What one expert learned from writing 100 love notes to his wife.
A number of years ago, I decided to write 100 love notes to my wife. A great idea, but it didn't come as easily to me as I would have liked to believe. It's not that I didn't love my wife — I did, and I do — but it was a challenge to pin words to such a complex, primal and sometimes perplexing feeling as love.
I wasn't alone. As a marriage and family therapist, I find that most couples are able to generate a list of five to seven reasons why they love their partners off the top of their heads. But even this relatively short list can take around fifteen minutes to generate!
Why Writing Love Notes Is So Hard
In part, the reason writing love notes is so difficult is that the primitive, emotional part of our brains — the part that experiences love — is far removed, both in distance and in evolutionary development, from the much more recently developed rational, logical, language-producing part of our brain.
Another reason why writing love notes is hard is that love is best expressed in person, through things like an affectionate touch, an act of service or a subtle smile and glimmer in the eye. People fell in love long before writing was developed, so the very notion of a "love note" is an interesting paradox, an incongruous coupling of an ancient emotion with a brief statement printed on parchment.
Besides, each person has such unique and personal reasons for loving another person, it's difficult to find examples that you can use. If you've ever had the experience of browsing through dozens of greeting cards, looking for just the right message, then you know just how daunting the task can seem.
How To Write Love Notes
Luckily, there's help to be had. Here are some strategies I discovered when writing 100 love notes to my wife.
1. Be specific. Pay attention to your everyday interactions, keeping at the forefront of your mind this question: What does she or he do that I like, that I admire, or that makes me feel good? When you notice something, write it down. Don't attempt to capture the entirety of your love in one note. Here are some examples:
- You tell me stories of what the kids do while I'm gone. You told me that Ethan was very excited to have green eggs and ham today, and you helped put in the green food coloring. Since I am not home with the kids as much as you are, this helps me stay connected to all the cute things they do.
- You keep a photo of me on the refrigerator that you took on our honeymoon.
- I was at the office tonight while you bathed and fed the kids. I'd rather be home, but I love you for taking care of them.
2. Think about what the person does. I found as I wrote my love notes that they could be classified into two general categories: things my wife does, and things my wife is. Things my wife does included:
- You're willing to let the phone ring if it's not convenient to answer it.
- You compliment me when I cook, and you tell others that I am a good cook.
- I love when you dance like me. It makes me laugh.
3. Think who the person is. Often, what the person does can be used to make a statement about the kind of person she or he is. The examples below include the words "you are." Notice that these include concrete examples about what I observed:
- You are a huge advocate of child literacy. You are great about exposing our kids to information through books.
- I've always appreciated that you are frugal. I don't know anyone who is better at getting things for free than you are.
- You're one of the most giving people I know. For example, you spend hours and hours creating gifts for others, with no expectation in return.
Like pre-written greeting cards, it's unlikely that you'll be able to use the example love notes here verbatim, but they can serve as an example of the kinds of details that you can capture.
Fun Ways To Deliver Your Love Notes
Like a good meal, in which presentation is just about as important as the taste of the food, how you deliver your love notes is almost as important as the message. Try not to text your love notes. The whole point of writing a love note is to go out of your way to communicate your most delicate feelings, so put in the effort for a creative presentation. Here are a couple ways I've delivered love notes to my wife.
- Love pills. Go to any drug store and ask for an empty pill bottle. I've done this twice and was never denied this request. While there, purchase some empty soft gelatin capsules. Write out your love notes in small print on a piece of paper, then cut the strip of paper with the note on it, roll it up, and put them in the soft gelatin capsule. I did this for my wife before she left on a long trip to keep her from getting "love sick," with instructions to take one per day.
- Heart attack. Write your love notes on paper hearts. You can buy heart-shaped sticky notes, or you can cut the hearts out of paper. Then stick the notes all around the house (or yard, school, or wherever). You can hide some of them so that the subject of your attack will have to look a little to find them. Looking for the notes just adds to the fun, and a note that surfaces a day or two later is a pleasant surprise.
Do you have other helpful ideas for writing love notes? Leave a comment!
Dr. Zimmerman provides couples counseling in Ames, Iowa.
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