Kathryn's Blog: Long Distance Romance

Rising costs of long distance love

I’m a big fan of looking wherever you need to to find the love of your life.  I looked all over when I was single, and in fact, Drew was the closest at 482 miles away.  But the current economics of travel are making people think twice about starting up the old car or buying a plane ticket.  That’s sobering when it comes to finding a mate.  What do you think this will mean for your own search for love?

The toll on long-distance love As fuel prices climb, couples choose between breaking the bank and breaking hearts.

By Lini S. Kadaba

Inquirer Staff Writer
Love has its price.

Every few weeks for the last six months, Amanda Sheronas has paid $120, even $180, in airfare to see her sweetie 760 miles away.

But this month, Sheronas, 37, reached her limit.

The $219 cost of a one-way plane ticket to visit Jaime Alvarez, 40, in Jacksonville, Fla., broke the bank.

“I couldn’t afford it,” said Sheronas, who lives in Devon and works as a director at bridal gown company Alfred Angelo in Fort Washington.

Bad enough that the climbing cost of fuel has hurt school budgets, fire companies, and everyone’s grocery tab. Now, long-distance lovebirds are feeling the pinch on wallets - and hearts.

“It’s put a hold on us,” said Sheronas, who is unsure when she and her boyfriend of six months will rendezvous. “We’re seeing if we can wait it out. It’s not easy. . . . We’ve had to dial things down a little bit.”

The couple, like others, is fueling the flame - and easing the financial burden - with technologies such as texting. Others are cutting corners or choosing to meet at a halfway point.

According to an online poll conducted this month for The Inquirer at dating site OkCupid.com, nearly two-thirds of 1,179 clients said they would see a faraway mate less often as a result of higher gas costs.

About 65 percent text, call or e-mail more. More than 70 percent would cut back on extras, like a night out or gifts.

Locally, a philly.com poll posted two weeks ago found that 41 percent of 472 respondents had gone so far as to break up a long-distance relationship due to travel bills.

That might reflect Philly grumpiness more than actual love lost.

Still, said Kimberly Flemke, a couples and sex therapist with the Council for Relationships in Philadelphia, long-distance love, already complex, is “tougher now than ever before because gas prices are out of control. It really does force people to prioritize relationships. Who’s worth the money, the time? Where is my payback? . . . Who do I want to invest in, and who do I not?”

About 3.5 million dating couples consider themselves long distance, according to the Center for the Study of Long Distance Relationships, a Web site affiliated with author Dr. Gregory Guldner, who wrote the self-published Long Distance Relationships: The Complete Guide. An additional 3.6 million couples have commuter marriages, the Web site notes.

Experts say the number of LDRs, as they’re known, has grown with the rise of online dating - which increases the likelihood that Mr. Right lives three states away. The average LDR couple lives 125 miles apart, visits one to two times a month, and calls each other every three days for 30 minutes, according to a Guldner study.

As gas prices reach a nationwide average of $4.11 a gallon - more than a third higher than a year ago - nearly 60 percent of OkCupid.com poll takers would look for a match in a smaller geographic area and 70 percent would not date someone more than 50 miles away. The price of jet fuel has soared even more. In the last year, it has doubled, according to the International Air Transport Association.

Ironically, the same weak economy that might force LDRs to fizzle also could lead the number of love commutes to multiply, according to Caroline Tiger, author of The Long-Distance Relationship Guide. As jobs become scarcer, one half might have to move to chase employment, she said.

Jim Donohue and Christia Gordon, both 26, saw the financial stress mount when he left the San Diego area in late 2006 to come East, where he has family and landed a job.

“We don’t have a ton of disposable income,” said Gordon, a publicity manager. Recently, she worked the Web for a bargain to Philly. Fares hovered above $400 - double what she had paid just 18 months ago, she said. “Basically, right now, you could go to Mexico or the Caribbean for the same money.”

Even worse, those bucks go for a too-short turnaround. Donohue, who lives in Media, spent $450 for a West Coast drop-in over the July Fourth weekend - an expense he found “hard to justify” until he considered the prospect of “not seeing her for three months.” (Awww!)

Gordon was ready to quit her job and join him. Instead, she negotiated a deal as part of a promotion: She can work out of Philly for a week once a month, easing the situation.

Martha Blackburn, 29, lives in Marlton. Her boyfriend, David Williams, 25, a freelance TV station engineer, resides outside St. Louis. The couple bridges the 800 miles with video.

“It was his Valentine’s present to himself and to me,” said Blackburn, membership coordinator at the American Association of Teachers of German in Cherry Hill. “He got a little video camera, and we can see each other over Skype.”

The software allows free phone calls and videoconferencing over the Internet. Alas, “you can’t give someone a hug over Skype,” Blackburn lamented.

Ultimately, said Lisa Chase Patterson, a relationships expert at JustAnswer.com, LDR couples need to resolve the distance.

“Love is love,” said Patterson, who has seen an uptick in queries that mention the toll of gas prices on relationships. “But the reality is that you can’t do this for another five years. The person who does most of the traveling is going to get resentful.”

Tiger, the author, has had three LDRs of her own. The last, with Jon Dunsay, 36, an attorney and now her fiance, worked beautifully: He moved from Washington, D.C., to Center City, a block away from her.

“There’s really no substitute for seeing each other,” Tiger said. Besides, “we can use the money we’re saving . . . to actually travel places together.”

Others, in the meantime, are cutting corners to fund road trips and flights.

“We eat in more often and watch movies at home instead of going out as much,” said Katie Delach, 26, a public relations account manager who lives outside Boston and drives - round-trip: $120 - two, three times a month to Morristown, N.J., to spend time with Will Stokes, 24, a management associate with Subaru of America.

If she drives down more than he drives up, they split the cost of gas and tolls. “Sometimes,” she said, “we meet halfway in southern Connecticut. It gets to the point where, as much as you want to make the drive, we’re both starting out, and we can’t afford it.”

“It’s been a shock,” he said.

A few days ago, the couple caught a break (of sorts) on gas. Stokes’ company moved him to Chicago - and spontaneous, frequent drives are no longer possible.

The couple plan to rely on once-a-month flights. “We’re just going to have to see each other less,” he said. “It’s the only feasible, financially responsible option.”

Karlene Lihota, 25, a graduate student at Thomas Jefferson University who lives in Bella Vista, is luckier than most LDRers.

In another year, she’ll complete her degree and plans to join boyfriend Michael Salguero, 27, an entrepreneur, in Boston.

For now, she watches “100 percent” of income from a part-time Internet job go toward travel between the cities.

“You’ve really got to like the other person to do this,” she said.


The United States Emabassy in Russian and Scams

The United States Embassy in Moscow clearly gets frequent reports about US citizens who are victims of Russian based dating scams.  Here’s what the Embassy has put out in response, good advice no matter what country you are dealing with:

Internet Dating Scams

The U.S. Embassy receives reports almost every day of fraud committed against U.S. citizens by Internet correspondents professing love and romantic interest. Typically, the Russian correspondent asks the U.S. citizen to send money or credit card information for living expenses, travel expenses, or “visa costs.” The anonymity of the Internet means that the U.S. citizen cannot be sure of the real name, age, marital status, nationality, or even gender of the correspondent. The U.S. Embassy has received many reports of citizens losing thousands of dollars through such scams. American citizens are advised never to send money to anyone they have not met in person.

The internet dating scams include some common elements:

* Misrepresentation about the costs and requirements of a U.S. visa,
* Claims that they must buy airline tickets only in Russia,
* Use of professional models’ photos gleaned from internet web sites,
* Sudden financial hurdles to leaving Russia,
* Requests to send money only through a specific company,
* A scan of a (usually fraudulent) U.S. visa to prove intent to travel.

Please keep in mind that, while the U.S. Embassy in Moscow does not have the authorization to initiate investigations of these scams, the Fraud Prevention Unit can verify the authenticity of any U.S. visa via e-mail at . In addition, complete and authoritative information on applying for a U.S. visa is available on the Department of State’s webpage on Visa Information for Temporary Visitors.


IMBRA and Mail Order Brides

I’ve written before about the dangers of looking for mates through sites offering women from Russia, Nigeria, or other economically distressed countries.  Not only are American men easy targets for scams, the women are easily manipulated by men who are not the kind of wholesome mate material that they’d like us to think.

Keli Dailey in “I Wish They All Could Be Mail-Order Girls” writes about the newly enacted International Marriage Broker Regulation Act (IMBRA), which was passed as a rider to the Violence Against Women Act, all of which took effect this last March.  While I had felt squeamish about the whole idea of men going abroad to find wives (often openly courted by the sites or marriage brokers with allusions that the women being offered were old-fashioned in their values and not like modern American women), this article tells some of the distasteful stories, along with the implications of IMBRA for men still looking abroad.

From Your Romance Coach, Kathryn Lord


A Most Unusual Love Story

Now, here’s a story that has a number of unusual twists:

Rita Manning lived in Fresno, CA.  48 Years old, in 1993 she weighed 594.  Following surgery, she lost 232 which left her at a still hefty 362.  Widowed, she was ready for something new.  Rita signed on to BBWDatefinder.com, a dating site dedicated to “Big Beautiful Women and Their Admirers.”

Well, she found one.  An admirer.  David Richardson of Eudora, Kansas, emailed her.  49 years old, David had never been married. 

Kansas is a long way from Fresno, but Rita was taking a long-distance trucking course and happened to be driving through Kansas as part of her training.  The met for the first time at a convenience store parking lot of I-70.

Rita ended up moving to Eudora and the two married on June 30.  Take a look at the story in the Lawrence Journal-World: there’s even a slide show!

From Your Romance Coach, Kathryn Lord

PS I have heard other good reports from women who have joined the BBWDatefinder site.  So if you are not the “slim and trim” that most guys seem to want, hop (or stroll) on over.  BTW, what most guys want is not what they are going to get, since the average weight of white women at age 50 is 155 pounds, 175 for Black women.


Love Those Love Stories: February Version

Here are two lovely stories out of Bozeman, Montana, for heaven’s sake! Dan and Carolyn Hopper met on ChristianScienceSingles.com, he living in Washington state, she in Montana. They are now living in Bozeman, happily married.

Marcia and David Crowell met online in 2002. But talk about long-distance relationships! Marcia (who contacted David first) was living in Sao Paolo, Brazil, while David was in Bozeman. It was only a couple of months after their first face to face meeting in Brazil before David proposed. “It was love at first sight,” says David.

And here are two more, this time in Plesanton, California. Vina (60) and Gary (63) Dugan met on eHarmony and married just a few months later. Marilyn Rogers (62) and a grandma had over 500 guys get in touch before she started steadily dating Peir Delfrate.

This one is a long-distance affair: Amy Shorter and John Whitaker were separated by 670 and 13 years (he was 35 and she was 22). And Ian Parker and Michelle Joseph have an even bigger age difference—17 years. But both couples met online (Amy and John in a chat room for military history, Ian and Michelle on Friends Reunited Dating. John and Amy are already married, and Ian and Michelle have a wedding date of April 29, 2006 - are year to the date from when they met.

From Your Romance Coach, Kathryn Lord


Long Distance Romance? Talk About a DEAL!

WOW! I just read about this great new website Site59.com. Talk about a service for long-distance romances! Whew!

Here’s what it does: It’s like Travelocity (which is going to add a similar feature soon), in that you put in the city you are leaving from and where you would like to go, and then it searches and gives you options. BUT… you can do arrangements for up to four people in two different places, and the trips are short notice! Two weeks or less.

Here’s what happened when I tried it out:

I tried Tallahassee, where I am, and Jackson, Mississippi, the closest airport for Drew. And I picked the weekend before Valentine’s Day. Both our flights (coordinated so that we would arrive and leave Boston about the same time), plus the costs of 3 nights in a nice Boston hotel (Four Points by Sheraton), for $739.10. Total. We could add a car for $87 more. But nobody wants a car in Boston. So we could do a romantic weekend for $370 each. AND...the site automatically calculates how much time you would have together: For the trip I planned, 2 days, 19 hours, and 31 minutes.

Almost makes me want to start dating again.

From Your Romance Coach, Kathryn Lord


Long Distance Love

Here’s a lovely story about long distance romance, facilitated by Internet dating, or course! See how Don Valenta of Dallas got to live in Hawaii—even though he hadn’t thought about it.

I am a big fan of exploring out of your home territory, if moving is at all possible for you. Drew and I were 482 miles apart, door to door. I moved, and it was worth it.

From Your Romance Coach, Kathryn Lord



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