Valentine’s Day has been anticipated by florists, stationers, restaurateurs and candy makers, by hopeless romantics and romantic hopefuls. And who feels the weight of the anticipation of this lovers’ holiday? Advice columnists, of course.

But not everyone is turning to “Dear Abby” with their love woes this year. “Dear Mrs. Web” is an increasingly popular Internet advice website begun last June. And with about 4,000 inquiries each week, Mrs. Web is finding her wisdom in high demand.

Wrote one woman, “I have been dating a guy for two weeks. Last night we went to a club with a group and drinking got out of hand. I ended up sleeping with him. I didn’t mean to. Do you think that was a mistake of me to sleep with him right away? Should I discuss this with him? This is not the way I normally behave.”

Mrs. Web’s characteristically brief reply stated, “Yes, I do think it was a mistake to sleep with him. It sounds like you sometimes don’t have control of yourself when you drink. That is information you should use. If you lose control of yourself when drinking — stop.”

She goes on to advise the writer to “explain that you stepped all over your beliefs and values.” Mrs. Web doesn’t miss the opportunity to give the woman a bit of unsolicited advice as well: “You need to set up some rules and develop some skills if you decide to keep dating. I would take some time out and make some decisions about how you want to behave and in what kind of relationships. Personally, I think a sexual and emotional relationship without marriage is a heartbreaking situation. No commitment at the cost of one’s heart and emotions.”

In another case, a woman is confused by her boyfriend’s casual voicemail messages at work. “When I receive a voicemail from my boyfriend that says ‘Hi it’s me, just called to say hello, my day is going well. I’ll talk to you later’ — am I suppose to return his call? When I call back immediately, it is usually a bad time for him, during a meeting, for example. Is he expecting a return call?”

Easy work for Mrs. Web, who reminds the inquirer that many women “would walk miles — barefoot — over sharp glass, for that sort of attention.” She answers simply, “The best way to find out how he wants you to respond is to ask him the next time you are together.”

Despite the gender of these two examples, over 70 percent of those seeking Mrs. Web’s advice are men. But from whom, exactly, are they getting this advice?

Her name is Mary Lou McManus-Richter, a home-schooling mother of four, whose children range in age from 3 to 12. A soft-spoken woman, Richter’s office is located just off the kitchen of her Maine home where, within a day or two, she answers every question that comes to her through the website. But just how does a home-schooling housewife get involved in the advice-giving game?

“I listened to some advice columnists and didn’t agree with them,” she told WorldNetDaily. People “needed to have a more conservative view” presented to them, she explained. “There are a lot of hurt people out there; a lot of people who needed a quick answer.”

Indeed, Richter’s advice seems to flow from common sense and traditional values that embrace faith and old-fashioned morals, though it carries no endorsement of any one religion or spiritual persuasion. She is brief and direct, yet sympathetic. And the letters keep pouring in.

Her dating advice column is the most popular on the website, but it runs neck-and-neck with her personal advice column. Richter gives advice on a wide variety of subjects, including work, neighbors, childrearing and how to handle the in-laws. Though questions of a romantic nature have naturally increased as the calendar marked the days approaching Feb. 14, dating traffic generally increases during the weekends, noted Richter.

Most recently, a number of the questions addressed to Mrs. Web centered around the lovers’ holiday.

Richter said many of the Valentine-related inquiries are from “people who are worried that they don’t have someone in their life, and they’re feeling empty and lonely. [Valentine’s Day] is not the most important thing. The most important thing is that they get out and be just a regular human being in the world,” she said. “People are looking for real people.” She advises the lovelorn to “be real on that day and not to give themselves up for this idea that’s out there — the idea that I have to be wanted.”

“I get a lot of letters from people who will give up their best and true self in order to feel wanted, and give up their ideals — give up what they really and truly believe. I really feel that only by being truthful to your beliefs and your values do you honestly have an opportunity to love,” explained Richter.

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