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Sunday, August 14, 2011

AN SLE Exclusive: Is Second Life to blame for a failed marriage? One man shares his heart-wrenching story Lanai Jarrico Reporting…



Recently, I met a new resident of Second Life that stumbled upon our media center in his quest to find some answers on a very serious topic.  He claimed to be exploring this virtual world to figure out why his wife of 28 years, would leave him for someone she met here.

After revealing his real intention of becoming a resident, he said he probably shouldn’t have shared that information right off the bat with me, but after listening to some of the things he was saying, I explained that I had been in this virtual culture a long time and can understand all sides to this type of situation.  

It is not an uncommon issue I hear about.  As uncomfortable as it may sound, Second Life© is the perfect place for people who feel lonely or need a creative outlet to be their true selves.

We can all recognize we live in a world that dictates a lot of “norms” on what is considered, taboo, right or wrong. It happens in politics, religion, business and even in one’s own emotional and human needs.

In virtual worlds and social networks across the Internet people are indulging in the many things they wish they can do or experience without the travel time and expenses incurred by such activities.




I learned a long time ago, no matter what type of platform people communicate in, there will be drama, connections, and even love that are often times is described as something  both have never felt before.  Could it really just be two people caught up in a fantasy?

Many, who have not experienced the virtual world dating scene, will argue it is the kind of fake love built on a fantasy and cannot be real.  

Others, who have experienced it, will disagree saying this type of love goes straight to the soul with physical attraction being secondary in the courting process.

 People are meeting from the inside out and it can turn into the most beautiful love story never told, until the person is caught by their significant other while having these secret love affairs, or they take life changing actions to see if the grass really is greener on the other side.

My first experience hearing about online dating was around 1998 when I was a chat room junkie on WebTV. I frequented a chat room called! Bored to death.  I met a couple that had met there, decided to be together, eventually getting married in real life. That was the first time I realized just how serious these types of social networks are because they can form such emotional attachments.

When I was introduced to virtual worlds in 2003, it became apparent, online dating was happening on a whole new level.  Early on as a virtual reporter in The Sims Online ©, I met a man that wanted to propose to his online girlfriend using the original TSO Enquirer to proclaim his love for her. It turned out that she accepted his proposal, moving from New York to Atlanta to be with him. They ended up getting married and now have a daughter. Those two experiences had positive outcomes but not every story turns out that way.

 I heard of other online dating situations where a real meeting between two avatars took place and one of them had completely lied about who they were. It turned that the female accepted a trip from New Jersey to California to meet her online lover. When they met at the airport for the first time, the man was in complete shock because she was not who she portrayed herself to be, including a different race.  Mortified by his rejection, she got back on a plane that same day and proceeded to stalk him online for months.

Who really is to blame in this type of situation?

The only advice that can be offered and I am not a professional is, be very cautious sharing too much personal information.  Harassment and Stalking situations can become dangerous, putting people lives in danger.

 Online romances do have the potential to cause marital issues too, but everyone’s situation is different.

For instance, I have met with couples that indulged in second life and live separate lives here, including “dating” other avatars.

One married couple came to Second Life to shop and role play together; her husband was a cross-dresser and wanted to be a woman in Second Life. They both seemed happy about their arrangement and even enjoyed shopping sprees together.

Many married people who do not include their spouse in their Second Life activities, could very well be having virtual affairs.   They would probably argue that if their deep rooted wants and needs were being taken care of by one or the other involved in their marriage, these things wouldn’t occur.

Others have happy marriages but they have a need for something more.  Are they being selfish and in it for the thrill of being sneaky or satisfying a human need for a lot of affection?

Either way, every individual is responsible for their own actions. Who is to say another person can dictates another’s wants and needs forever?

I met up with Ralph Town aka SeverinHead; the man that discovered his wife was having an online affair and I asked him some questions for more insight into what may have gone wrong. At first I thought, rather than seek Second Life for answers, it may be wise for this man to reevaluate what it is was that was lacking in his and her real life to make his wife feel more loved and wanted in a virtual world. What he shared actually made me cry. I saw a man that so loved his wife, he put his feelings aside to let her fly free, only for her to miss out on the real things that matters in life.  Family and unconditional love is something more valuable than anything that can be bought on earth, yet taken for granted every day.

HERE IS HIS STORY...




I guess it must have started around 18 months ago.

My wife, Sue and I had/have a good relationship.We, ve never argued or fought. We are always able to sort any problems.

But we saw an item on SL on a BBC News channel programme, called "click" a tech show.

I remember her saying she might check it out. I didn’t feel it was for me. Any chat sites she had visited in the past usually ended up with her walking away due to the adult nature of the chat.



And, I guess as is usual in most long term relationships, we started to take each other for granted.

We have 4 kids, 2 of which are living with their partners but the 2 youngest have issues.

My youngest daughter is gay and is still looking for "the one" whilst my youngest Son has Aspergus syndrome.

There has never been any violence between my wife and I and neither of us drink. Except for a little wine at Christmas or at a social gathering.

But the behavior of our kids has been very challenging at times and it does take its toll.



But she joined SL around 15 months ago and, at first, I was happy that she had found something to take her out of herself and she was chatting to people from all over the world and it seemed like a harmless distraction.

However, it wasn’t long, maybe 3 months, when she said she’d met a guy online called John. He had been resident for over 2 years and really knew "the ropes".

Over time as RL issues became harder for her to cope with; she began spending ever longer hours online.



In September 2010, she decided she wanted some time to decide if she could really cope with her life. She had began to use anti-depressant medication on prescription and she was becoming depressed.Now, I,m not saying I’m blameless if blame is the correct word.

My head was elsewhere too. Mainly on money and bills and trying to discover what was wrong with my wife. I should say that Sue and I had been together for 28 years and had always ridden out the bad times with the good.



So, she left home at the end of September and went 200 miles away to her Mother’s house.

We stayed in touch and although I was unhappy with her not being here, I understood her need to just find some space and recharge herself.

But unknown to me, before she left, she had become best buddies with this guy, John.

He had an interest in my wife and I know that in SL, they would get fairly intimate. Not wanting to seem like the party pooper, I let this go. Probably the worst mistake I made.

It now turns out that John was in a relationship that was dead and he had got with a married woman over 25 years ago, given her 5 kids and was "on the prowl”. No other way of putting it. He needed/wanted out of his relationship and rather than try and find a single woman, he chose my wife.

Now, it’s very interesting to note that once his partner had finally got a divorce, after more than 20 years apart from HER partner, he lost all interest in her.



So, autumn past into early winter and I was away helping a friend sort out a house, when my mobile phone rang. It was my wife. She sounded agitated and was rambling on about sorting out the bank account and it wasn’t fair on me that she could take money from "our" bank account. I told her that I’d ring her back as soon as I got back home.

This must have piqued her curiosity because 5 mins later she rang and had the same conversation with me again. Something was wrong; I couldn’t get away from that.

But as I was travelling home in freezing rain on a cold November evening, I got a text message from her that read,"Don,t want to live tbh,I think I’m having a breakdown."



I pulled over by the side of the road to read it and I don’t mind confessing, I cried my eyes out.

This big over 6 foot man sat in his car crying like a baby.

There has never been a time when I stopped loving her and I just wanted to put my arms round her and hold her and tell her it was going to be OK.

But she was over 200 miles away.



I got home that evening and called her and told her to come home. She agreed and for about 12 days after she got back, everything seemed fine. We would walk the dog together and I’d help out as much as I could.

Then we looked forward to Christmas and a good New Year.

It didn’t work out that way. Christmas 2010 will go down as the worse Christmas we’ve ever had. We both became ill with some sort of gastric flu. We spent all of the holiday in bed.Every time we thought we were getting better we would end up feeling worse.

But I have got ahead of myself. Because even though she had agreed to move back home, she decided to spend a few days at our eldest daughters house.

During those 4 days, there was one day where no one knew where she was.Now, keeping in mind the text I had received; we were all very concerned about her. She didn’t answer her phone or respond to texts.

She finally turned up around 9pm and said she had been to Birmingham to look around the shopping mall there. This had been redeveloped.

We now know this to be a lie.

She lied to me, she lied to her children. She was already changing and was becoming devious and unreliable.

This all in hindsight now.



So, Christmas moved into the New Year and we had plans. Get our house sorted and maybe take a holiday in the Summer.

But in early January, my youngest Son had some kind of breakdown. He was due back in college and it was maybe, his third day of the new term. It was a Friday. He had woken early and was really "up" buzzing about how he would meet his best friend in town, visit the music store, go to college...He had a really full day ahead.



It was near lunchtime, when my wife got a call on her phone from a police officer that told her not to worry but they had managed to talk our Son off of the 14th floor of the Crowne Plaza hotel, here in Nottingham.

I watched as her face lost all its colour.I didn’t know what was wrong right then but it was very serious.

She put her phone down and told me that our Son was in the psychiatric (sp) ward at the hospital.

We went down and our boy was in good spirits. He had no explanation as to why he had decided to do what he had done.

But he had agreed to spend time in a specialist unit for young people.

He was taken there by the hospital and Sue and I went home to pack him a few things.

He had been laughing and making jokes. I had been quiet and introverted and poor Sue, my darling Sue was in a daze. I could see her becoming crushed.



We arrived home and she picked up the kettle and went to the tap to fill it up, whilst talking about what things we should put in his overnight bag.

I know her well enough to know when she isn’t coping. And she wasn’t coping well at all.

She put the kettle down and I saw her little shoulders fall and she just broke down...I was crying too but I had to be strong. I had to hold her up, she was close to collapse.



She always called me her rock.

You see, I,m over 6 feet tall and Sue is around 5 foot in her shoes.

But this must have been the worst day of our lives.



After a month in the unit, our Son had been diagnosed with Aspergus Syndrome and we seemed to be on an even keel.



But the laptop had been bought out after the 12 days back in November and it now became clear at this point that there was "something" going on between Sue and John.



At around this point, Sue had started skimming cash from the bank account. Just small amounts but as I was happy to let her deal with the home finance, I knew nothing.

But February became March and in April, she had a week’s break with her Mum and Aunt, who had recently been widowed, in a lovely part of the UK.

I have always been very happy for Sue to take these little "time outs”. It’s good for us both and I had plans to do some decorating whilst she was away.



We had some amazing weather in UK during April and I believe they only had one day of rain during the holiday.

When I picked my wife up after the break, I was stunned. How fantastic she looked. The sun had bleached the front of her strawberry blonde hair, she had a few freckles on her nose and she was radiant. She really had benefited from the break.



She was in good spirits and I remembered why I had fallen in love and married her in the first place.

My "princess" was back.

Or so it appeared.

April went to May and increasing time was spent on SL, probably with John, who she had finally met in RL during her trip to Birmingham in November. That’s right. No shopping trip this but she had finally met her Internet lover.



Now I’m not being bitter or nasty but it’s the nature of SL that you can be whoever or whatever you like.

My wife had been spending money on her AV and I later discovered on land and other high end items.

But my wife’s AV looked like someone well known to UK residents.

A supermodel turned TV presenter and personality, Kate Price.

Tall, long black hair, high heels and black leather trousers.



So, when she turned up in Birmingham to meet up with her "Gentle Giant" he must have been slightly disappointed.

If it is true that Men fall in love with what they see and women with what they hear, then he must have thought,"Oh, right OK, well she,ll do, anything to get out of my rotten relationship".



As I say, I,m not being nasty or bitter. I try not to let the negative emotions in. Even though I probably have every right to.



So, as April became May, we settled into our routine but in my mind I was panicking.

She was spending ever increasing time in SL with "him".

Some nights, I would walk the dog around 10.30pm and I would ask if she was coming to bed.

She would always say,"Yes,I,m shutting it down now".

But I’d be upstairs looking at the ceiling, in a state of panic .Then she might finally come up around midnight or even later.

My kids had also noticed that she would just "blitz" the house to get housework done so she could spend more time in SL.



Around mid May I began to notice a change in her face, She would look at me but not be looking at me but she seemed to be looking just over my shoulder.

She began to refuse my demonstrations of affection. The cuddles whilst she was at the sink. The foot rubs.

She no longer liked me to play with her long strawberry blonde hair.

She was sat on one sofa with her laptop, which I called "her screen" and I was looking at mine, the big 42" TV in the corner.

She would sit there hour after hour with her earphones in.

Obviously, listening to the whispering devil known as John.



I was in an internal state of panic and I didn’t know what to say or do.

I would look at her from the corner of my eye and see her smiling at her screen. I would sometimes catch a glimpse of what was ON the screen.2 people lying on a grassy verge in embrace.

But I’ve never been a jealous type.I,ve never wanted another woman, never even considered I would be with anyone else but my darling Sue.

But on more than one occasion I thought to myself "If you don’t turn that god dam machine off,I,m going to throw you and it out of the upstairs window".



But don’t get me wrong, I would never have acted on that impulse. In fact our love life was still good.

We were still enjoying each other’s bodies.

I always knew just what she liked.

And I guess, like probably 90% of guys, if the sex is good, then the life must be good.



So, Into June and she was becoming more and more distant.

Unable to concentrate or focus on things.

I had begun to forget what it was like to hear her laugh.

I was losing her to an online fantasy.



JUNE 26th 2011



It was a nice day.I,d got up, made tea and taken her a cup up.

I,d told her about the weather and told her I was going out on one of my "long runs" with the dog.

I got back around 11.45am and I could hear her upstairs. It sounded like she was moving furniture.

Lots of banging and bashing.

It was just after 12.20pm and I’d settled down to watch the F1 racing from Valencia.



She came in the room looking a bit flustered and I said,"Whats up the babe, Whats all the noise about?"



"Well" she said, “I don’t know how to tell you this and I’m not going to tell you when we’re in bed, but I’m moving out on Tuesday".



And that was the day I died.



But I couldn’t leave the earth yet. I had 2 kids here both with behavioral issues.

I had the washing to do, the ironing....everything.



I actually drove her to John.

We made love to each other for the 3 nights before she left.

Surely that meant she still loved me...didn’t it?



I left her on the pavement outside the apartment they were going to be living in.

I love her so much; I had to let her go.

I still love her, I,d take her back anytime, you don’t let go of 28 years in a few seconds.



So, John had "won".

Or had he?



I resent John, not just for turning my wife into a devious two faced liar.

No.

But for involving her in his soap opera dead relationship.

He had been breaking up with his partner for years.

I would not be at all surprised to discover, he had been "onto" other women in the preceding year or two, since he became resident in SL.



But had he "won".

No...He lost. You see, I still have the love and respect of my kids.

My in laws don’t understand it but respect me for doing the right thing by my kids.

My eldest daughter recently gave birth to "our" first Grandson.

He was 6 weeks premature but is a fighter...just like his Grandfather.

So, did I lose?



I lost the best thing that ever happened to me.

I lost the greatest lover, my best friend and confidant.

But I gained so much more.



Do I still hate John...yes I do.

Not for the reasons you might think.

Because, when my daughter went into labour, I text Sue and didn’t get a reply.

So, I rang her and when she answered, she sounded out of it.

Not in the moment, so to speak.

I told her she was about to become a Grandmother.

2 hours later, she told me, over the phone, she was about to get on a train to come and see our little Grandson who was born at 9.27am on Saturday 6th of August.



I had to laugh. She would be the last person to see him.

I was there, with my little girl and her partner. I was instrumental in ensuring he would be there for the birth of his Son.

And Sue was the late comer to the party.



But when she got into my car, (yes I picked her up from the station).I asked how things were and she was clearly unhappy. Complaining very loudly, that she was fed up with the constant texts and phone calls to John from his ex partner.

So, my dears, the grass maybe greener on the other side but the weeds are still the same.



After nearly 8 weeks, I still love her,I,d still take her back and we would have to get some counselling.But that’s me.

I’ll always do what needs to be done. But I’ve got so much more going on now...I’m a Grandfather and I’m going to be here in RL playing football and flying kites.

She’ll only be able to see all of this in photographs posted on facebook.So, No I’m the winner

You see...



You only have One Life...So start living it!!



RALPH TOWN aka SeverinHead.




3 comments:

  1. Very nice piece. Wonderfully written. Thank you Ralph for sharing your story with the rest of us.
    Prince Sonoda

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ralph's story is certainly a cautionary on. In my 3 years in SL I have certainly seen my share of people making bad choices because - let's face it - bad choices are just as easy to make on the grid as they are in the air-breathing world. I have even experienced that loss of RL focus that can come when the grid becomes a means of escape and "cyber-crack." That being said, it is not symptomatic of SL.

    I suspect that if Sue was looking for a way to escape from the pressures that were making her crack - if SL had been there she would have found something else. Fortunately, cyber addiction is a little easier to kick than some other things it could have been.

    I feel for Ralph, and think it is a healthy process that he is examining his choices and how they affected the whole emerging situation. There is one thing that is certain in both the virtual and real worlds: when things go the hell, there are usually enough pieces of "blame pie" to go around. It sounds like Sue has made some bad choices and she is contending with those right now. Ralph, on the other hand, can not truly say that he "won" until he faces his own slice of this messy pie.

    Life , in general, is all about choices. The only mistake ultimately is not to choose.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I agree.I fully accept my blame in this.I took her for granted,I focused,possibly,on my feelings of panic and the situation with my kids.

    but the fact remains.She chose to go to him.I can forgive and understand the whys and wherefores.But I can never forgive either of them for the hurt they have caused my kids.
    The look on thier faces when I got back home on 28th of June will haunt me to the grave.
    I gave her all the freedom she needed in this relationship,I respect her for her honesty,when she has been honest.Recently,I had a Facebook chat session with her and she said she felt she had no more to give.
    Well,thats ok with me but try telling that to my eldest daughter who is dealing with her 6 week premature baby boy.
    But then again,don,t trouble yourself sweetheart,I,m here for her...for as long as there is air in my body.
    RALPH.

    ReplyDelete

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