History Shows How To Write A Love Story

by | Dec 26, 2021 | Personal Style

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I’ll never forget my first love letter.  

Near our 1st anniversary, my partner and I realized our romance might just be lifelong. He gifted me a leatherbound journal and on the first page he scribbled a short poem for me to find.

I couldn’t believe it. Writing is not my partner’s strong suit, but he had taken the time to articulate how he felt about me.Tears welled up in my eyes. It was such a beautiful surprise that it made me wonder, Why don’t we do this more often?

I wanted more of that in my life. While every expression of love is important, written communication has a lasting impact. Even now, I open that journal and reread his words. 

I wanted to find more creative ways to express my feelings- to move beyond thoughtless texts that place sentiments like “I miss you” and “I love you” right next to our grocery list.  

In the past, generations of lovers relied on letters to keep their passion alive when they were physically separated. Depending on the distance, they might wait for weeks or even months for a few pages. 

Now, we have emojis and nudes at the speed of a text. 

The “in the moment” is nice, but taking time to sit and meditate, to express through your own handwriting, is an intimate form of creating a love story like no other. 

Pouring through history’s best love stories, I discovered depths of sentiment and beautiful language, but also ingenuity and humor. In the search, history shows us how to craft a thoughtful, moving piece of writing that your lover will cherish for years.

What if the greatest gift you can give to honor your love story this February isn’t something you buy- but something you start exploring together? 

Something to consider:

“My dearest Friend:” John Adams and Abigail Smith Adams

Writing a Love Story: Abigail AdamsWhile he was attending the Second Continental Congress, just months away from signing the Declaration of Independence, John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail, back in Massachusetts, “Is there no Way for two friendly Souls, to converse together, altho the Bodies are 400 Miles off? — Yes by Letter.”

I can’t think of a better place to start exploring history’s best love story! 

How did the match happen?

When they met in Abigail’s family home, John and Abigail’s future as the early-American power couple was far from obvious.

John initially found Abigail Smith unimpressive, but he quickly recognized she matched—and even exceeded​​—his intellect and work ethic.

As John’s career took him from Boston to Paris and eventually the White House, he exchanged almost daily letters with Abigail, providing a window into important historical moments as well as their personal triumphs and failures.

Their letters display a signature combination of humor and sentimentality. 

To Miss Adorable 

Early in their relationship, John penned a saucy note that he hand-delivered to Abigail:

Miss Adorable:

By the same Token that the Bearer satt up with you last night I hereby order you to give him, as many Kisses, and as many Hours of your Company after 9 O’Clock as he shall please to Demand and charge them to my Account…I presume I have good Right to draw upon you for the Kisses as I have given two or three Millions at least, when one has been received…”

Whether he wrote it down to underscore their romantic roleplay or keep from losing his nerve, John Adams’ law skills are on full display as he provides “evidence” to bolster his request: shared memories, jokes, and kisses.

How could Abigail refuse such a coy “argument” for his case??

Twenty years later, the bond between John and Abigail remained strong:

My dearest friend…

Should I draw you the picture of my Heart, it would be what I hope you still would Love; tho it containd nothing New; the early possession you obtaind there; and the absolute power you have ever maintaind over it; leaves not the smallest space unoccupied. I look back to the early days of our acquaintance; and Friendship, as to the days of Love and Innocence; and with an indescribable pleasure I have seen near a score of years roll over our Heads, with an affection heightened and improved by time — nor have the dreary years of absence in the smallest degree effaced from my mind the Image of the dear untitled man to whom I gave my Heart.” 

Like John’s letter, Abigail draws on their shared memories to describe how their relationship deepened since those early days in Braintree. In her husband’s absence, she keeps his image alive by remembering events—and the strong emotions she associates with them. 

Although their love story is quiet when compared to history’s most famous and dramatic couples, John and Abigail’s marriage survived five decades, two wars, and one term in the White House. 

Writing A Long Distance Love Story? Remember This Secret: 

To combat long stretches of separation, John and Abigail pulled on shared memories to keep their love strong and they knew how to encourage each other from hundreds of miles away.

Their letters show that:

#1. Physical proximity isn’t required to support your partner 

#2.  Memory is a powerful way to connect over time and distance. Drawing on your shared past not only strengthens your bond, but it also keeps a letter’s sentiments powerful for decades to come.

These tips aren’t just for a long-distance lover. I include favorite memories, accomplishments, and shared stories in letters I slip into my partner’s suitcase (or leave behind in his computer bag) when we part. It’s a beautiful surprise to stumble on- even in an age where we Facetime when apart. 

“Immortal Beloved:” Ludwig von Beethoven’s Love Story

Writing a Love Story: Beethoven Viewed as the original “suffering genius,” Ludwig von Beethoven’s real life has become obscured in mystery and myth. The identity of his elusive “Immortal Beloved” only adds to the legend.

Beethoven wrote multiple drafts of letters over the course of a few days in July 1812. He was writing his seventh symphony and coming to terms that his political idol- Napoleon- no longer upheld the same ideals he had once hoped. 

Beethoven also started to experience the first symptoms of hearing loss- a devastating prospect for a composer. 

The three “Immortal Beloved” letters were discovered in a secret compartment in Beethoven’s wardrobe after he died in 1827. 

Who was the intended recipient? 

Why were they never sent?

Scholars have identified several married Austrian noblewomen as possible candidates However, recent studies into Beethoven’s possible homosexuality suggest he neglected to send the letters to a male recipient out of fear.

The resulting lines have proven as “immortal” as any of Beethoven’s symphonies:

“Even in bed my ideas yearn towards you, my Immortal Beloved, here and there joyfully, then again sadly, awaiting from Fate, whether it will listen to us. I can only live, either altogether with you or not at all. Yes, I have determined to wander about for so long far away, until I can fly into your arms and call myself quite at home with you…. Never another one can own my heart, never – never!… Your love made me the happiest and unhappiest at the same time… Be calm – love me – today – yesterday.

What longing in tears for you – You – my Life – my All – farewell.”

The Mysterious Recipient 

Without knowing the Immortal Beloved’s identity, it is impossible to know whether Beethoven ever achieved happiness with his mysterious lover. 

However, Beethoven’s beloved truly proved immortal and passionate.

Want To Write A Passionate Love Story? Learn From Beethoven:

Nothing is as exciting as a spicy little secret- especially a name.

While you may not be able to come up with a name as evocative or full of pathos as “Immortal Beloved,” giving your own beloved a sentimental or even a silly sobriquet is a wonderful way to bring you closer. 

Think back to your most intimate times- what is it that they do to arouse you? How do they make you feel? Use these thoughts as poetic inspiration in creating a title or a name for your lover around which to theme your love letter.

“Show Me Eternity:” Emily Dickinson and Susan Huntington Dickinson

Writing a Love Story: Emily DickinsonIf you’ve been watching Dickinson, you know Emily wasn’t the agoraphobic spinster of legend. 

Far from it! 

Emily led a rich life shaped by multiple strong relationships—most notably, her intense love for her sister-in-law, Susan “Sue” Huntington Dickinson.

In a world that did not acknowledge her passion for Sue as moral or even legitimate, Emily relied on metaphors and allusions to express her love. She compared their relationship to other impossible literary lovers, like Dante and Beatrice and Jonathan Swift and Esther “Stella” Johnson. 

Although Emily was the poet in the relationship, she frequently compared Sue to Shakespeare, writing that “With the Exception of Shakespeare, you have told me of more knowledge than any one living.”

Emily and Sue first became close at the age of twenty when Emily’s brother, Austin, began courting Sue in 1850. Like Emily, Sue was also a writer, and she was Emily’s most important source of literary support.

The Relationship Post Marriage

While most scholars agree that Sue and Austin’s eventual marriage in 1856 caused some tension in Emily and Sue’s relationship, their love remained strong for the rest of their lives, as evidenced by this poem that Emily sent Sue in 1884:


might come 

by Accident –

Sister –

Night comes 

by Event –

To believe the 

final line of 

the Card would 

foreclose Faith –

Faith is Doubt.


Sister –

Show me 

Eternity, and

I will show 

you Memory –

Both in one 

package lain

And lifted 

back again –


Be Sue, while 

I am Emily –

Be next, what 

you have ever 

been, Infinity –

In this poem, Emily makes repeated use of comparison to highlight her love’s importance. She juxtaposes broad natural phenomena to smaller human events (“Morning” to “Accident”) and then raises the stakes by objectifying such ethereal concepts as “Eternity” and “Memory.” 

These comparisons build to the final, most audacious metaphor: Sue is “Infinity.”

Emily’s lofty comparisons describe both the intensity of her affection and place her relationship with Sue within a larger context. Ever after decades, their love story has only grown and is a constant in Emily’s life. 

Emily also seems to know that her words will make their relationship immortal.

How Do You Write A Poetic Tribute To Your Lover? 

Love letters convey hefty emotional weight. 

But they are also freeing in their form and style. There’s nothing that says your “letter” must begin with ‘Dear X’ and be written in paragraphs. 

In fact, sometimes fragments, comparisons, and hidden language express more than analytical sentences could ever state. 

Using language and comparisons that situate your love within the larger context of nature, philosophy, and allusion underscores the importance of their place in your world.

Want more ideas on tapping into your creative- and poetic- heart? Read more about poetry crafting from Lead Editor Meredith Gernigin and contributing author Heather McConell. 

“The Mirror of the Night:” Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera

Love Story: Fridah and DiegoPainters Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera’s love story defy all cultural norms.

After a twenty-one-year-old Frida asked the forty-two-year-old Diego for his opinion on her art, the two began a relationship. Separated by age and physical size, Frida’s family derisively referred to the couple as “the dove” and “the elephant.” 

Their relationship was  marked by infidelity, conflict, and Frida’s struggles with chronic pain…but defined by their blazing passion.

Frida and Kahlo immortalized each other in their respective work, but they also tormented each other with repeated affairs and near-constant arguing. They even divorced in 1939, only to remarry a year later.

This intense passion ultimately supported their creative pathways and they remained devoted to one another in their own unique ways. Frida expressed this connection clearly in a love letter to Diego, sealed with a kiss:

“Remember that once you finish the fresco we will be together once and for all, without arguments or anything, only to love one another.”

In their art, Frida knew that she and Diego would be forever inseparable. He was right. You cannot truly discuss one’s oeuvre without the other.

In other letters, Frida proved as deft at painting with words as she was with her brush:

Nothing compares to your hands, nothing like the green-gold of your eyes. My body is filled with you for days and days. you are the mirror of the night. the violent flash of lightning. the dampness of the earth. The hollow of your armpits is my shelter. my fingers touch your blood. All my joy is to feel life spring from your flower-fountain that mine keeps to fill all the paths of my nerves which are yours.”

Create Visual Art In Your Love Letter

Love letters themselves can be immortal art. 

Dare yourself to describe your beloved in such vivid imagery. Capture and celebrate every detail of their mind, soul, and body.

Take the time to really look at them and fall in love all over again. 

Who knows what you might discover in the depths of each other’s eyes?

“FREE:” Jimi Hendrix

Another tragic, legendary musician writing to an unknown recipient-guitarist Jimi Hendrix crafts a love story as ephemeral and lovely as a poem:

“happiness is within you….so unlock the chains from your heart and let yourself grow-

like the sweet flower you are……

I know the answer-

Just spread your wings and set yourself


This letter combines traditional figurative language such as metaphor (comparing his beloved to a bird) and simile (“like the sweet flower you are”) with much less traditional organization. 

The haphazard punctuation of ellipses and dashes and the unorthodox capitalization choices convey an emotion so strong it defies grammar and logic.

But isn’t that what love does? Defy all rules?

Love should be “FREE.” Ultimately, love letters are about self-expression and your relationship, not technique or even beauty.

In the end, there is only one rule for creating an incredible love letter:

Write it for your lover’s heart without fear.

Be bold. Be creative, and celebrate your unique bond.