1. People & Relationships
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Pen Pal Friendships

Friends Who Get Connected by Letter Writing


Writing letters
Sasha Bell/Moment/Getty Images

Before social media, there were pen pals. These were often started with the help of schools or in scouting, when kids were ten or eleven. Most pen pal friendships would end after a few months, but some continued on years after.

One of the features on the blog here is the occasional news story where life-long pen pals finally meet. Pen pal friendships can help you slow down and look at life in a whole new way. Here are some tips for finding a pen pal and making the most of this unique kind of friendship.

Real Life Pen Pals That Turned Into Lifelong Friends

It's rare for a pen pal relationship to last. We're just too busy and not everyone is good about keeping up with letter writing. But there have been some pen pals that started when the kids were young and continued into adulthood.

Often, the friendships that last start when the two friends have a lot in common. For Muriel Herman and Margaret Hicks, for example, they shared the same initials, both had a brother and a sister, and "both married naval personnel whose fathers had both died when they were tiny and were brought up by stepdads." The similarities continued when they each booked a cruise to the same place to celebrate their 80th birthday, both of which was in September.

Check out these real-life friendships that developed from being pen pals:

Why Pen Pal Friendships Work

There is something about letter writing that causes you to stop and think about what you want to say, so much more than when you type or text. Letters are often more personal, more thought out, and as a result they can reveal parts of your your life that you might never talk about on Facebook or Twitter.

What's more, receiving someone's handwritten letter can help you get to know them on a whole new level. There's personality in handwriting. You can see if someone was hurried, if they were excited and pressed hard on the paper, or even if they were tired, and crossed out words or had shaky penmanship. There's a lot you can sense from a letter than you can't from text in the online world.

All of this means that you get to know a new friend differently than if you were just sitting next to them. There's also a calmness in the written word, so people may feel more comfortable writing out their most precious thoughts in a letter, more so than if they were sitting face-to-face with a new friend.

The Pace of Pen Pal Friendship

Pacing is so important in friendship. Very often we try to force a new friendship into something more, especially if we're lonely or even just in the market for new friends.

A pen pal friendship can't be rushed. You need time to formulate your thoughts, time to write it out in longhand, and time for the mail to deliver the note. This helps the friendship to progress naturally, without unreasonable demands or expectations.

Using Caution in Finding Pen Pals

Most pen pals today still start the same way they did years ago, with kids in school or special groups. These are often monitored a bit better than websites that connect pen pals. Always use caution when starting a pen pal friendship. While they can turn into a real friendship down the line, pen pals are also still strangers until you spend time getting to know them. Using a P.O. Box or double blind mail system is recommended for any pen pal situation.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.