Kathryn's Blog

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.



oh god, i am fed up with these charges of travel companies. I live in delhi and my grilfriend lives in kurukshetra. Its a long distance and i even can’t afford to call him because of high STD Rates. I can’t even meet him. This is long distance love.

Guys, i suggest you if you do love, then find the girl nearby so that u can meet him daily and yoiu need not to pay any travel charges.

God bless you

That was such a good read for me, keep up these great articles.

I just couldnt leave your website before saying that I really enjoyed the quality information you offer to your visitors… Will be back often to check up on new stuff you post here!
Casa a New York

I feel sorry for anyone who must try and make a go of a long distance relationship. It is hard enough to manage one where you get to be with each other all of the time, let alone be apart and have to come up with the money to be able to see each other for a visit here and there. You have to be really committed to each other for it to work in the first place even if you can afford it!

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