are so gorgeously crafted, as both Kahlo and Rivera were immensely talented people.
Letters like theirs are inspiring in their honesty.
You can use this passage from a letter written Kahlo as an example.
“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.”
It may not be natural to you to say something like “my fingers touch your blood,” of course, so follow your own authentic voice. But with someone you love so much, you can get a little deep!
Yes, you are writing words that feel private, and that may even make you feel vulnerable or scared. But people love to hear the truth of how you feel inside, so don’t worry if this feels overwhelming at first.
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Part of the beauty of falling in love and establishing a long-term, secure relationship with someone is learning how to share those types of feelings.
Opening up in a love letter and sharing this vulnerability can be one of the most powerful ways to express your feelings, and will likely be something your partner will treasure and save.
If it feels too scary, you can always try writing it out in a diary or on a piece of paper you know you can tear up and throw away if need be. That’s OK and a great place to start if you aren’t used to expressing your emotions in such a way.
This love letter written to Virginia Woolf by Vita Sackville-West is a wonderful example of strength in vulnerability:
“I am reduced to a thing that wants Virginia. I composed a beautiful letter to you in the sleepless nightmare hours of the night, and it has all gone: I just miss you, in a quite simple desperate human way. You, with all your un-dumb letters, would never write so elementary phrase as that; perhaps you wouldn’t even feel it. And yet I believe you’ll be sensible of a little gap. But you’d clothe it in so exquisite a phrase that it would lose a little of its reality. Whereas with me it is quite stark: I miss you even more than I could have believed; and I was prepared to miss you a good deal. So this letter is just really a squeal of pain. It is incredible how essential to me you have become. I suppose you are accustomed to people saying these things. Damn you, spoilt creature; I shan’t make you love me any the more by giving myself away like this — But oh my dear, I can’t be clever and stand-offish with you: I love you too much for that. Too truly. You have no idea how stand-offish I can be with people I don’t love. I have brought it to a fine art. But you have broken down my defences. And I don’t really resent it …
“Please forgive me for writing such a miserable letter.”
Sackville-West admits that her usual defenses have been broken down by the strength of her love, and that is, to put it mildly, quite a lovely thing to be told by your lover.
What To Do After You’ve Sent A Love Letter
Once you’ve popped that love letter in the mail, placed it lovingly under their pillow, or perhaps even sent it to them via email, there’s just one thing left to do… be the person you promised to be in your love letter!
Of course, you should also be sure you don’t put pressure on your partner to respond in kind or to reciprocate by writing a letter of their own. Everyone expresses love differently. You didn’t write this letter to get one back, you wrote it to share how you felt and to make your partner feel good!
Remember that a relationship thrives when partners are consistently and mutually kind, respectful and loving toward one another.
Dr. John Gottman found that the happiest couples have five positive interactions for every one negative interaction (a 5:1 ratio). The positive interactions can be as simple as a hug, a little compliment, or doing the other a favor.
No matter how beautiful your love letter was, you need to continue building these kind of positive and loving connections to help your romance stand the test of time.
And now that you know how, you’ll have the opportunity to write many more love letters in the future as you do.
Iona Yeung is a dating and relationship coach who works with single women to identify their roadblocks in dating, attract the good guys, and communicate from a space of love and clarity.