GASTONIA, NC—After four months together, sales manager Jack Petrakis, 29, and paralegal Justine Froeger, 26, reported Tuesday that dating someone who lives in the same building isn't worth the hassle.
"Everyone warned me that these short-distance things never work out," said Froeger, who recently spent a night with a friend in nearby Charlotte just to escape the stifling proximity of her short-distance boyfriend. "But I thought I would be different, that my love would be strong enough to handle the less than 1,000 feet separating Jack from me."
Froeger, who lives in a one-bedroom on the fifth floor of Manning Towers, and Petrakis, who occupies a studio on the fourth, met in the building's laundry room last September.
"We were both down there waiting for our clothes to dry, so we started to talk," Petrakis said. "It turned out we had a lot in common—we shopped at the same grocery store and worked out at the same gym. At that point, I wasn't thinking about the future and how hard this sort of relationship can be."
For several weeks, Froeger and Petrakis enjoyed a protracted honeymoon period, during which the short distance dividing them seemed like an advantage. Friends report that Petrakis and Froeger thought it was adorable to share a mailman, bump into each other near the trash bin, and frequent the same coffeehouse.
"At first, Jack would brag about how cool it was to get a midnight 'booty call' from a sexy girl only three doors down and one floor below," Petrakis' friend Doug Maris said. "He was like, 'I don't even need to change out of my pajamas. I just put on slippers, answer the door, and I'm ready for action.'"
"He's not bragging anymore," Maris continued. "Last week, a bunch of the guys were hanging out at his place when someone knocked on the door. Jack made us all stand there, frozen in place and totally silent, for about five minutes until he could be sure that whoever it was had left."
Both Froeger and Petrakis said they began to experience misgivings about the lack of distance dividing them in early December.
"When I met Jack, I'd just broken up with this guy from Toledo, so I was really looking forward to dating someone nearby," Froeger said. "Now, I realize that having him so nearby that I can hear him whistling every time he uses the elevator isn't an advantage. And I do mean every time he uses the elevator. Seriously, every single time—that same OutKast song."
"Justine is sweet," Petrakis said. "But sometimes it's too much. Once, I stayed at my buddy's house after a late night of drinking. When Justine saw that I hadn't picked up my newspaper from the doormat, she called to make sure I was okay. That's when I started feeling crowded."
In addition to infringing on each other's privacy, Froeger and Petrakis said the close proximity removes a level of excitement from the relationship.
"Part of the fun of getting involved with someone is immersing yourself in a new environment and experiencing new things," Froeger said. "But staying overnight at someone's place isn't as great when you live on the same block. Our apartments overlook the same exact tree."
"Now we have no excuse to make it downtown or anyplace else," Froeger continued. "And believe me, Jack doesn't look for one, either. We just order delivery from the menus we both already know by heart."
Petrakis agreed that "things are getting a little stale."
"Justine and I kiss goodbye in the morning, then I see her 30 minutes later in the parking lot," Petrakis said. "Then I get home, and boom! There she is in the elevator. I don't know what to do. I've told her that I need my space, but her space and my space are practically the same space."
Froeger said she has started to think she needs someone who will "be there for me occasionally."
"The next person I date should live in, say, Chicago or Minneapolis," Froeger said. "There are a lot of nice guys from the Midwest profiled on those Internet dating sites. If I was seeing someone farther away, we could spend a passionate weekend together, but I wouldn't have to sit around at Starbucks for an extra two hours after work until I'm certain I won't run into him."
Petrakis said he agrees that a break-up might be the only answer.
"Next time I'm on the market, I'm gonna get out to a lot of out-of-the-way bars in neighborhoods that I wouldn't normally have any reason to be in, like that area behind the expo center," Petrakis said. "From now on, I'm going to stick with the 50-block rule: no dating anyone who doesn't live at least a 10-minute car ride away."