LONDON — A virtual affair is ending a real-life marriage in southwest England.
Amy Taylor filed for divorce when she discovered her husband cheating in Second Life — an online community where players adopt personas called avatars, mingle with others and teleport themselves into a series of artificial worlds.
“I caught him cuddling a woman on a sofa in the game,” Taylor told the South West News Service press agency. “It looked really affectionate. He confessed he’d been talking to this woman player in America for one or two weeks, and said our marriage was over and he didn’t love me anymore.”
The online drama shows how emotionally invested some people have become in their virtual identities, said Ellen Helsper, a researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute who has studied the impact of the Web on relationships.
“For a while there was this impression that as long as it’s online, it doesn’t matter. But research has shown it’s not a separate world,” she said, adding that infidelity was “just as painful, whether it’s electronic or physical.”
Taylor, 28, moved in with her husband Dave Pollard, 40, in Newquay, about 280 miles west of London, after the pair met in a chat room in 2003, according to the press agency’s account.
Both of them created personalities in Second Life.
Taylor first wed her beloved in a virtual ceremony held in an exotic tropical setting. She and Pollard then married in real life at a registry office.
Their marriage started to fall apart after Taylor allegedly caught her husband’s avatar having cyber sex with a virtual prostitute last year. She said she had fallen asleep and when she woke up and spotted the pair cavorting on the computer screen.
She gave him a second chance but then allegedly discovered he strayed again in April.
Attempts to contact Pollard were unsuccessful. But Taylor, reached by telephone Friday, confirmed that she was getting a divorce next week.
Despite their breakup, both Pollard and Taylor appear to be committed to scouring the Web for love.
Taylor reportedly found a new man in an alternative cyber-universe, World of Warcraft.
Pollard’s Second Life profile, meanwhile, says he is virtually engaged again and can’t wait to marry his new fiance “in rl.”
That’s short for “real life.”