Is Second Life Shaking up Your Marriage? You’re Not Alone

July 8, 2008 at 6:46 pm (Communication, Infidelity, Life, Love, Marriage, Polyamory, Relationships, Second Life, Sex) ()

As my blog has evolved over the past year or so, I’ve noticed some remarkable and possibly alarming trends in the search terms used by my readers to find it. Whether this is indicative of my burgeoning bevy of blog posts related to the topic or it’s facilitated by an increase in the preponderance of these personal ordeals, I’ve yet to conclude. But I thought I’d share with you a snapshot of the search terms used to find my blog just today. See if you notice a pattern:

meetup.com wife swapping
the boredom of long life marriages
are you in love with your second life avatar?
husband sl addiction
sl broken marriages
second life divorce
second life friend’s online
believes sl is rl
has second life broken up real life relationships?
polyamory divorce

For those who have followed my blog for awhile, this may seem like review as I’ve written about this issue before in different context. But I was so struck by today’s search terms that I felt it warranted another look. Because, as you can see from the list, it appears to be an epidemic of sorts: Second Life is having a huge impact on marriages and relationships all over the world. And more often than not people do not view the effects as positive.

So what gives? Why are so many people–men and women alike–falling in love online while still married to others in real life?

Now here is where I’m going to get controversial (bring on your contrarian views, my lovelies…all opinions are welcome here). In my [disclaimer: non professional] opinion it is because we have an unrealistic and outdated view of what long term relationships should bring us. I believe this is left over from the definitions of marriage handed down to us by our churches and our families–from an age when power dynamics and earning potential was distributed very differently.

In essence, in days past men were often the breadwinners (read “hunters & gatherers“) while women stayed home to raise the family and tend to the household. This dynamic favored long term commitments and partnerships based more on function than on the fever of infatuation or romance (aka love). That isn’t to say our grandparents weren’t in love. I’m simply suggesting it was a different kind of love based more on mutual admiration and utilitarian constructs than on weak-in-the-knees, heart melting passion.

So how does this tie back to Second Life? Well I think we’ve come to erroneously expect our marriages and long term partnerships to bring us not only functional families, but romance, passion, desire, and amazing sex “till death do us part.” And how’s that working for us? Clearly, it’s not. When we’re faced with alternatives, like the secretary down the hall or that  Second Life honey on the next sim, we are often drawn to options other than our real life partners. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

You may be surprised to learn there is terminology that covers this phenomenon: it’s called New Relationship Energy (NRE). Basically it means the very real, very physical sensations elicited by attractions we have for new people in our lives. In the polyamory community, it is perfectly normal to experience these feelings alongside a longer, more established relationship. But most of us haven’t drank that koolaid yet, although admittedly I have and my marriage–and my self esteem–has never been stronger as a result.

I want to ask that if you’re reading this because your marriage or partnership has been affected by your partner’s romantic escapades in Second Life take this moment to open your mind and really ask yourself what you’re expecting  your partner to bring to you long-term. Have you ever complained that “the romance is gone” from your marriage or that your partner no longer makes you weak in the knees? This doesn’t mean your relationship is necessarily over. It probably just means you’ve reached a new phase and have new things to learn and appreciate about your love.

And if you are the one who has found yourself feeling those stomach flips of a new crush, whether in Second Life or real life, try not to mistake that for an indication that you’ve finally found “the one” and you should toss out your long-term partner as yesterday’s garbage. What you’re probably feeling is simply the physical excitement of NRE and you should feel blessed and savor the swagger it adds to your step.

In summary (wow, I never summarize at the end of a post…must be important), use this experience as an opportunity to openly and honestly communicate with your partner or spouse what you’re experiencing. Try not to judge yourself, him, and/or her too harshly. Because all of these experiences are real and valid. They may indicate more serious and irreconcilable problems. Or perhaps they just mean you need to spice up your sex life and bring back the romance. Regardless, talk to each other. If necessary, find a good counselor to help you through it. Because only through self knowledge are we able to grow–and that’s as true for couples as it is for individuals.

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