Why You Should Start a Love Diary

Today I would like to introduce a neat idea that I swiped from Jennifer Louden and that I like to use in the course of my couple therapies. In case you feel like it and if you happen to be in a relationship as you read this, you may want to try. It is perfect for touchy subjects, particularly points that continually provide causes for arguments and also for times when one does not see all that much of each other and there is never enough time for conversations. One can also use this idea for its very own sake simply as an additional way of communicating with each other without any major problems in the relationship, just to kind of document the relationship or even just because its fun.
Get yourself something that you like, a nice notebook, a diary, a scribbling pad or just a ring binder. Then all you need is that pen you like to use for writing - and that’s all the preparation you need. Together with your partner designate the book as your mutual relationship diary. Unlike a “classic” diary that one only keeps for oneself alone, here both of you take turns in posting entries. It is probably best that you agree in advance about how much, when and how frequently you would like to post your entries – obviously a few more or less lines are not an issue but if one of you fills a few daily pages and the other just adds a buzz word every few months, the entire project ends up being just a little bit off kilter. How this works out in practice naturally depends entirely on what suits both of you; like for instance, how much time you want to invest in this entire exercise. If you like, you can set a certain time frame for keeping the diary – maybe just a few weeks or months or maybe an entire year. Here both of you must decide what suits you best.

The party who starts writing chooses the subject and writes that which comes to his/her mind or that he/she would like to communicate to his/her partner. Then he/she returns the book to the previously agreed upon place. The partner then picks it up at a convenient time (when he/she feels like it, perhaps some quiet time) reads that which the other has written and adds something him/herself. Here it is up to him/her whether he/she directly responds to the previous entry, just adds something or even starts a completely different subject. It is only important that you take turns. If you want you can also embellish your entries with additional items – possibly a photo, a drawing, a saying, a pressed flower, a cutout article . . . there are no limits to your imagination.

A relationship diary has the following objectives:

  • it helps you to better understand your partner – sometimes it is easier to put things into writing about oneself that otherwise may be difficult to express.
  • in the case of touchy subjects, it helps both of you to be calmer when communicating with each other than may be the case when you deal with each other face-to-face. Not having to respond or react immediately to something the other said is really going to help diffusing any potential issues.
  • It is also a wonderful opportunity for contact- and communication at times of stress when each of you can just pick up the diary when it happens to suit you and you won’t have to wait for a quiet minute together
  • it creates something akin to a history of your relationship because it documents your development as a couple over a long period of time and in that way strengthens the “Us-Feeling” in your partnership
Here are a few more important rules – in addition to maintaining the by you agreed upon entry frequency and length are:

Many people are given to writing when something depresses them. In those instances try to chose your words carefully so as not to hurt the other person’s feelings or offend him/her. Sometimes you may be agitated while writing because a particular subject happens to be very close to you. Still, try to respect the other’s feelings and not berate or insult him/her. Be honest with that which you are writing but be gentle in the way you put it. It is better to write about yourself and how you are doing than heaping the other person with reproaches and accusations.

Interpret that which the other wrote as a true, heartfelt attempt to make you understand his/her thoughts and feelings. Assume that it is truly important to your partner and treat it with care accordingly. Never make fun of anything your partner wrote and never use it in an argument with each other. The diary’s content is nobody’s business but your own. Otherwise you ruin the trust and openness that is so vital for a diary like that.

Don’t pout; be resentful or angry if the other sometimes writes something that doesn’t fit with the subject at hand. Don’t immediately defend yourself with heated arguments because you feel being attacked. It is better to reflect about what your partner may have thought and what could have led to the sentences he/she wrote. Always remember, he/she wrote them because the relationship is important to him/her and he/she wants to contribute something! Don’t put pressure on your partner when he/she is not immediately addressing something that either one of you wrote. Sometimes it is better to let some time pass before responding.
Also and most importantly allow for lots of space in your relationship diary for the positive things! Tell each other what it is you like about each other, appreciate that which your partner did today or during this week and what it was that made you happy, surprised you, impressed you and made you glad. Express your appreciation to each other when you were able to do something for each other.

When you don’t have time for conversations tell each other about your day. Often so many trivia occur during the course of the day when one thinks: “oh, I have to tell him/her about that!” and then they are quickly forgotten again. In your relationship diary there should always be room for those things that may seem insignificant to anyone else but convey the feeling about that which you experienced, thought and felt while you were apart. In this way you learn to better understand and know each other.

Go ahead, even write about things that you might not even talk about or not discuss any longer because you believe that you already know each other in this respect. Even with longtime couples this sometimes brings interesting surprises to the surface. To get started Jennifer Louden suggests a few sentence complementing exercises and I would like to pass a few of them just as a first inspiration on to you, How would you/your partner complete the following sentences:

  • When we first met, I was fascinated by . . .
  • All my life . . .
  • I feel good when . . .
  • I get angry when/about . . .
  • I wished that you would understand that I . . .
Before you begin writing it is important that you agree on specific points in time when you personally may also want to discuss that which you wrote in your relationship diary. This may be once a week or more frequently just as long as it is clear going in that these conversations take place so that you can personally provide feed back to each other as to how you feel that which the other wrote and the diary affect your relationship. It is not necessary that you do this with a huge sense of urgency or on a strict timetable – it is sufficient that you frequently create the opportunity and just check if there is a need for a conversation. If yes, take the time for it – if not, that is ok, too.

And now I wish you lots of fun with creating and maintaining your new relationship diary.