These seem to be turbulent times. In the last few days two of my friends told me independently they and their significant other are splitting up. The situations are rather different though. In one case my friend, let's call him Fred, decided to leave because his long time girlfriend Ginger admitted to him she fell in love with someone else. In an other case my friend Eve's husband Adam is about to leave her because she confessed she "knew" someone in the biblical sense. Wait a sec ... didn't I say the situations were quite different? Well, in Ginger's case the proverbial green grass on the other side of the fence is a RL person in Eve's he is a Second Life avatar.
So is there a difference? After all, the net result is the same; two couples who have been together for years are about to split up. Does it matter whether Eve fell for an avatar and Ginger for some real life person? I think it does for a number of reasons. When we fall in love with someone we're always on our best bewitching behaviour to convince the other party we deserve a chance with them. How much easier is it to hide behind a flashy avatar than is to hide behind your toothpaste smile? I would say a lot. Sooner or later inevitably the smile will show some cracks but you can hide behind the av reasonably comfortably forever unless and until you decide to meet up in person. In SL there will always be a larger degree of wishful projections about the other party and their feelings even though it rarely feels that way.
Now there is also the matter of sex and adultery. Here I think things are a lot less clear. What is worse, Eve looking at pixels exchange bodily fluids whilst having a racy conversation or Ginger going out with her friend for a beer, holding hands and exchanging dreamy looks knowing all too well what they both rather be doing? I think the clue is in that last bit "what they would rather be doing", because basically that's what it is in both cases; the expression of a longing, not the act itself or lack thereof. Both Eve and Ginger respond to the social rules of their environment and we all know those are a lot more liberal in SL than they are in RL. Ginger is held back from the next step by her own morality and/or social constraints whilst for Eve there is no next step but to take things out of SL into real life.
That's why, if I was in Fred's shoes, I would probably leave as well. Ginger has decided she wants to devote her love to someone else. If I were in Adam's shoes I wouldn't and I know that for sure because I'm still married. Eve explored some fantasies and satisfied her curiosity in a limitless fantasy world. Don't we all fantasise about that new and exciting stranger at one time or other or of indulging in that kinky thing we would never even contemplate in RL? SL provides the sandbox to experiment with those fantasies. Does that mean you want to give up on an existing RL relationship? Of course not.
Fantasy and creativity are what makes us human and sets us apart from your average chimp. SL gives us the space to experiment without fear for consequences other than a better insight into what makes each of us tick. Consequences usually arise from the fact many can't deal with the newfound freedom or because of judgemental people that don't understand the nature of SL. So does experimenting make us adulterous? Of course not.
Right now my heart bleeds for Fred, Ginger, Adam and Eve although for different reasons.
Now before you shoot, I respect the fact we are all individuals, situations vary and a multitude of factors can come into play. Human emotions are not an exact science, I see that all around me on a daily basis. SL provides us with a unique chance that, if used wisely, can help us gain an insight into aspects of ourselves that might otherwise remain hidden.
My opinion until proven wrong...
may it never be ;-)