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How to Write a Love Letter in the 21st Century

Expert advice on getting over your nerves, speaking from the heart, and ignoring everything you've learned from Shakespeare.

We're definitely beyond the years of ink pots, scrolls, and quills, but the impact of writing a love letter is irrefutably timeless. We'll wait for your eyes to stop rolling so you can hear us out. Love letters can strenghten your relationship whether you're living in different states or in the same apartment. Expressing your feelings in the written word is way more effective than, say, leaving her a rambling voicemail (that you'll probably leave after too many at the bar). 

Actually, research proves it. In this digital age—especially if you're a millennial—it's best to send an email rather than leaving a voicemail if you're trying to win a woman over or get a positive response to romance, according to recent research from Indiana University. 

In the study, researchers had 72 college-age men and women leave romantic and utilitarian emails or voicemails. Using psychophysiological measures (they placed skin sensors on the subjects' faces to measure muscle movements associated with positive and negative emotions, and on their feet to measure arousal via increases in blood flow), the researchers discovered the people who sent passionate emails were more emotionally aroused and used stronger, more thoughtful language than those who left "passionate" voicemails.

" is much better when you want to convey some information that you want someone to think about," said study author Alan R. Dennis. The written word allows the writer to express exactly what they're thinking and feeling, and allows the recipient to ruminate on these thoughts and feelings. In this instance, email senders were more engaged and spent more time crafting their message with the most positive and arousing emotional content—something callers can't really do. Sure you can replay, delete, and re-do your voicemail, but there's more pressure and less time to get it right. 

"Besides, expressing your emotions can be easier to write than speak because you can do it in private, at your own time, and keep tweaking your thoughts 'til you're happy with them," Gandi says. 

Trying it for yourself isn't as daunting as you think either. We asked Bela Gandhi, founder and head coach of Smart Dating Academy, a full service personal consulting firm that provides busy, successful professionals with dating coaching and online dating consulting for the do's and dont's of writing a love letter in the 21st century. Feel free to send off that email via the Internet or you can print it out and send your letter via snail mail—either works!

HINT: A letter could be the perfect complement to one of these great holiday gifts for your wife or girlfriend.

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Let Your Guard Down

Do everyone a favor and stop putting up the front of the rough-and-tumble guy who thinks emotions will detract from your manliness. You need to change your mindset. "Love letters have been written since the beginning of time," Gandhi says. That includes gladiators, knights, and we imagine Norse gods, too. "Writing a letter to your loved one is one of the most romantic acts known to mankind, and something that can be cherished lifelong," she adds.

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Don't overthink the logistics

Don't get caught up in this being a black and white blueprint of a how-to. This is a personal act, so you should use whatever method works best for you. "If you're a pen and paper kind of guy, start streaming on sheets; if you're a digital dude, start typing," Gandhi recommends. Free writing can get the ball rolling and get you pulling candid emotions, memories, and thoughts. And if you're afraid of your letter sounding more like a jumbled rant than a profession of adoration, write a draft, she says. "Come back to it after a few hours, edit, then come back again until you're happy and ready to send!"

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Forget what you think a love letter should be

"A love letter doesn't have to be written in Shakespearean, iambic pentameter, poetry or anything too fancy," Gandhi says. You want it to read as genuine, specific to you, and straight from the heart. Read: Don't google phrases to use! Think about all the reasons you love her, and note them in detail. "Women love knowing specifically what you love about them," Gandhi adds. If you love the way her shampoo makes her hair smell, how she wrinkles her nose when she laughs, how she always makes your favorite meal on Tuesdays—whatever it is, tell her.     

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Think chronologically

If you're not sure where to start, or what to touch on, think of the timeline of your relationship. Start with the past: What did you think of her when you first met? What were you doing? What's one of your favorite memories of the beginning of your relationship? Move to the present: Like we mentioned in the previous slide, what are some of the things you love about her? What do you love about your current traditions, hobbies, or shared activities? End with the future: What's something in the immediate or far future that you'd love to do? Do you want to plan a trip with her? Be as specific as you can. That makes everything tangible, believable, and heartfelt, Gandhi says. She also adds a warning: "Stay away from anything overtly sexual." You can talk about the sexy stuff in person—and ensure her sex isn't the only thing you treasure in the relationship.

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Get personal

If you really want to score big and really drive the romance home, add momentos from past dates. "Adding specific memories like ticket stubs, old photos from first dates, old texts or emails that are special can be an amazing touch that shows you're sentimental (and hold on to special items)!" Gandhi says. We're not telling you to make a full-blown scrap book. Printing out a picture is just fine. 

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Do it again—and again

"If you're like many men, expressing feelings isn't something you were taught to do at home on a regular occasion, so this might feel awkward or make you feel vulnerable," Gandhi says. But be open to the possibility that you might even come to appreciate the value of writing letters and notes to your girlfriend or wife, because it'll strengthen your relationship and help you to bond as a couple. "At our core, all human beings want to feel valued, accepted, and loved exactly as they are," she adds. The benefit of writing a letter or sending an email is she can read it over and over again, and have that little rush every time.

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