Reasons to Write a Love Letter

It’s a timeless classic for a reason

It’s a timeless classic for a reason

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

Oh continue to love me-never misjudge the most faithful heart of your beloved. Ever thine. Ever mine. Ever ours.

Beethoven wrote these words to his “Immortal Beloved” — and who hasn’t read those words and wanted them for their own?

I know I have. I’ve poured over famous love letters, first brought to my attention in an episode of Sex and the City with Big and Carrie reading the words I’ve just quoted. From there, it wasn’t difficult to find other famous love letters made public.

When I first became aware of letters like that, I wasn’t in the kind of relationship where love letters were exchanged. Romance was not a part of my life, and I was given to expect that romance was meant to be a bonus to anyone’s life — not a necessity.

The very idea that romance should be extraneous rather than essential strikes me as sad, but at the time, I accepted it and folded away my romantic nature, tied it up with string, and put it away for safe-keeping. It wouldn’t be indulged then, but it couldn’t be taken from me either.

Later, when I left that relationship, I no longer believed romance was a bonus not included in the average relationship. Or maybe I just never wanted an average relationship in the first place. Perhaps I was meant for flowers and poetry and walks taken under a starry sky. Whether I had those things alone or shared them with a partner, I would have them — and they were anything but extraneous.

Love letters are a timeless classic for a reason. Do we really think we’ll one day hold up a record of text messages with that same feeling of longing? Or print out an email to sigh over, no matter how beautiful it might be?

There’s a beautiful alchemy in words scrawled across a page in ink, written by our own hand. To say “I love you” without waiting for it to be echoed back, simply to say it because we felt it in that moment and needed nothing more than to write it down and seal it with a lick, a press, a kiss. It doesn’t appear in an instant, words flashing onto a screen, but instead is carried from our hearts to theirs, hand-delivered into a box to wait to be discovered and opened.

A love letter is more than just the words it contains, although those are important. It shows effort made and time taken — when those words could easily have been typed out in a couple of minutes and sent for immediate receipt.

Love letters are grand romantic gestures often overlooked because they don’t garner attention. They are quietly written, sent, and read. They are our private communication, words shared between two and unnoticed by the world around us.

I don’t think I would purchase a book entitled “Texts of Famous Lovers”, but love letters? We can read the exchange between Anais Nin and Henry Miller, between Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. History is filled with love letters — some of them famous, most of them not. Some of them are tied up with ribbon and saved. Countless more are likely discarded or later burned as we burn our former lovers in effigy.

Even a letter written in the wake of a failed relationship is still a love letter of a kind. Fury and hate may etch deeper marks on the page, but they still allow us to say the words that need to be said, to scream into the void and have the void sit down and hear us. Often, we get the last word — refusing to allow the end to define us. We write it out and seal it up and send it — and it feels like closure, given and granted by ourselves alone. No need for a reply. No need for anything except to drop it in a box and send it away from us.

The timeless nature of a love letter isn’t about whether it is saved and one day found and read again. It is about the moment a lover holds it in their hands — when they read the words, then pause to read them again. It is a letter being folded and unfolded so many times that the creases become deeper, creating fragile breaking points where each additional time a letter is opened, it must be handled more and more gently to keep it from tearing apart. And no matter how thin and fragile the paper gets, no matter how faded the ink, we never get tired of reading the words.

The words can’t survive flooding or fire, but sometimes they survive the relationship. The words outlive us, and they tell a story. They tell our story, capturing the moments as we lived them.

Not the whole story. No letter exchange will ever tell who we were wholly. Words on paper cannot capture tender moments or bitter arguments or passion igniting, simmering, burning out, or reigniting. We leave only a little of ourselves on the page, but we leave so much love.

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