When I met my now husband we were living in different cities, so the early days of courtship weren’t exactly traditional. Rather than movies and dinners and everyday surprises, we got to know one another through weekend visits, late night phone conversations, and yes…email (Snapchat didn’t yet exist). Getting to know someone via email doesn’t sound very romantic, but when you think about it, the idea of a love letter has been around and revered since the beginning of written civilization.
We did begin to write traditional “love letters” as the relationship progressed (he’s likely blushing by this point in the post), but in the beginning, we were actually simply writing letters about love – our love for things, people, places, and ideas around us. Our format was called “Question of the Day,” and we each religiously answered a question every day for six months or so (alternating whose turn it was to think of a question). We talked about the things and people we most cared about, what we learned from our families, how we had formed the views we had grown to hold as adults, what made us happy and sad and insecure and motivated and confused and inspired. I just looked back, and the question posed January 23, 2005 was “Amongst your current group of friends, who do you think you will be closest to in 10 years?” Later that week, we moved onto “What is an important lesson you’ve learned from one/both of your parents?” and “If we ever started a restaurant together, what job/duties would you like to be responsible for?”
The reason I’m posting this here, alongside cross-training workouts and quiche recipes, is because relationships are foundational to our well-being, and they’re all too often overlooked as we strive for success in other facets of our lives. My husband and I rarely take time to write letters about love anymore. I sometimes take my family for granted I get into communication ruts, and start to say the same things to the same people in the same way…over and over and over…rather than meeting them where they are. I sometimes assume people know how I feel about them, so I don’t say anything. Re-focusing on relationships involves commitment, time, and work.
Jane Brody recently wrote a great article about how much work goes into maintaining romantic (especially married) relationships, and the same applies to family and friendships. It inspired me to think about how I’m nurturing relationships with people I care about and what I can do that’s different or unexpected. How can I show up in old relationships like I did when they were new? Can I write someone a long email? Pop a letter in the mail? Write a poem? Share a quote? Send a picture? Pose a question? Or re-visit past answers to see whether they have changed?
What works for you? What do you do to keep relationships strong and interesting and real and deep? If you’d like to add “Question of the Day” to your repertoire, you no longer need to write your own questions — Table Topics has an amazing selection! Another great resource is a book put out by the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto: 642 Things to Write (I’m thinking about asking my mom and dad to fill this out for me as a gift…look out mom and dad)!
I liked this post Brynn – Gav and I dated via telephone too. And before that – we were friends for years just emailing while he was stationed in Italy & Iraq. It’s true – without face time (or kissy face time) we just…talked. and wrote love letters 🙂 And you’re right, it’s easy to fall into just talking about our day and not about stuff that makes our relationship more meaningful. Just last night we scheduled date nights up on our fridge calendar and today after I read your post, I promptly bought a box of “Happiness” Table Topics! Great suggestion. (Although dinner time is already pretty amusing watching Sienna eat.) Also, just read about the Harvard Grant Study which found after 4 decades of scientific research of the question: Is there a formula for “the good life”? In other words, what makes people happy? The answer: The only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people. So that reinforces my new year’s resolution to spend more time with friends! (am already able to spend more time with family this year thanks to Gavin scheduling trail races in CA!)
To answer your question about what I do to keep relationships real – it’s exactly what you titled your post – I hand write a letter – a thank you card – an I miss you card …but I don’t do it often enough anymore – so thank you for the reminder!
Thanks for the comment, Sara…and for sharing the info about the Harvard Grant Study. I love thinking about you and Gavin crafting love letters while you were apart!