Letter Writing as a Couples Activity to Increase Intimacy

A stack of photos tied with ribbon on blue and white writing deskIt’s far too common for newly married or new-parent couples to find themselves searching for more—more time together, more romance, more connection, more intimacy. Maybe, after the wedding is over and the thank-you notes are written, you’re thinking, “What are we supposed to do now?” Or maybe, when the baby is crying and the laundry is piling up, you’re thinking, “When will we feel like ourselves again?”

Research by Dr. Barry McCarthy, sex and relationship expert and author of Rekindling Desire, indicates that couples are more likely to become sexually inactive in the first two years of marriage than at any other period in their married life (McCarthy and McCarthy, 2014). His recommendation is for couples to reenergize their relationship intimacy by enhancing desire, pleasure, eroticism, and satisfaction.

One place to start on the journey toward deeper intimacy is letter writing. Writing letters to each other is a good way to communicate your thoughts and feelings amid the demands of work and family. Remember the spark of excitement and desire when you received an old-fashioned, handwritten love letter? That’s the spirit of this activity. These are loving letters, full of your hopes, dreams, warmth, and tenderness. These letters inspire a deepening of intimacy because they help you communicate without distraction and with a genuine voice. The goal is for your words to bring you closer and help you feel more connected.

So here’s how it works: You and your partner commit to exchanging letters, ideally handwritten (but emailed will do), a few times a week. You can each answer one prompt below at a time, and you don’t have to follow the same order. It’s best to direct your answers to your partner, just as you would when writing a letter to anyone else.

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Your letters have the power to become the vision statement for your shared future together.

  • What are ways you feel loved and accepted by your partner, even with an acknowledgement of failings and imperfections? Are there different ways you show your partner you love and accept them?
  • Describe a fantasy, romantic or sexual, you’d like to experience with your partner. Where are you? What does it feel like? What happens first, then next, then after that? How does it end?
  • What is a metaphor for your relationship so far? Explain the metaphor. How would you change that metaphor to illustrate the kind marriage you want to have in the future?
  • How do you think you and your partner should deal with bad luck or disappointment? How will you show your partner you are on their team no matter what?
  • Fill in the blanks and then explain: “If I were living my life the best version of myself as a partner that I could be, I would continue to ___, I would do ___ differently, and I hope you would feel more ___.”
  • What do you appreciate most about your partner? What personality traits, strengths, and talents do you admire and value?
  • What are your hopes, goals, and dreams for your marriage and family together?

At the end of a few weeks, compile your letters and go over them together. What do you notice about where your answers overlap or where they are unique? Reread them often and allow the words to calm you when you’re angry, soothe you when you’re sad, and fill you with hope when you’re worried. Your letters have the power to become the vision statement for your shared future together.

If these prompts, your answers, or your partner’s answers have stirred up deeper feelings of dissatisfaction, disconnection, or disappointment, you may want to seek individual counseling, couples therapy, or sex therapy. The help of an experienced therapist is an investment in yourself and your marriage.

Reference:

McCarthy, B., & McCarthy, E. (2014). Rekindling desire, 2nd Ed. New York, NY: Routledge.

© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Emily Cook, PhD, LCMFT, therapist in Bethesda, Maryland

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • oscar

    oscar

    September 6th, 2016 at 10:33 AM

    My wife and I have always done this, even while dating. IT is just a nice little thing to get a note or letter from your sweetheart that tells you just how much she loves you.

  • EmmaK

    EmmaK

    September 6th, 2016 at 2:14 PM

    I think about all of the sweet things that I want to say out loud and yet I feel embarrassed to say them, so maybe writing a letter would be the perfect way for me to express myself to him

  • Janice

    Janice

    September 7th, 2016 at 10:17 AM

    This would be a wonderful activity to do together as a couple but my hubs is no softie and it might be too much like wrestling an alligator to ever get him to anything like this. I am not sure what he is afraid of, showing his real emotions I guess. That’s why he is usually so closed off and not all that keen on letting another person in even when he could sorely use it.

  • benny

    benny

    September 9th, 2016 at 10:33 AM

    Don’t know that I am too good at the writing part but I could talk to my wife and tell her I love her all day long.

  • Roman

    Roman

    September 10th, 2016 at 8:03 AM

    Over the years we have sort of lost site of some of the more formal yet old fashioned ways that went into wooing someone in centuries past, but it was effective and it worked so why should this ever really go out of style?

  • ADAM

    ADAM

    September 12th, 2016 at 10:31 AM

    i love to write and my wife hates it. Like I will write these long messages for her in cards whereas she will just find the one that says most of what she wants to say and then just sign love you.

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