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Not since pre-internet days has there been such a resurgence in romantic letter writing. Elle Hunt hears the stories behind the handwritten dispatches — and whether the senders lived happily ever after IRL. Now they had talked more over text than they had in person, making being together in the office a bit awkward.

Their conversation was not obviously flirtatious, at least not as Lauren, 26, saw it; but she was enjoying herself enough to want to keep up contact through the lockdown — however long it might last. Paul, 31, not only agreed to her semi-joking suggestion; he escalated it.

At the same time as the pandemic precipitated a society-wide shift towards technology, it also saw us return to a time-honoured tradition: writing letters. The US Free cyber sex chat New Zealand Service reported a similar increase early last year. There are many reasons why we might have felt moved to put pen to paper through the pandemic: to process our thoughts and feelings, to feel connected to other people, to spend time off screens. But the emotional turbulence and isolation also set the scene for especially intimate, charged correspondence — and to send letters that might have otherwise gone unwritten.

He reconnected with a university friend in a series of letters last year. Suspended by the pandemic between past and present, many people chose to reach out. If any couple captures this spirit, it is Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck: together again 17 years after ending their engagement. Whether the pandemic proved a prompt to express extant feelings, or they developed through the exchange, it points to a revival not just of letter-writing, but of love letters — and there are historical parallels that help to explain it.

Through lockdown, people had to consider how to express themselves from a distance, just as they did in the 18th century, says Sally Holloway, research fellow in history at Oxford Brookes University, who is studying love letters of that time.

But writing a letter today has the added ificance of having been chosen over a more immediate form of communication, such as a phone or video call. And in lockdown, many had time to spare.

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The task lent structure to the formless weeks, while the writing itself was a welcome creative prompt. Their letters started out long and lyrical, and progressed to works of art. Within the exchange, there was also an undeniable eagerness to impress. When Lauren, an artist, sent Paul a watercolour, he dug out his paints and sent one back. About six weeks in, Paul sent her an intricate calendar marking milestones not just in the lockdown but their correspondence. And yet they only spoke once on the phone, and their in-person exchanges were short.

There was an element, she admits, of wanting to preserve the romance. One time Paul met her at his letterbox. Then, after eight weeks in New Zealand, where Lauren and Paul live, the lockdown lifted and they had no reason to write any more. Lauren felt trepidatious: who would they be to each other, off the ? Our relationships have always been shaped by the times and technologies. Love letters flourished through the.

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Over time, conventions evolved — such as writing in a more familiar, affectionate style and concluding with a flurry of post-scripts. To see those frenetic, consecutive fragments today, it is hard to miss the parallel with text messages.

Equally, suggests Holloway, personalised wax seals added extra emotional meaning to letters without words, just as gifs and emoji do now. It could be argued that even before the pandemic, we were living through a new era of short-form, fast-paced epistolary romance — in online dating. And by preventing us from meeting in person, the pandemic sent the word count skywards. It speaks to the possibility of establishing an emotional connection at a physical remove. Decades of research, such as into long-distance relationships, have established that proximity is not a necessary precursor to intimacy.

On the other hand, the speed and ease with which we can communicate digitally does not always reflect the depth of the relationship. When it has never been so easy to share, who you confide in could be incidental. Constance, 32, from southwest England, spent the first lockdown messaging a man she had kissed on a night out a few weeks earlier. When they met for a coffee after lockdown, Constance found her correspondent to be quite different to the confident, chatty man she had envisaged — but he confided in her as though their relationship neatly transcended the digital space.

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She wonders now whether she ever felt that attraction, or if their messaging had allowed them to invest in a fantasy. The relative sparseness of written communication le our subconscious to fill in the gaps in our knowledge about our correspondents — but rarely accurately, says Jeff Hancock, founding director of Stanford University Social Media Lab.

Likewise, writing allows us a degree of control over our self-presentation that would otherwise be effectively impossible. For Lauren and Paul, their first meeting was a little awkward, but no more so than might be expected post-lockdown. But those tendencies, so conducive to their correspondence, were not so supportive of their relationship.

Lauren and Paul broke up earlier this year, after 10 months together, though they remain close friends. Just as increasing literacy led to love letters, the pandemic has already forced innovations in how we connect from afar.

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But far from the free-love free-for-all some predicted post-pandemic, the survey also revealed a surprising desire for commitment. It suggests a change not just in our relationship priorities, but in how we pursue them through tech — and a return to deliberate, slow-burn romances, such as those that might in the past have unfolded through letters.

Sugar: The Bitter Truth

It connects strangers around the world to write to each other, delaying their messages to allow for anticipation to build — just as with the post. Notably, it took off through the pandemic, says cofounder JoJo Chan.

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Now it tallies a massive 4. Megan, 26, and Vlad, 29, started corresponding through Slowly early last year. All they knew about each other was their username, cartoon avatar, and their locations: her in Illinois, in the US; him in London.

Their similarities — not just in likes and dislikes, but values — were revealed letter by letter. They shared important moments in their lives, and mundane ones from their days. After a month of corresponding through Slowly, they swapped s. From then on, their Slowly romance moved fast.

Sugar: The Bitter Truth

The couple are now living together in the Hague — where Vlad could relocate with his job, and Megan was eligible for residency — and recently became engaged. Their early letters now read as the start of a love story. Some names have been changed.

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Lockdown Love Stories is online at lockdown lovestories. The Observer Relationships. Straight from the heart: the lockdown-inspired love letter boom. A fine romance: more than two in five Britons wrote letters during lockdown. Elle Hunt. Sun 26 Sep Love letters flourished through the 18th century because of the massive growth in literacy, says Holloway. Topics Relationships The Observer features. Reuse this content.

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