Montgomery Maryland Gazette – Pen Pal Friendships

Published: October 14, 2010 | Last Updated: October 14, 2010 By | Reply Continue Reading

Relationships forged in ink similar to face-to-face friendships


Psychologist, Towson English professor weigh in on pen pals’ tight bond

by Danielle E. Gaines 


Without ever meeting, Mary Ann Fitzpatrick and Beatrice Aillet forged the tightest friendship in both their lives. For 38 years they exchanged frequent letters, but only a handful of phone calls.

Aillet named Fitzpatrick godmother to her son. One phone call came shortly after the birth of Fitzpatrick’s daughter. The women even sent letters to each other’s relatives.

Their bond was, in many ways, no different than it would have been had they met at Penndale Middle School in Lansdale, Pa., where Fitzpatrick was a student when they started exchanging letters in 1972, said Irene S. Levine, a psychologist and expert on friendships from Chappaqua, N.Y.

"What sustains pen pal relationships is very similar to what sustains face-to-face friendships: two people slowly revealing themselves to each other, building trust, and being able to be themselves with one another," Levine stated in an email to The Gazette. "Emotional intimacy – whether in writing, by email or in person – creates a very strong bond."


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