Pen pals who wrote to each other for over three decades have fallen in love after flying over 6000km to meet one another for the very first time.
Stephanie Kraemer from Naperville, Illinois, was 13-years-old when she started penning letters to 15-year-old Petter Grønlien.
She never expected anything more than a friendship to develop.
“We confided in one another so much and were always able to tell one another things we couldn’t tell anyone else,” Stephanie said.
They shared their teenage thoughts and darkest secrets, from school dramas to parental problems and they continued writing to one another through relationships, marriages and family deaths.
But apart from a picture or video here and there, they never saw each other ‘live’ until they skyped for the first time last year.
Apart from one moment in their twenties, when Petter asked Stephanie to marry him instead of her partner at the time, a romantic relationship never seemed to be on the cards.
“It was so cute, at that point we’d been writing for 12 years and after that I always wondered what would’ve happened if I did and how different our lives would be,” Stephanie said.
In March 2018 the mom-of-one flew to Lillehammer, Norway to meet her pen pal of 32 years for the very first time.
When Stephanie (45) met Petter (47) she says she felt like they had been together for ‘100 years’. She instantly fell for him.
“The first time we met there was no awkwardness, he ran up and hugged me, it was like being at home and like we’d been together forever.
“We’d 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. When I told Petter this he replied, ‘you don’t have half a heart as you’re taking half of mine with you.’”
The couple are set to reunite later this year and hope their fairy-tale romance can become a reality with them eventually living together.
“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,” says Stephanie.
“It never even got flirty until about eight months ago, when we both realised this was the first time we had both been single and that 32-years later [we] know each other better than anyone else. We had this fantasy in the back of our minds about meeting someday, but the timing was never right, everyone has been blown away that we are still talking.”
Stephanie started looking for an international pen pal with her friend in her early teens. Her friend who was ‘obsessed’ with Norway initially spoke to Petter, while Stephanie spoke with his friend. But after six months their friendships fizzled-out and Stephanie started talking to her future sweetheart.
“We’d write about stupid teenage things, dramas at school, friends, the ‘oh my god my parents are so lame’ moments and more. We exchanged school pictures right away and would send each other photographs over the years, eventually switching to email.
“After years of writing, we had so much love and respect for one another that no matter what happened we were always there for one another.”
More than three decades from their first letter, the pair saw each other in the flesh for the first time in March after Stephanie took the nearly 6500km flight to Norway.
The couple believe the timing was ‘never right’ for them, until recently when they were both single at the same time.
Petter, a poet, said: “We both had a lot of butterflies in our stomachs before that. But when I saw her step out from the train in Lillehammer, they all just flew away. After all those years, it felt more like a reunion. It was the most natural and good feeling.”
Stephanie says their time together was perfect and better than she could have imagined.
“Outside of having my son, my two weeks with Petter were the best two weeks of my life, it was the most amazing thing and like a fairy tale.
“We talked and laughed until we fell asleep, we never wanted to stop talking so we hardly slept, and it was as if we had been together for 100 years.”
“While we have lost more than 30 years together, we still have 30 more and I think realistically we can make it work now.”