Saturday, October 1, 2011

ASK Acu: Living After 2nd Life Romance Ends

Originally appeared in Metaverse Messenger Magazine (M2)


I have recently left a long-term relationship that started in SL, but ended in RL. In SL our relationship was wonderful. Our connection was completely unexpected. I entered SL to explore virtual real estate opportunities and he to explore ways to bring his RL business into SL. We enjoyed spending time together exploring and pose ball hoping (wink) Within a few months we were collaborating on more than just a business partnership, but a real life commitment. We started chatting via messenger, then cam-ing and calls via skype. We partnered in SL and held a beautiful wedding ceremony. After 10 months of a wonderfully romantic online union, we decided to move in together RL. He moved from the UK to my apartment on the East Coast. He could not work initially due to immigration issues, but we were making a descent income with our SL businesses so I was comfortable with supporting us via income from my RL work. After 3 months however, the stress of work and supporting the household began to take its toll, I think. He was uncomfortable with not being able to support himself and needing to come to me for money. I also felt frustrated with constantly having to console his feelings of inadequacy, which he seemed to be managing by degrading me constantly. My feelings of self worth began to suffer as a result and after 6 months, the relationship had really broken down. Our last night together, a heated argument became physical. I knew that the relationship had become unhealthy and I needed to get out. Now over a year later, my relationship is gone, my SL businesses dissolved and I feel like I have nothing left. To make matters worse, I really miss him and what we shared. We still correspond from time to time, and he agrees that we need some space between us now, but it hurts so badly Acu, that I wonder if my life will ever be the same without him. I am beginning to realize that a romantic relationship is not right for us, but am wondering if we could ever really be friends? Can I ever go back to the 2nd life I once knew before him?
~ 1st and 2nd Lifeless


My sincere condolences as you grieve this devastating loss. I respect that you acknowledge it was not only the relationship that you lost, but also your second life, which had become a part of you. The pain you feel is natural and is something we all experience as part of the grieving process. A confounding issue, however, is that there is often a feeling of isolation when grieving SL experiences and events because people who are not connected to the online social community the way SL residents (and M/MORP gamers) have, have a hard time understanding this journey and are unsure how to help. I am glad that you are seeking answers as you work toward finding closure and evolution to this path you have chosen. There are resources within SL (such as our discussion group, professional counselors and support communities) should you decide to explore this more fully with others in-world. There are also Internet resources (web sites, blogs and mental health professionals with online clinics) if you feel it is healthier for you to explore your feelings outside of the grid. In my experience, people rarely leave SL permanently, however, some restructure their SL time in a way that demonstrates their healthy evolution with the experience of being immersed here.

In the same way, your relationship with your SL/RL partner is becoming redefined. If the two of you are able to interact with one another in a way that is healthy and promotes your emotional growth, you certainly should be friends. The challenge immediately following a break-up, however, is that interactions usually continue in much the same way they did when you were romantically involved. Prior to the break up, the two of you were more than partners. You were confidants. You shared the daily joys and disappointments with one another as a routine part of living together online and in RL. Once the relationship ends, you lose that source of daily support and it is often that emptiness of turning to the screen or pillow and realizing the person is not there to share with that, feels so heavy. It’s important that you first began to establish a new routine of support…someone (or ones) you call or visit to share with so that you don’t feel so alone. In time a new pattern is established and at that point it may feel less weighty to introduce a friendship with the ex into the relationship. It is the essence of what “space” should mean. Establishing alternate sources of support creates a relational bridge that should allow you to interact with him in a healthier and more fulfilling way.

Acknowledging the struggle with redefining your second life is a good starting point and suggests you are on the right track to making a decision that is right for you.

With love, peace and blessings XOXO


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