April 25, 2012

Marie and Jay Coulbeck: Online & in reality

Couple who met and got engaged in a computer game marry in real life despite looking nothing like their online alter-egos  

On computer screen they were like a movie-star couple.

She with her toned, tanned body, enviable curves and a penchant for not wearing very much. He with an impressive tattoo, rock-god locks and abs you could bounce a 50 pence piece off.

But when Marie and Jay Coulbeck decided to exchange real photographs after their alter egos got engaged in 3D chat room IMVU, the couple from Rugeley found they had bent the truth some what.

With a dress size of 28 – 30 Mrs Coulbeck admits she looked nothing like her size eight alter ego - Goddess of the Orient. But then again divorced fork lift truck driver Jay Coulbeck, 41, didn't much resemble his avatar Gunner, either.

None of it mattered. The couple fell in love and married - for real - in September.

Mother of two grown up daugthers, Mrs Coulbeck, 44, joined IMVU after becoming sad, lonely and depressed after a string of disastrous relationships.

The programme describes itself as a 3d chatroom where users can create an avatar to represent themselves by selecting features like, face, hair and bodies and design and create a virtual hang out to meet and speak to friends.

Mrs Coulbeck said: 'My confidence and self-esteem was rock bottom but this programme allowed me to leave that behind and be the person I wanted to be.

‘I designed the Goddess to be everything I felt I wasn’t in real life: slim, sexy and confident. Being her was a way of escaping the usual drudgery and I actually started to prefer my online life to my real one.'

Some days Mrs Coulbeck would spend up to 16 hours online as the Goddess. 'It was like my real life didn’t exist anymore and the fantasy one had taken over,' she admitted.

Then in August 2010 Goddess clapped eyes on Gunner for the first time. Showing off his toned torso through a sexy tight shirt, Goddess - and the single Mrs Coulbeck - was instantly smitten.

‘It sounds odd to admit that I had a crush on an avatar. I thought he was gorgeous and he said the same about me,' she said.

‘He kept coming into the room I was furnishing and in the end we got chatting and he started helping me. As well as being attracted to his avatar his personality shined through and because of that there was a big connection between us pretty much straight away.'

Within days they had become partners on IMVU and eventually got engaged using credits to buy engagement rings for their avatars and make it official to other IMVU users too.

Then father-of-one Mr Coulbeck asked Goddess to send him a real picture of herself.

Mrs Coulbeck said: ‘I warned him I was a big girl. My avatar was a size eight and in real life I’m a size 28 to 30.

'I was terrified when I sent him my photo. I was in love with him and he said he felt the same but I knew it was make or break when I sent the picture and yes I was a bit worried because Goddess was nothing like me.

‘I created her to represent the slim gorgeous woman I want to be but thankfully Jay said I looked beautiful anyway.

Mrs Coulbeck also relaxed when Gunner's real picture arrived showing he also bore little resemblance to his avatar.

‘He wasn’t Gunner just like I wasn’t the Goddess,' she said. 'But I still found him really attractive so it was a huge relief when he said he liked my picture too.

‘We were already engaged online before he came to see me so it felt natural for him to stay and he moved in that day.

The couple had met at Mrs Coulbeck's home in Staffordshire 90 miles away from her future husband's in Lincoln. But first they pledged their love by buying each other wedding outfits for their avatars.

Mrs Coulbeck admits she was nervous when Mr Coulbeck turned up at her door but after presenting her with a huge bunch of roses and a teddy the couple were instantly at ease with each other.

Then when it came to going home time Mr Coulbeck couldn't find his car keys. Mrs Coulbeck said: 'I was helping him look but secretly I was delighted because I didn’t want him to leave. I knew I didn’t want to be apart from him again.’

Mr Coulbeck was still there a week later when he stunned Mrs Coulbeck by proposing for the second time on one knee. She said: 'I’ve never been married and thought those days were behind me, I was smiling from ear to ear.

‘My parents were concerned when I told them I was marrying a man from the computer game  because it’s their job to worry and they didn’t understand how you can fall in love on a computer game without meeting, but once they got to know Jay they thought he was wonderful and still do.’

A year later on September 3rd they married again – this time for real in front of 50 family and friends.

Mr Coulbeck said: ‘No we haven’t been back on the game since, why do I need to now I’ve got her for real?

‘We actually think the game is a bit silly now, but thank God we both joined or we would never have found each other.’

Mrs Coulbeck added: 'Using IMVU was a fantasy escape for me but it became a reality. I don’t need it anymore because my real life is good at last but I’ll always be grateful that it brought us together.

‘I created Goddess for a bit of fun and it changed my life. I wasn’t trying to mislead anyone with her appearance because I never expected to really meet anyone from the game in real life.

‘I’m pretty sure that if I’d made my avatar a big girl it wouldn’t have been as much fun and we would never have met.

‘He (Mr Coulbeck) was my dream man in IMVU and he’s turned out to be my dream man in real life too. I never thought when I created that avatar it would lead me to love.’