In times when traveling was considered a luxury or a dangerous endeavor, exchanging letters was the main means of communication.
Friends, colleagues, family members and lovers would wait for days or even months to receive a response to their letter.
And that’s how the term epistolary relationship came to life. It is a relationship where you communicate with someone via letter writing, which is a true art in itself.
Now, if you think you’ve never been in such a relationship, consider this: Texting and chatting via social media is the modern version of an epistolary relationship. So, I bet you’ve been in one, right?
You spent hours and hours sharing your deepest thoughts and feelings with your pen pal and the biggest advantage is that you didn’t have to wait for days, weeks or months for them to reply; they would literally do it within seconds.
We like to think of this as an advantage but is that really so?
The main ingredients of a vintage epistolary relationship are ANTICIPATION AND EXCITEMENT.
Given that you don’t know when you will receive a response, you spend a great amount of time contemplating the content of their letter.
You feel sheer excitement from the day you send the letter till the day you receive a response to it. In case you need more convincing, here is a list of legit reasons why we should bring back old-school romance!
6 Reasons To Revive The Lost Art Of Letter Writing
1. It’s much more sentimental and romantic
“Hi, what’s up?” Raise your hand if you have ever been irritated by this generic question. I’ll stop writing for a second to raise my hand first because I surely have been frustrated not once but multiple times.
Now think about what you usually respond to this with. It’s probably: “Nothing,” or something of the sort. Talk about deep, meaningful, modern conversations!
Joking aside, there’s actually nothing surprising about, “Hi, what’s up?” statements because when you have the ability to write to each other 24/7, of course you’re going to write the first thing that comes to mind. (And some vintage souls like me get irritated by it, while others don’t.)
Now, imagine that you have a blank piece of paper in front of you. What would you write? Would you start with something like, “Yo, what you’ve been up to?” Of course not.
Preparing to write a letter actually requires a little bit of brainstorming and thinking about all the things and feelings you would want to share with your special one.
That’s why letters are so much more sentimental and romantic!
Recently, I saw this amazing romantic movie Brooklyn (where a vintage couple exchanges love letters) and I was truly mesmerized by the beauty of vintage romance.
I texted my pen pal to tell him that I wished I was in a romantic relationship, exchanging a series of letters and getting high on the epistolatory way of life.
A reply written in the form of a letter is ten times more intense and sentimental than an instant reply via a social network.
2. No stressing about ‘seen’
How many times have you witnessed someone reading your message and then leaving you waiting for their response? The worst of all is that you know they read it, because it says ‘seen’.
I swear to God, there’s nothing more annoying than this. It instantly triggers you to overthink everything and you get convinced that you’ve probably insulted them somehow and that’s why they’re not replying.
Constantly worrying about this and similar modern media situations is really frustrating and that’s why letter writing rocks!
Once you write and send a letter to your special someone, you certainly won’t worry about things like ‘seen’ unless they invent some kind of tracking device that will send you a message when the recipient starts reading it.
For this reason, modern media friendships are hard to maintain, whereas epistolary friendships are a whole different story.
Imagine if a good friend reads your message but doesn’t respond, only to find out that they responded to some other mutual friend.
You would instantly feel disappointed, thinking you’re not a priority. Luckily, that doesn’t happen when it comes to the written word in epistolary form.
Your friend or romantic partner could have tons of letters on their desk and you’d never know whose letter they read first. Perhaps they read yours first or perhaps not.
Once again, this is the real beauty of mystery and anticipation.
3. It shows effort
Texting someone while holding your phone in one hand and a sandwich in the other doesn’t really count for effort, right?
I mean, we’re impressed by the ability to multitask but this doesn’t show real devotion or effort when it comes to love affairs.
However, finding some time to write a heartwarming letter is a completely different story because it requires more than logging in and typing the first thing that comes to mind.
When writing letters, you actually have to find a piece of paper (preferably decorated with a special pattern), you need a pen, inspiration, and, most importantly, TIME.
In times of hectic lifestyles, we often forget the importance of devoting our time to our loved ones. We want to finish everything in the fastest way possible and we don’t care about anything else.
While being focused on achieving more and more, we forget to stop for a moment and be grateful for everything we already have.
And is there a better way to make someone feel special than by telling them that you actually took time to write that letter?
Investing time means investing yourself, which shows the ultimate effort. And being willing to make an effort is one of the most desirable qualities someone can have.
4. It creates anticipation and excitement
When we know that a person will reply to us as soon as they read our message, this doesn’t leave us much space for anticipation or excitement.
Sometimes they reply the same second you text them, sometimes it takes a few minutes or hours, but in the end, you know you’ll get the reply that day or the next day.
As I already stated at the beginning, letter writing is totally different from casual writing. It creates anticipation because you don’t know how long it will take for them to reply to you.
Once you send the letter, you can’t help but think about every word you’ve written and imagine their facial expression once they start reading it, too.
Sometimes these pictures are so vivid, making you feel as if they’ve already read the letter in front of you.
Apart from contemplating their reaction to your letter, you also can’t help but think about their reply to everything you’ve written.
You have many different potential replies in your head and you still can’t stop creating more of them.
Once you finally receive a letter back and hold it in your hands—sweet Lord!
At first, you refuse to open it (especially if there are people around you) because reading it in the presence of other people would feel as if they were reading with you as well.
You have to find a secluded place where you’ll feel safe to smile or cry once you start absorbing their every word.
Then you realize that from all those things you expected them to write, they actually wrote something totally different; something ten times more amazing and heartwarming than you could have thought of!
5. Letter writing helps reduce stress
We already listed one thing that makes texting stressful and that is the famous ‘seen’.
Other things that make texting activities a stressful experience are constantly staring at that tiny screen on a cellphone and taking your cellphone everywhere you go (including the toilet).
And the most annoying of all: texting sounds (especially when you’re busy with something that requires your full attention).
When combined, all these things increase your stress levels on a daily basis, whereas letter writing helps reduce it.
You might wonder in which way writing a letter can be a stress-relief? Well, to write a letter means to press the pause button from the real world, obligations, chores and so on.
When you’re sitting down looking at that piece of paper in front of you and thinking about converting your deepest thoughts into words, you’re doing something creative and inspiring.
Just like singing, dancing and other activities, writing is also an activity that helps you boost your mood.
When you’re focused on creating something, you forget about all your worries and negative things that drain you on a daily basis.
At the same time, you’re also making another person feel truly special. The fact that you’re doing something special for your loved one is enough to lift your spirits.
6. Letters are tangible proof of our affection
Whenever I text my pen pal and they say something sweet, funny or romantic, I have to screenshot it so that I can remind myself of it later or whenever I feel low.
Before, I used to scroll through the entire conversation and oftentimes I would press ‘like’ by accident or something like that.
I don’t think I need to explain how awkward it is for me to press ‘like’ on something that was written days or weeks ago.
They would instantly know that I spent half the day searching for that particular text message, which made me feel as if I had no life whatsoever. And that’s why letters are so much more practical!
If you’re a re-reader like me and you like to save proof of their affection for you, letters are the way to go. They are tangible proof of our affection and that’s what makes them all the more special.
You can hold a letter in your arms till tomorrow. You can re-read it without the need to screenshot beforehand or scroll through your chat conversation for an eternity.
It’s like holding the essence of their affection for you in your hands. By absorbing every word of it, you become attached to their unique handwriting and you could recognize it in a sea of other letters.
There’s nothing sweeter than having a tangible collection of letters for your own personal epistolary novel that will be read and re-read for an eternity.
Wrapping It Up
I hope I succeeded in portraying the beauty of an epistolary relationship and that you’ll at least give it a chance. After all, an old-school romance shouldn’t be forgotten.
We should nourish that vintage kind of love whenever we have the opportunity to do so, just like Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir did.
Their famous epistolary relationship was filled with wonderful, inspiring letters, like this one from Beauvoir:
“Goodbye, your self, my life—I love you. The weather’s filthy—my whole room’s shaken by the wind, you’d think it was going to turn upside down. My tenderest kisses, beloved little being—I dreamt about you.”