As of this writing, Patrice and I have been married for just over two months, since we had our ceremony on Friday the 13th (a lucky day) in October 2006. We actually partnered on September 27th, so we are nearing three months for that.
What does this mean in Second Life—partnered, married? Officially, not much. One person goes to the SL web site, pays Linden Labs a fee, and gets to send a proposal to the other person. If the recipient accepts the proposal, the two are partnered. On their profiles, you'll see a name in the "Partner" field. (Divorce is even easier—only one partner need agree.)
For Patrice and me, being partnered and married has been quite meaningful. We had a rocky start, as is often the case. We had glorious sex one day after we met. Patrice tells me she was already head over heels in love. I was going a bit more slowly, having only recently been burned from having moved too quickly. It took at least a few days (a long time in SL) for me to realize that I was just as head over heels as Patrice was. Still, we did not start out as bastions of fidelity. Old habits die hard, and in SL, it's pretty darned easy to have sex, at least if you are female. The funny thing is that for each of us in turn, our "transgressions" and the subsequent dealing with them had the effect of bringing us ever closer together.
I can't speak about SL relationships in general. In the brief time I have been here, I have seen some go from the head-over-heels stage to disintegration at an astounding pace. I have seen others persist longer. I have seen weddings planned and then blown apart. I've listened to the outpourings of broken hearts. I don't know how long anyone has lasted who isn't with their First Life partner. I feel pretty good that Patrice and I have made it past two months, still madly in love, still loving sex with each other, and now pretty much into fidelity.
It's interesting having a relationship in SL as well as having one in First Life. My FL relationship is very good. I must say that I have a very tolerant Significant Other (henceforth referred to as "SO"), and I am very grateful for such tolerance. An SL relationship, by its nature, has to be secondary, at least if the partners are not single in real life. If we start messing up our first lives in favour of our second lives, then we're probably in big trouble. The SL partners might not see each other as often as they would in FL. Communication is entirely verbal, even sex (despite animations)—no visual cues such as facial expressions. It's easy for misunderstandings to develop. It's easy for there to be anxiety—if a partner is not online for an extended time; if a partner is with someone else, however innocently; if one partner gets very involved in an activity that does not include the other. And it's all too easy to let things get blown out of proportion.
It seems to me that SL relationships aren't all that different from FL ones. Patrice and I have had many ups and downs. We have had times of mistrust. We have had times of intense passion. We have comforted each other when something is wrong, in SL or FL. We have laughed together. One thing that I think has helped us is that we have some understanding of the dynamics of a relationship, since each of us has a partner in FL. Another is that we are not as young as some residents of SL. (Well, I know how old I am, and can only guess at Patrice's age due to shared cultural references.)
I am very happy and very grateful that Patrice and I are together. I hope we continue to beat the odds. And if there comes a point when we part ways, I will have a wealth of wonderful memories. Patrice, je t'aime beaucoup, beaucoup. Je suis ravie que tu es ma belle femme.