Should I Stay or Should I Go: Living & Loving (Openly) On & Off The Second Life Grid

March 13, 2009 at 10:59 am (Divorce, Infidelity, Life, Love, Marriage, Polyamory, Relationships, Second Life, Second Life addiction, Sexuality)

which-way-to-goFor many of you who’ve read my blog regularly this new post will probably be a stunning break in my somewhat accidental and rather prolonged silence. I promise not to bore you with the “oh my real life is busy” sob story. While true, it is a bit irrelevant to this discussion. Because this particular kink in my Second Life blog author “hose of prose” actually happens to relate to the evolution of my Second Life and its merging with the one I live as an upright, fully-functioning human being. You see, I’ve been actually living my real life and exploring what many of you do “in world” in the flesh and blood (literally!).


So what exactly has torn me from the riveting prim confines of the glorious Second Life grid in favor of the real deal? Well, if you haven’t already, take a gander at my most recent blog post and thus begins our fresh telling of my own provocative fairy tale. I admitted that the seeds of open loving (and sexual) relationships and polyamory I had planted in my Second Life had actually taken root in my real life. In essence –for those who refuse to do your homework and prefer to be spoon fed the Cliff’s Notes version—my husband (of nearly 13 years) and I officially opened our marriage. And…well…since then I’ve been kinda busy ( /me grins lasciviously).


Officially opening your marriage feels a bit like attending those corporate-sponsored events held at amusement parks where all the rides are free; you run around like a kid in a candy store frantically trying to ride all the rides, before the evening is over, desperate to experience all that was previously “off limits.” I realize that sounds rather hedonistic. And there is some truth to that. I admit the coincidental fact that I had multiple business trips that fell on the heels of that official “open” designation was deliciously serendipitous.


All this real life excitement, though, has distracted me from the fantasy Second Life I’ve been quietly cultivating for the past few years. And I’m pretty darn ok with that. After three years of casing the same SL joints, engaging in many of the same conversations over and over, and repeatedly discovering within the first few flirtatious quips with a new “friend” that the depth of their interest in me centered on how cleverly and creatively I could coax them to sexual climax, I realized Second Life was holding less and less appeal for me. And once the opportunity arose (or probably more appropriately was sought out), my husband and I took the next step in our journey and I transferred my already limited energy and free time to finding fun in the flesh as opposed to seeking out romance in Second Life.


So where does that leave me—avatar & blog author Cindy Kesey—now? Well I began writing this blog as a way to verbalize much of what I and many others have experienced as our lives were expanded through Second Life to include new friends from across the globe. And I’ve tried to capture the complexities of what it feels like to be seen by someone else in a new light after years of being glimpsed (and perhaps often overlooked) by many of the same familiar folks—husbands, wives, and friends included. In Second Life many, like me, have found fascinating people we’d have never met in our real lives; people who found us engaging, exciting, interesting, amazing, and beautiful. And that attention was—and is—often more than intoxicating, it can be downright addicting.

I wonder, however, if my alliterative attention and exhaustive explorations might be creeping closer to covering the concepts of open marriage and polyamory in the real world. A lot like Second Life, I’m finding that the Cult of Fidelity (especially in the United States) provides very few if any tools, language, or climate for couples who might wish to explore a different way of life in an attempt to perhaps avoid the staggering rates of failure within the traditional constructs of marriage we as a culture have worshipped and extolled for the last few decades. [I feel compelled to mention here I am not talking about “swinging.” I realize many people find that sexually satisfying, and there’s nothing wrong with that in my opinion. I personally, however, find it hollow and require an intellectual and emotional connection on a deeper level to experience truly fulfilling intimacy with another person.]


This evolution of mine is somewhat bittersweet. I don’t think the challenges many people in Second Life face—especially folks married to spouses dabbling in Second Life romances—have been fully explored. I continue to receive countless email from devastated wives and husbands whose partners have left them for their Second Life lovers. My heart goes out to all of you because I don’t think there are any easy answers here unless you and your partners are willing to be totally honest about the true state of your “affairs.”


So in summary, my wonderful and fully fabulous readers, I’m not exactly sure what the future holds for this blog. I continue to pop on to Second Life, although my appearances are less and less frequent. As you can imagine it isn’t easy to juggle a successful career, motherhood, marital harmony, personal fulfillment, and a budding loving relationship with a new and wonderful person in my real life. Perhaps I’ll begin another blog and continue to write about the nearly oppressive expectations we as a culture have of our marriages, mates, and the “happily-ever-after” elusive fairy tale we continue to chase. For I do think we deserve the opportunity to discuss these issues in a realistic, supportive, honest forum where we can ask the tough questions and discover the real roots of why we do what we do—both in Second and real life.


I guess I’ll just keep you “posted.”

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Second Life and My Journey From Monogamy (Monotony) to Bliss

December 3, 2008 at 4:55 pm (Communication, Infidelity, Life, Love, Marriage, Polyamory, Relationships, Second Life, Sex) (, , )

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“I blame Cinderella.”

That is the first line of Jenny Block’s amazing and courageous book titled Open: Love, Sex, and Life in an Open Marriage. Don’t worry, I don’t take her words personally. But that’s because her book has changed my life.

What’s so fab about this book you wonder? For one, it is a refreshingly honest glimpse into the evolution of one woman’s relationship(s) juxtaposed alongside her critical analysis of our entrenched and long-standing societal beliefs on sex, marriage, and monogamy. But I think more importantly this true story is told by Jenny herself, and she is someone you’d consider “normal” by today’s standards–if you were judging. It’s delightfully refreshing to think about the issues of open relationships and non-monogamy outside the previously more prevalent “touchy-feely, lets-get-naked-and-massage-each-others’-auras” tribe. In essence Jenny’s story is my story, sans Second Life.

Let’s first back up to the year I got married and was still in hot pursuit of my own real life Cinderella Story. In preparation for my wedding I wrote a poem that I featured as one of my very first blog posts on this blog: True Love’s Toes. The poem captures the perspective I had on the meaning of my impending nuptials: the confident promise, the burgeoning possibilities, and the starry-eyed fairytale presumptions all in place. I am certain it mirrors the myriad other marital musings, love notes, vows, etc. captured by countless brides and grooms across the globe as they embark on their own journeys.

Now fast forward 12 years. The scenes that zip by are as familiar any others: friendly gatherings, Grateful Dead shows, interstate moves, death of grandparents, birth of child, Montessori school, job changes, financial gains and losses, and Second Life. Now here’s where the plot thickens or as I like to say, where I woke up. And then my husband awoke. And our lives have been forever changed.

For many years my husband and I had led relatively contented lives relentlessly pursuing the proverbial American dream together. Although it was thankfully (and by our design) way less Stepford wife-like than many others’, our life together resembled the typical fantasy of true love and marital bliss. Yet several times over the years I teetered on the edge of not just contemplating but committing sexual indiscretions. Nearly every business trip to Las Vegas seemed to culminate in passionate flirtatious connections I’d make with interesting men. In every case I didn’t go through with them. But I returned to my life and my husband and was honest about my feelings. And we both wondered why these experiences happened and what they meant.

Second Life is like Vegas on pixelated steroids. There are fascinating men and women everywhere–yet this time Barbie and Ken perfect –just aching to meet and virtually connect with willing counterparts. And after awhile I was no longer able to ignore both the sexual desires and emotional connections I had for people other than my husband. And thus was the true beginning of our open marriage, which started in the virtual realm of Second Life and soon spilled over into our real lives.

In my opinion and experience, Second Life has a tremendous capacity to be a catalyst for us as a culture to question the existing constructs of marriage and monogamy, and to explore in a relatively safe environment what it might feel like to engage in open relationships. Many people, like my husband and I, are for the first time discussing honestly and openly what it means to love more than one person. We are all realizing that opening our hearts to include more people actually brings greater benefits to our existing relationships, rather than having negative consequences. That goes against nearly everything we’ve been taught to believe about adultery, monogamy, and the one-size-fits-all approach to partnerships we’ve been fed our entire lives. As Jenny points out repeatedly in her book, open or polyamorous relationships actually expand our capacity to love, rather than diminish it.

Yet Second Life also has an alarming potential to reinforce the fairy tale fantasies of monogamy and sexual and emotional fidelity that have dominated our culture through literature, movies, songs, religious teachings, etc. for decades. Isn’t there something bizarre and contradictory about many folks’ tendency in Second Life to meet “the one,” fall in love, host a virtual wedding, and expect emotional and sexual fidelity in this world that is primarily comprised of our own brain dramas? In a world where anything is possible, I find this near replication of real life a somewhat sad indication that we still have a long way to go to free our minds.

As I read this post back I realize this is more of a summary of my own journey to this happy place where I now sit. I haven’t included the statistics (like 40 – 60% of married men and women cheat on their spouses). I omitted a discussion of historical and evolutionary data on how fidelitous and emotional love-based marriages have really only taken hold in the last century, whereas prior to that marriage was an economically-based transaction. I’ve failed to include analysis on the riveting topic of the virgin/whore paradox, whereby men and women perpetuate this idea that men want a vixen in the bedroom but a virgin at the altar. And I’ve left out the opinions of countless experts who agree that monogamy is as natural to the human species as eating our young. So in fairness I owe you that next round. In the meantime, if you’re curious on this topic and want to further open your own mind–and perhaps other things–, check out the reading list below:

  1. Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray by Helen Fisher, PhD
  2. Open Marriage: A New Life Style for Couples by Nena O’Neill & George O’Neill
  3. The Myth of Monogamy: Fidelity and Infidelity in Animals and People by David P. Barash, PhD, and Judith Eve Lipton, MD

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Breaking Up is Hard To Do–And Even Harder in Second Life

August 18, 2008 at 2:39 pm (Communication, dishonesty, Friendship, Infidelity, Integrity, Life, Love, Polyamory, Relationships, Second Life) (, , , )

Love and loss are central themes of thousands of blog posts peppering the web. And many folks–whether Second Life avatars or real humans in the flesh–use their blogs as a platform to publicly process their parting-of-ways. One of the trends I’ve noticed when witnessing these abrogation of affairs is that many people experience some definitive act–like betrayal or dishonesty–that prompts them to dissolve their previously fantastic flings. And, as painful as these breakups are, those experiences follow a natural grief progression that helps the healing process proceed. Yet there are many other instances when lovers leave their flames in far less salient circumstances. And these situations, I assert, carve wounds that lie exposed to the elements longer and, are thus, harder to heal.

As you know, I’ve promised never to bore you with gory details of my own real or Second lives on these blog pages. But between myself and other friends, I’ve recently observed–or experienced–romantic relationships in both SL & RL that have either withered or been abruptly dismantled, leaving one or more of the partners reeling in the breakup wake. These experiences–or “soul extractions” as my friend calls them–are a bit different from the typical breakup because there is no one person or event to blame. And this leaves the lover(s) stunned and unclear what to do next–and thus unable to move through typical stages of grief.

As I discuss these scenerios imagine yourself, my dear reader, as the subject of the experiences. Now picture yourself in the twitterpated excitement of an intense new romance; your mind curious and thirsty to know him or her better and your heart aflutter at the anticipation of this amazing new person. You blush at the mere thought of them texting you sweet nothings and spend your days marveling at how lucky you are they have suddenly graced your life. Now imagine this goes along for quite awhile…the intensity increasing with each exchange. You may even enjoy real glimpses of your lover; photos emailed or even smiles exchanged via webcam in the darkened corner of your home office. Then one day….nothing. Crickets. Dialtone. You reach out repeatedly with no response. And you feel numb. And confused. And hurt.

Now imagine you’ve met another sweet sweet friend–one who makes you laugh until tears stream down your face and your stomach and side muscles ache in a good way. You forge a close friendship, share details of who you each are and how you each came to be, and begin to care about what happens to them during their days and nights not spent with you. Then, because you are conscientious people, you realize you might care a little too much. And you mutually decide to part ways. Their absence in  your life rips your heart open leaving a gaping hole where that joy used to be. And you feel numb. And confused. And hurt.

As I read this back it sounds like a I’m having a pity party. I assure you I hate those and would never attend one even if I was invited as the guest of honor and my favorite band Galactic was playing and Christian Bale was there alone and wanted to meet me (ok, well maybe then). I’m merely curious as to why it seems so difficult to get over romances and the wonderful, provocative people we come in contact with when we do it for the right reasons. It appears to me that, because we can’t logically get angry (since we don’t have real reason to be)–and anger is a very useful emotion in the grief process–it prolongs the pain and compounds the process of healing.

So maybe this means we need to get mad–not at the people but perhaps at the situations. Take a moment in our grief to throw around that blame and rage we’ve bottled up inside. And then move on and look at what we’ve learned about ourselves in the process and through the experience. And, even after that, be grateful we’ve lived life–both real and virtual–so fully and felt so deeply. Some people don’t even get that. And that does leave you feeling numb. And who wants to go through life like that?

Be sure to share your own comments and experiences. Helps us all get through the grief, ya know?

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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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The Ultimate Meetup: Polyamory in Second Life

March 8, 2008 at 4:17 pm (dishonesty, Guilt, Infidelity, Life, Love, Marriage, Polyamory, Relationships, Second Life, Sex)

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Let’s just say the cat is out of the proverbial bag. Recent events and media stories have thrust the polyamorous lifestyle back into the limelight. Oh it’s not entirely out of the smoky shadows and dark closets [I love that even the software I’m using to write this doesn’t recognize the word “polyamorous” and tries to spell correct.] But people are talking about it. And I think this is only the beginning.

One recent full-length article in the Washington Post featured stories from polyamorous couples, triads, etc. as they and their families attended a two-day conference in Pennsylvania. Although only 100 people attended the conference, the sponsor boasts a mailing list of over 15,000. Think about that. These are 15,000 people who, in the glaring spotlight of our often pious, puritanical culture–at least in the red-state, religious right-dominated US–have come to terms with the idea of polyamory enough to sign up for a mailing list. For each of them I bet there are thousands more of us who dabble with the idea; many of us sitting “safely” in the comfortable soft glow of our computer screens.

As Regina Lynn pointed out in her recent discussion of polyamory in Wired, the internet has done much to connect like-minded folks who venture online seeking an accepting community of their peers, polys included. But I’d go one step further and assert that Second Life has done more to bring the lifestyle into the mainstream, whether it’s consensual or still framed in the participants’–and their unsuspecting spouses or partners–minds as “cheating.”

The problem with where we are today is that we are experiencing–leading perhaps, if I might be so bold–a cultural shift in the way we deal with relationships. Whereas years ago the folks pursuing poly lifestyles often fit the sensitive ponytail man stereotype, people today who stumble upon these adventures are often what most of us would consider “normal.” Because we are the same people who have come to SL for business or curiosity and were blown away when we accidentally experienced intense attraction–and love–toward other amazing individuals we met there.

As barriers to “meeting up” continue to diminish in this new era of community and connection, and as the divorce rate continues to skyrocket (it is greater than 50% in the US), many of us look around and realize something’s gotta give. And I don’t really see any other option than to redefine how we experience love and relationships moving forward. Self-admitted poly Anita Wagner, as quoted by author Monica Hesse in the Washington Post article, puts it in context below: (sorry for the long quote, but it says it all):

“‘Many of us tried to make monogamy work,’ Wagner says. But monogamy, she says, often seemed to throw the baby out with the bath water, so to speak. Its practitioners would break off ‘perfectly good relationships’ just because of intellectual incompatibility, for example, or because one partner liked ballet and the other liked bowling. Doesn’t it make more sense, polys ask, to keep the good parts of a relationship, and find another boyfriend who likes ‘Swan Lake’?

The compartmentalization of affection: It’s completely at odds with today’s Disney Princess/Coldplay-lyric view of marriage, in which your spouse is your lover, best friend, therapist and Wii buddy, and you also have identical taste in movies.

But as people are increasingly expected to self-actualize clear to the grave, what are the chances that they’ll pair up with someone who is on the exact same path of discovery?”

Thought: Maybe you can have it all. You just can’t get it all from the same person.

In my view Second Life provides a unique opportunity for us to test the waters of polyamory before actually diving into the deep end. In theory we can experience love and compatibility with new friends without bringing the baggage that comes with connections in the physical realm (read “multiple sex partners”). That’s not to say it won’t upset the marital apple cart. But perhaps that cart is rolling down a rocky road anyway.

I realize this is new territory. And, like most attempts to chart new terrain, there exist few maps and guidebooks to point out the pitfalls on the journey. By writing honestly and openly about these experiences–although that could be debated as I’m still writing under a pseudonym–I’m attempting to help us at least come clean and start talking about how it feels to meet someone new who brings something to our lives that our current partner may not. And also how it feels to be the lover of one who is loved by another.

So consider this an invitation to join the dialogue. What have been your experiences with polyamory and Second Life? Is your partner aware of your actions? Have you set up successful parameters that allow you–and perhaps your partner as well–to partake in the previously forbidden waters of multiple romantic relationships?

See my previous post about how my husband and I came to discover polyamory in Second Life.

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What’s “SLove” Got To Do With It?

December 4, 2007 at 11:21 am (Communication, Friendship, Love, Polyamory, Relationships, Second Life) (, , , , , , , , , )

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I’ve written before about my own experiences of falling in love online. And I’ve made it no secret that I think we all could benefit from the added ego boost that comes when we see our own power through a fresh pair of eyes. But lately I’ve noticed the unique tendency in Second Life (SL) to be incredibly loose with the use of the “L” word. This is something that appears to be unique to SL, as I don’t hear its utterance on every street corner in the real world around me. In fact, in my own past I recall laboring over whether the time was right to use it at all lest I communicate something I wasn’t ready to reveal. But in SL we seem to be quite liberal with the word and the idea. This has caused me to doubt its sincerity a bit and wonder how many of those love feelings are real and how many we manufacture in an attempt to reap the rewards of simply having them?

Many people I know in SL are quick to claim they’ve found “the one,” to only days later discard the shell of that relationship onto the pile of other rejects. We seem so hasty to label our experience as love or something similar, that perhaps in our desperation we see things that may not really be there. In essence, are our experiences in SL just added examples that we’re a culture addicted to being in love?

Another practice that has me puzzled is the act of partnering in SL. To limit one’s adventures in a limitless universe by staking out relationship territory to me defeats the purpose of Second Life altogether. Yet I think the partnership propensity is another example of how we attempt to find order in the chaos of the grid. Partnership–and other public displays of our affections such as the gushing tributes in our profiles–is a definitive and specific way to profess that we do care about another person. It also helps communicate, in a world where words are all we really have, the varying degrees of feelings we have for those in our circle of friends who are important to us.

A friend told me recently that Second Life can be a very lonely place. This concept amazed me, since there are so many things to do and see and so many people yet to meet. But there is a sense that, if we do not belong to someone on the grid–whether a partner or a family–we are missing some critical component of the experience. How many times have you looked at someone else’s profile and felt a pang of envy at the declarations of love and appreciation showered upon those who are a part of their circle of friends?

So what’s my point? Am I saying we should put on the brakes and be parsimonious with the love language? I don’t think so. I might be more apt to encourage us to learn from how free we feel to use the words in SL, and how great it feels when someone uses them with us in return. Then perhaps we take that freedom and become more liberal with love and appreciation in our lives everyday.

In addition, it may be useful to find another way to affirm our adoration in SL; one that isn’t weighed down by the baggage of varying and disputed definitions of the word (love means many different things to many different people). Not long ago I saw the word “slove” used to describe the intensity of emotion that is uniquely felt within SL and it seemed a perfect definition for the unique but incredibly intense feelings of love–or at minimum deep like or admiration–that are elicited in this crazy online world.

So I say, don’t be afraid to stand up and profess it loudly and proudly: I SLove you! See, doesn’t that feel good?

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Is The Grass Really Greener?

September 25, 2007 at 11:19 am (dishonesty, Divorce, Infidelity, Life, Love, Marriage, Polyamory, Relationships, Second Life, Sex)

When I was a kid I possessed an active imagination that colored my life almost perpetually. It was as if I looked at my atmosphere through a fantasy lens that cast my rainbow vision in different directions like a crystal prism. One of my favorite games was to squint my eyes at night, especially on rainy nights, and view my backdrop as a twinkling, blurry dream scene.

Second Life is a remarkable adult version of this sparkling dream world. For the grown girl whose imagination has been lost under the weight of mortgages, taxes, and the daily grind of real life, SL provides a fantastic virtual playground with the power to help her rediscover her connection to the wonderful world of make believe. And lest you forget, that is exactly what SL is: a world of make believe. For, despite what it seems on the surface, reality in SL is just as blurry as the one I viewed in my childhood game.

I have a sad fear and sinking suspicion that a large number of the people who “play” SL are missing this point. Alarming stories abound of people who’s real lives are being cataclysmically and irreparably disrupted because of the growing prominence of their fantasy online relationships. Just yesterday, for example, I learned of yet another woman who had decided to dissolve her RL marriage in pursuit of the promise of illusive paradise she feels she’ll find with her SL love.

So what’s the big deal, you say? Why shouldn’t she toss out the old and trade it in for a newer model if she’s convinced it will bring joy to her RL? Well, I certainly wouldn’t want to begrudge anyone the opportunity to pursue happiness. My struggle here lies not in the pursuit, however, but in the faulty foundation upon which these new realities are being built.

You see, when we meet someone in SL, we are only exposed to the person they choose to share with us at any given moment. It’s like he or she wears a metaphoric mask to conceal characteristics he or she desires to keep hidden. We don’t realize this because–perhaps subconciously–we all too often fill in the gaps we have in the image of our lover with features we project onto them. In essence, we mistake the idea of our lover for the real person themselves and become captivated by this new hybrid of who they are and who we want them to be.

A RL lover has no chance in this unfair fight. Since we live with them day in and out, we experience first hand the good and bad attributes our RL partners exude every day. From flatulence and fevers to pimples and PMS, our real life partners are just that: they’re real–complete with unsavory idiosyncrasies and all. But at least when we construct a foundation of a life with real lovers, we do it with the full knowledge that the grass, however green, will not always be a bed of roses.

So before you cast aside your current partner for that captivating Casanova or hair-raising Helen you met in SL, consider some of these staggering statistics:

  • Divorce rates among those who married their extramarital lovers is 75 percent. The reasons for the high divorce rate include: intervention of reality, guilt, expectations, a general distrust of marriage, and a distrust of the affairee. source
  • One-third of divorce litigation is caused by online affairs. source
  • 60% of remarriages end in divorce. source

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The Unscratchable Itch

September 14, 2007 at 1:59 am (Love, Marriage, Polyamory, Relationships, Second Life, Sex)

The question on whether it can be called cheating for a married person to enjoy Second Life (SL) relationships with people other than their partners has been tossed around the internet airwaves nearly ad nauseam. Articles in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and even a recent blog post in Wired tackle the subject of fantasy vs. real romances in SL. All this chatter points to the fact that, despite what Dr. Laura might like to believe, SL sex and romance is a persistent and pervasive practice.

I’ve written openly about my own professed penchant to cultivate love affairs with men online while enjoying a loving, committed, and completely open relationship with my real life (RL) my husband of 11 years. Most of my SL relationships grew organically, sprouting from the seeds of mutual fascination, sexual curiosity, and palpable attraction to the way that person made me feel about myself. Never did I embark on these journeys with the intent to meet and marry my next man.

So what then is the destination that I, and the thousands of others like me, traverse toward? When we jump on this train to tryst town, just where do we expect to get off (Freudian pun intended)?

Sadly, many of the married friends I know who pursue SL relationships are merely groping for a happiness that does not exist in their real life marriages. Several feel obligated to stay in these unfulfilling relationships to provide a comfortable and secure environment for their children. Others simply haven’t made the effort to fix what’s broken and turn to SL to give them what they’re missing instead.

Interestingly, most SL friends I know don’t realistically aspire to meet their online lovers in real life, given the myriad constraints that exist. This is especially true of those who foster flames from afar, as I did when I cherished a beau from Europe who lived a minimum of nine hours’ time difference away. And sure, we may all fantasize about taking our erotic avi sex to the realm of the Hilton at that conference in Halifax. But few of us actually do it. So you gotta wonder, why do we willingly–vociferously, I might add–engage in the pursuit of a plan that prompts us to feel an itch that will never be scratched?

The only explanation that exists for us to find friends we’ll never physically feel, love online partners we’ll never pursue, and make virtual marriages we’ll never consummate is that the adventure in itself feels so damn good. Because we all know in the backs of our minds that these relationships rarely have a chance at surviving beyond a certain point. I argue, it’s not their survival we strive for. It’s just the joyous journey that we seek. And, when that trip is over, we’re first in line to take the next tour.

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Loving One, Loving Many (The L Word, part 2)

July 27, 2007 at 7:06 pm (Love, Marriage, Polyamory, Second Life)

I think the experience of being magnetically drawn to another in SL is rather universal. And I’d venture a guess, so are the feelings, questions, and doubts that this experience raises in our own real lives.

As I mentioned in the previous post, soon after I joined SL I found myself faced with very intense feelings for someone I’d met in world. This took me completely by surprise as I had been happily married in real life for over 10 years. All of a sudden someone other than my husband was making me weak in the knees and causing me to run to my computer repeatedly throughout the day, desperate to find some sign of him.

At first I was petrified that this meant my happy marriage might be over. I began to compare the idea of this exciting new lover to the man I’d made my life with. And the intensity of the butterflies in my stomach weren’t helping matters. But, like any good transformative experience, this situation caused me to start asking some pretty heavy questions:

  • Why are the butterflies of new romance so intense? And why do they fade over time?
  • Is it cheating if I find romance online and I’m honest about it with my partner?
  • Is monogamy natural to the human species?

As my husband and I began to ponder these questions (because, of course, by now he’d also fallen in love online), a friend who had been following our evolving drama sent us a link that changed the game for both of us. We were introduced to the idea of polyamory, or the idea of loving many.

Now I realize how new-agey the word sounds. It conjures up images of seventies swinger parties and kooky HBO sex specials. But after looking at the philosophy, it seemed that what we were doing in Second Life was exactly that: loving many fully and equally. And, as long as we remained honest with ourselves, each other, and these new and fantastic “friends,” it all seemed to make sense.

I’m not suggesting here that this concept or philosophy is right for everyone. People who struggle with honest communication in their interpersonal relationships would make terrible candidates for this kind of exploration. But I am proposing that there may be a different way to look at marriage and online relationships than through the often puritanical lense history has handed down to us.

So what do you think? Do you think it’s possible to love a spouse and an online lover without upsetting the familial apple cart?

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