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 any more."
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 (450 kilometers) west of London, after the pair met in a chat room in 2003, according to the press agency's account. Both are disabled, Taylor said.