My favorite tool for a difficult relationship situation

How + why to write a letter to an angelI few years back, I heard this idea. It’s been incredibly useful for me, and I want to share it with you today. The gist is this:

When you’re having a really tough time with a person and are at your wit’s end in dealing with them…

Try writing a letter to their angel.

If you think that sounds a little woo woo, I would have agreed with you…at first. (I still kind of do, but I don’t care.)

Hear me out. Even if you don’t believe in angels, you are going to be glad you followed this idea through to the end.

Let’s say I’m having a blowout disagreement with a co-worker that’s been going on for months. There’s so much bad blood between us that a conversation won’t help (or perhaps we just tried a conversation, and it turned toxic real fast). I have so many feelings to vent, I just can’t even.

Prevailing wisdom might be to write a letter to this person, never to send of course. I’ll tell you what that letter would look like. I’m already pissed at this person, so that letter would be written in anger, laced with resentment and bitterness and just you look at all the ways in which I’m right. I’ve tried that kind of letter. It’s not that helpful. It tells me what I already know. It feels like stewing in dense ugly muck.


I’m going to take an important detour here to make an important point:

I don’t care if you believe in angels.

You don’t have to. You just have to pretend. It will still work even if we all know you’re just pretending. I will tell you the reasons why later. If you do believe in angels, and believe there’s an unseen power that is helping your message along, all the better.

But whichever adventure you choose, your letter will help you in a challenging situation.

Personally, I believe there is something made of love, that is very powerful, watching over us. Nudging us in better, more loving directions. It doesn’t really matter if it’s called “angels” or “God” or “the universe” or whatever else. There’s something magical at play that I don’t completely understand, and that’s all I need to know. Today, I’m deciding to call it angels.


Returning to my hypothetical co-worker, whom I currently hate with the fire of a thousand suns. I sit down to write a letter. Here’s an example I just made up. Yours will have more specific details, and could be longer or shorter, but this will give you an idea.

Dear angel,

I’m writing to you because Jake has really been pissing me off. I know how much you love him, being his guardian angel and all, so I’m going to spare you all the mean thoughts that are coming to mind right now, and just get to the point. We’re having this ugly disagreement that just won’t go away. You know how he can be a little stubborn, and this one interaction we had has made it so much worse, and now it’s like we’re on two opposite sides of an ocean. Compromise feels impossible. It’s making me hate going to work, because I know I’m going to have to deal with this and I’m so, so tired and stressed over it. So I’m reaching out to you instead because he’s sure not listening to me or seeing my side of things.

Please help us to come to some sort of resolution that both of us can feel good about. At this point, I have no idea what that looks like, and everything I’ve tried hasn’t worked. I’m literally out of ideas. But you know a lot about him, and you might be able to help move some of the blocks that are keeping us from being able to hear each other. Or punch him in the face. Your call, whatever works.

All kidding aside, please help him to understand that I’m trying to do the best thing for everyone. I think maybe he feels threatened, because I’m somehow on his turf? Which was never my intention, but maybe I said some wrong things. Maybe you can talk to my angel and you two can work this all out, and nudge us with what to do next.

Thanks for taking good care of Jake. For all I know, you’ve kept him from being an even bigger jerk than he’s already been. And I know that deep deep deep down, he is probably a decent guy. Even if I can’t see it right now. I know you think that he is, so I’m just going to trust you on that until he starts acting like it.

Peace out,

Once you’ve gotten all your thoughts down and ask the angel to intervene, you might feel some sort of relief. Like, you’ve handed the baton off and it’s no longer up to you to wrestle the situation into submission. (Because it never really was up to you, because relationships don’t work like that, but this practice has a neat way of translating that knowing into an actual feeling of relief and letting go.)

Here are some things that are probably true of someone’s angel that might help when you sit down to write:

  • They’ve known the person since they were a little tiny baby. They’ve watched them grow up, and seen them make mistakes, and they still feel tons of love for this creature.
  • You might also choose to think of it like writing to someone’s mom. A mom who clearly has a wellspring of unconditional love for her child, but is a good enough parent to not let said child get away with too much shit and turn into a little hellion wreaking havoc on the world.
  • They’re not as tied to the issue as you and the other person. They see it from the perspective of a higher being, not too invested in the ins and outs of daily life. Their eye is on the experience of life as a whole…whatever that means.

Here is what I know.

When you write a letter to someone’s angel, you’re speaking to and about the very best part of them. The part of another person that is capable of rising above the muck of the current situation the relationship is in.

And what’s more, this exercise challenges you to speak from a better part of you. The part of you that is wise enough to acknowledge your own hurt feelings, but also the greater context of life and love and all this is just a big, temporary learning experience.

I’ve gotten to the end of these letters and realized that I actually harbor a lot of love for the person on the other side…even sometimes when I don’t know them that well. That platonic kind of love, that sees the other person as another imperfect/incomplete/insecure/scared human on this crazy ride of life, and this really is hard for both of us, isn’t it?

After having discovered even a smidgen more love and understanding for a person you’re livid with, you can’t help but bring a different sort of energy to the next encounter. You don’t have to understand it, but you can trust that approaching with even just a little more love and compassion will help.

For all we know, there are guardian angels all over just waiting for us to ask for their help. (Or, there’s a psychological construct that allows us to release control we were only ever imagining in the first place, which can be scientifically proven and is just as helpful for us in the long run. Your call.)

So…what do you think? Do you want to try it?

I hope something wonderful happens to you today.