Love letters are a strange thing. Once read, they lose their original purpose and become keepsakes—a piece of paper filled with emotions that are often ephemeral. Which is why I've always felt conflicted about whether it's appropriate to keep a love letter once a relationship has ended. Should I scrunch it up and chuck it in the trash, or treasure it in a box under my bed? What if my new partner found one—would they think I still have feelings for the person who wrote it?
To answer this, I decided to reach out to some of my friends and ask if they would share love letters they have received or have written in the past. I wanted to find out why each of them has saved the letters and what purpose they serve now.
Editor's note: The transcripts of some of the letters have been slightly edited for clarity.
Good morning my beautiful girl,
I am so happy to have found you Alex—you make me feel breathless with butterflies. And although it has only been a short while, I know we'll be in it for the long run.
This five-week gap will be hard (as you know), but you'll have an amazing time and we'll be back together in no time. I'll be waiting for you baby.
Try and keep your chin up, baby girl. I love you so dearly that it shocks me sometimes. I always feel at home, when I'm with you and I love it. You are my everything baby and I don't want you to forget it!
All my love,
Aka Princess x
VICE: How long have you and Freya been together?
Alexandra: We've been together for a year.
Can you tell me a bit about your relationship?
I'm her first girlfriend, and we're a long-distance couple. She lives in Bedford [England], while I'm in Manchester. We met through a Facebook group in early June 2015 and were together by the end of the month.
How come you had to be apart for five weeks?
I went traveling to Asia for five weeks in August 2015. She wanted to write me a letter as a keepsake for whilst I was away.
Do these letters help when you're not together?
Definitely. Just seeing her handwriting and realizing she took the time to write to me, reminds me that she's still there and waiting.
VICE: What's the letter written on?
Katie: If I remember correctly, we'd just got back from a festival after a really messy, trippy weekend and the only bit of paper he could probably find was a left over drugs wrap.
Can you tell me a bit about the relationship?
He's been my best friend since I was 16 and he was 18. He still is my best friend. We grew up together and shared lots of memorable experiences. When I was around 21, something weird happened; I think he went to a festival and came back and realized he "loved me"—or something like that. We kind of had a month or two of fooling around with each other and then it was like waking up from a dream like, "What are we doing?"
Did the letter bring you two together?
I remember feeling more like the letter meant it was a good time to have some space. We chilled for a while and then carried on being friends again.
Why do you still have it?
I keep a lot of things, mainly meaningful things, especially from times I want to remember—such as festival wristbands, gig tickets, train tickets, and definitely letters. This note was like something out of a movie because he disappeared in the morning after returning from a festival, and I woke up alone and found it under my pillow.
VICE: What's the significance of pugs in this case?
Nicole: Gaz and I had always dreamed of having a pug called Albert, named after the Nick Cave song "Albert Goes West." We'd probably send each other about five pictures of pugs every day, and it became an unhealthy obsession. I now have Albert, and he's amazing.
How was Paris?
Paris was incredible. It was our first trip together, and it was for Gaz's 27th birthday. A particular highlight was the catacombs. Everyone joked that we were the goth couple of Manchester so we fit right in there. Can you tell me a bit about your relationship?
We had been together since 2013. The classic "love at first sight" story that makes people roll their eyes. We spent every waking, non-working hour together, and we were supposed to move in together last year. At that time, we'd been together for two amazingly happy years. Unfortunately, though, Gaz died very suddenly and unexpectedly last June.
Does it hurt to look back at these letters?
When I first read these letters after Gaz died, it hurt so much that I left them untouched for six months. I'm now happy to look back at them and remember what an amazing relationship we had. Maybe one day I'll have that kind of relationship again, but for now I consider myself lucky that I had the chance to feel that way about someone. Some people never experience such love. As unfair as it is to have your soulmate taken away at the prime of both of your lives, we had an incredible two years together, and I wouldn't change it for the world.
LENA, 24 *
I'm sitting in a chair in my room in Fabas yet again, thinking about you—how I miss looking at your beautiful face and how I wish you were with me, for the millionth time. The weather here is great as usual—blue skies, bit of wind—which is great for me and you; It's hot for me, and I'm getting a tan for you!
I've been doing quite a bit of work with my grandpa, building a new terrace to sit on and also lifting loads of huge rocks to make a new level bit of ground next to it—which is bloody tiring! Also, Harry, Finn, Callum, Miles and I have been playing loads of footy—and I bet everyone else at Fabas are so thankful that there is a river, because let's just say Fabas wouldn't smell too good!
I've only just realized recently how much art I need to do here, because I've been a bit behind in class. It's sooo time-consuming, so I've been doing a lot of that too. Your paints that you gave me, have been great and I've used them quite a lot.
The day before yesterday, we went to the plunge pool, which you've heard about in all my other letters, and that was so much fun. Every time I go, it still amazes me how beautiful the place where it is is WHEN (not if) I take you to Fabas,we are definitely going there!
Recently, I've been thinking of you actually being here with me, and I want it to happen more and more! I was thinking that the best time to bring you down here would be after we finish our exams because that's the time of year when this place is most breath taking. However, I need to ask my grandparents first because I'm not sure if they'll allow me to come down here with a girlfriend or not (but they should allow me to).
I've been playing music quite a bit with Callum (on the flute), which has been good, but I was also thinking how I'd love to play with you (if you want me to) on your stage thingy—I really think you should do it—it would be fun, and your songs are great! I'm so proud to have such an amazing musician for a girlfriend.
We are going camping tonight which will be fun, and we'll be cooking pancakes on an open fire which I cannot wait for! (That should be the highlight of it.) This place is great for camping, so when you come down here, we will go at least for one night (if you're up to it).
Being here with my family is obviously really good fun, yet as much as I love being with them, I'd trade it in for being with you. I can't wait to see you—being with you is like a breath of fresh air and everyday I don't have that makes me want it even more, I miss you so much and before you think 'No he doesn't,' I DO!!!
I can't wait to see you, I'm sure I'll be amazed by your beauty yet again when I see you, because I forget your face sometimes. I love you more than anything and have a great summer (what you have left of it)—have fun!
Lots and lots of love,
your lucky boyfriend,
VICE: How old were you when you received this letter?
Lena: A thing that used to annoy me at the time but I'm grateful for now is that he would date everything—so I know that I was 15 when I got this. And as it was in July, I would have been in Ireland for the summer. No phones and no internet meant we used to send each other letters.
Can you tell me a little about your relationship? How long were you together for?
We were childhood sweethearts. We dated on and off throughout almost the whole of secondary school—so for about six years from the age of 13 to about 19. We came from very different families, which sometimes became a problem. His bleached middle-class upbringing meant that he didn't know what a tea-stained cup looked like, which upset my mother quite badly once. We watched White Palace once together, and it was uncomfortably close to the bone. But we were totally mad about each other. It was very romantic.
Did he ever take you to Fabas?
Yes, I got to visit his family's collection of houses in France. It was a great holiday, but I used to hate it when he went because he'd be in France, I'd be in Ireland, and the summers are so long when you're younger.
And did you guys ever perform together?
We did not. I was in a band at school, and at one point, when we weren't going out, I briefly dated the guitarist so that kind of put a sour note to the idea of us playing together. We were in a soul band together at school, but we only performed once, and I got too drunk trying to ward off nerves, and he was very embarrassed of me slurring "Freddie's Dead" down the mic. He was often embarrassed of me.
Finally, how come you kept these letters for so long?
For a long time they meant a lot to me because I was pretty mad about him. I think everyone remembers their first proper boyfriend. Though his letters tended to be a bit wooden—he was the classic English perpetual-pole-up-the-ass prude in public—he was a very funny and sweet guy, and I was a happy teenager with him.
VICE: What was the reason you wrote this note?
Ben: I wrote this letter because my boyfriend and I are apart almost all of the time, which is difficult. Writing love notes is comforting to me and reminds me of all the things I love so much about my relationship. It makes him feel good too.
Can you tell me a bit about your relationship?
I met my boyfriend in 2010 while at college in Florida, where both our families are from. We dated off and on for three years, but it just never fully fell into place. In 2015, we became serious, but it's been incredibly hard because our relationship has been over such long distances. I have been studying in London, and he is in California. We get along great, and this time around it finally feels like it's the right moment, so I've switched my studies to an online course and will be moving close to him so our relationship can take a new form.
Does he write to you too?
He does, but not in so many words. I get cards and short notes—only a few sentences in each, but they're still just as special to me.
Do the letters help with not seeing each other often?
They do; they remind us of our time together. I typically take pictures of letters I've written to him and of the cards he's given to me, so I can remind myself of how it feels when we actually get to spend time together. They remind me how lucky I am to have this person waiting for me at home.
Who was the person you wrote this poem for?
Diarmuid: For a Bulgarian girl from Sofia, also called Sofia.
How come you decided to write a poem, instead of a more traditional letter?
I wrote it without planning to. I often write down whatever comes into my head. I was spending a lot of time drinking alone in dive bars at the time, and writing this helped me pass the time.
Can you tell me a bit about that relationship?
We met in Spain, and she had a boyfriend back home. We spent every evening walking around the city together, talking into the early hours. Then she went home. I tried to convince her to come back.
Did it work?
Alas, it did not. I actually spoke to her yesterday, asking for her thoughts on the relationship, and she said "it never officially ended," but I guess it never officially started either.
VICE: Can you tell me a bit about your relationship?
Tanya: We met through a friend of a friend. He was six years older than me but didn't seem it most of the time. He was my first sweetheart I guess—I adored him. Whenever he was home, we would go on trips and days out, but there was always a lot of strain on our relationship as he was in the military.
What's it like to be with someone in the military?
It's hard. I enjoyed it because I don't like being with someone 24/7, so it was good to have that time apart, but after a couple of weeks, I would really miss him. However, the military changes people; toward the end he became paranoid about who I was hanging out with. I had a lot of guy friends. But I'd have an incredible sense of pride when I'd see him at ceremonies and stuff.
Did he propose?
He didn't. We broke up before then. He said he would propose after a year, but we lasted nine months.
What happened in the end?
I got tired of the pressure and paranoia. I'm a bit of a commitment-phobe anyway. But he also made it tough toward the end. The breakup was a sigh of relief. I saw him a few months ago actually, and he blamed the breakup on the distance and my age at the time. I left it at that to save arguments, I guess.
Hi baby girl!
How's the assignment coming along? Nearly finished? I had a maths assignment given to me and it looks impossible but I'll give it a good go, and do my best. Anyway, enough of work!
So you're going to get a buzz cut! Don't have it too short, because your hair is the most beautiful I've ever seen. You're probably right in having a change though, especially if your hair's been the same all your life. You'll still look gorgeous anyway, and I can't wait to see that gorgeous face of yours again on Saturday. I shall get the 8.35AM train probably, so I should see you around 10.15AM. I will buy the ticket tomorrow anyway.
I've got to go to bed soon, I wish I was with you though. I could really do with making a nest with you and just have you next to me. The best thing is waking up with you (as long as it's not a fire alarm that wakes us!). I love feeling your silky body in my arms. I need you, now and for the rest of time. I will always be here for you, and if you ever feel lonely, just think that in the near future we will be husband and wife and you will never need to feel lonely again. Anyway, I've got to go now. Just one more thing to say; I LOVE YOU!Your man,
X x x x x x
VICE: So did you become husband and wife?
Petra: Yes, we did! We've now been married for 19 years.
Can you tell me a bit about your relationship?
We met when we were about twelve years old. We both used to go to church, and I thought he was a complete weirdo. Many years later we ended up in sixth form together and became inseparable—although at this point still only as friends.
On the last day of our A-levels, he was hit by a car and almost killed. In the same accident, our friend was killed. Everything changed in my mind. I realized he was more than just a friend—that there was no way I could not have him in my life.
How does it feel to look back on love letters from such an early time in your relationship?
It was so bizarre to look back at these letters. Some of them made me blush! But it is so wonderful to be able to rediscover how much we felt for each other and how pure our love was—untouched by the rigors of adult life.
Oh yeah, and how did your assignment go?
Oh my word… I don't remember; it probably went well. I was a bit of a swot [nerd].
*Names have been changed to protect the subjects' identity.