I just saw an incredible story on CNN about a man who married a made up, virtual girlfriend! In the video, we learn about a young Japanese man, Sal, who actually went through with a marriage ceremony with his virtual girlfriend on his Nintendo DS. He admits that the wedding was done tongue-in-cheek, but from what I can tell only sort of. He still takes baths with her, takes her on vacation (to Guam), and plays with her while he walks down the sidewalk. When asked why he loves her, he responds that she is the perfect spouse. He isn’t interested in getting a real girlfriend. She does everything he wants from her.
It’s no wonder he feels this way, real marriage is hard. In fact all relationships are hard. People don’t conform to our needs mechanistically the way a computer program does. We can’t shut our spouse off when we need a break from her/him. We can’t guarantee that our spouse will always respond positively towards us so long as we push the right buttons. We can’t have our spouse change clothes to meet our sexual desires whenever we want. Real relationships happen with real people. Real people are anything but mechanistic.
It’s in the context of real relationships that we must relinquish control. We can’t control our spouse. We can’t dictate their behavior by following a formula. Real relationships demand something from us. Virtual relationships are inherently self-seeking and that’s why they are appealing. Sal is married to a virtual spouse because she exists only for his pleasure. Few of us are actually tempted to marry a video game, but the temptation to view our spouses and all our relationships in a similar way is real. It’s a common desire to engage in relationships based on what we can get out of them as opposed to what we can give is present for all of us — that’s why marriage can be so hard. Our spouse has needs and desire too that may or may not fit into our plans for our individualized life.
I find this story amazing in its extremity, but relevant in that it reflects a pattern at work in all of us. Have a look: