30 Years After Becoming Pen-Pals 4,000 Miles Apart, Pair Finally Meets and Falls in Love


The modern dating scene is tricky. It’s no longer about bumping into someone at a cafe or marrying someone in the small town you grew up in. The world is at your fingertips.

With online apps, that can make dating feel more like shopping on Amazon than looking for a real, flesh-and-blood human to share life with, and the process can be draining.

It’s rare anymore that people take the time and make the effort to connect with anyone on a personal level through physical, hand-written letters, but that’s exactly how this couple got their start.

Stephanie Kraemer and Petter Grønlien were pen pals when she was 13 and he was 15. She was in Illinois, and he was in Norway.

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Originally, it was Kraemer’s friend who was writing to Grønlien, and Kraemer was writing to Grønlien’s friend — but Kraemer and Grønlien eventually ended up writing each other instead.

And it was a good thing they did.

The two shared everything with each other. They commiserated through the struggles of the teenage years, then the adult years, then the married years.

As technology changed, so did their means of communication. Though they started out with handwritten letters, they eventually moved to email and then other messaging apps.

Kraemer said it was never romantic between them — but Grønlien did propose to her when she was in her 20s and about to get married to the father of her son.

“Shortly after my phone rang he called me and said, ‘Stephanie you have to come here and marry me before you marry him,'” she recounted.

“It was so cute, by that point we had been writing for 12 years and after that I always wondered what would have happened if I did, and how different our lives would be.”

She declined, and the two pen pals both got married to other people.

Throughout all this time, though, they kept in contact. They knew so much about each other and had so many shared experiences, even across the miles.

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Last year, they skyped for the first time.

“It never even got flirty until about eight months ago, when we both realized this was the first time we had both been single and 32 years later know each other better than anyone else,” Kraemer said.

In March, Kraemer flew to Norway to meet, in-person, the pen pal she’d had for over two-thirds of her life. She said it was like they’d known each other forever.

“It blows me away that this amazing man has been there right in front of me my whole life and yet the timing was never right,” she said.

“The first time we met there was no awkwardness, he ran up and hugged me, it was like being at home and like we had been together forever.”

“We had never spoken about a relationship, but it was in the back of our minds, I didn’t know if maybe we both held onto the teenage fantasy.”

“My biggest fear was walking back on that plane with half my heart left behind but that was exactly what happened,” Kraemer confessed. “When I told Petter this he replied, you don’t have half a heart as you’re taking half of mine with you.”

Kraemer has a blood clotting disorder that she’s trying to combat and will probably be on very expensive injections to control it for the rest of her life. Her son also struggles with a genetic disorder, so she’s trying to raise money to get them healthy so they can all be a family together.

Grønlien has interacted with her family, and she with his, and they’re looking forward to getting to know each other better when he visits soon.

“After writing to each other the old fashion way, paper and envelopes in the mailbox every five or six weeks, we established a good level of trust in each other,” Grønlien said.

“We just had the best connection, that has kept on and so it was about that time we actually met in person,” he continued. “That she was just here, it’s almost impossible to say how much that was for both of us.”

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All the best, you two lovebirds!

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