A British man and a American woman who got married in a ceremony on Second Life two years ago finally met IRL for the first time yesterday. The are both single parents and their story would be kind of touching if they weren’t both cheating on their partners by hooking up online.
Rhonda Lillie, 37, is a divorced mother to three daughters, Angelina, 17, Amanda, 14, and Ashley, 10. When she first met Paul online in January, 2006 she was living in a small town in Pennsylvania with her boyfriend of seven years, who basically ignored her.
Paul Hawkins, 41, is a single dad to two children, one an autistic boy of 15. He was in a tumultuous relationship when he met Rhonda through their characters on the game Second Life. He had a girlfriend but doesn’t sound like he was into her.
Eventually Rhonda left her boyfriend in Pennslyvania to move to California, and Paul dumped his real-life girlfriend when she asked him if he was in love with her. He said he realized that he was in love with Rhonda, with whom he was spending hours online with each day. They would text each other and have webcam chats frequently.
“Heart” spotted Paul’s character “Joe” at a club and was so taken by his striking looks that she sent him a message to tell him so. They started chatting and soon realised they had a lot in common.
“We spent a lot of time saying, ‘Me too!’ We’d both been hurt in relationships and we were both looking to be loved,” recalls Rhonda.
One day, they spent 10 hours pouring out their hopes, dreams and secrets to one another. “We told each other everything, from our deepest fears to our fantasies,” she says. “I told him things no one else knows.”
For Paul – a father-of-two, who is a full-time carer to his 15-year-old autistic son Judge – the bond was equally important and emotional.
He even slept on a chair by his computer, so he could fall asleep listening to Rhonda’s voice.
“I always believed she was genuine but it took a while for me to believe she wanted me,” he says.
“As time went by I realised just how much I liked her.
One day my girlfriend asked if I was in love with her, and I knew I wasn’t – I was in love with Rhonda.”
Their virtual wedding ceremony was a three-minute affair, beside the computer-generated waterfall from the night they met.
“It was very spur of the moment,” says Rhonda. “We had talked about getting married on the game and one day I said, ‘I wish we could do it now’. We found my friend who could marry us so we took him to the waterfall. Afterwards, we had a private romantic moment.”
[From The Mirror]
Rhonda saved up for a trip to England and was so excited to finally meet Paul in person. The feeling was mutual and now Paul says he has a ring and is just waiting for the right moment to propose.
As for where the couple will live, they’re not sure. Paul is going to visit the states in November and they’ll have to work out their future then.
Have any of you played Second Life? My husband told me to set up shop for Celebitchy there, but I already have a computer addiction and a healthy fear of the game. I’ve heard it’s hard to resist. I used to love to play the SIMS and now I occasionally use Stardoll (some call it lame, I know, but if you’re into clothes and celebrities it’s a lot of fun) so I’m afraid if I got into Second Life I’d waste too much time.
I met my husband the old fashioned Internet way – through Match.com. We met within a week of first e-mailing each other, and we lived pretty close so it was never long distance. Still, you can see how you can get to know someone far away if you both have webcams and the motivation. It must be really frustrating for a lot of people, but on the other hand you can also find a mate in ways that were never possible before.
Thanks to Splash News for these pictures from ITV.