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Virtual marriages outlast real-world ones

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Text now or forever hold your peace.

With Valentine's Day hitting next week, there's plenty of love in the air — but if you want that love to last, your odds are better in cyberspace.

A study of virtual marriages in MapleStory, a massively multiplayer online game from Nexon, finds that people who vow to stay together forever in-game tend to be more successful at it than those of us in the real world.

Last year, the divorce rate in MapleStory was 46 percent. A discouraging figure for online lovers, for sure, but that's still better than the 50 percent divorce rate faced by couples in their first marriage. (If you've been married twice, the divorce rate jumps to 67 percent — and those on their third marriage face a 74 percent chance of splitting up.)

To be fair, an in-game marriage, which might be done as a way to flirt with another player or find an in-game partner, doesn't carry a lot of the stresses of the real world. There are no mortgage payments to worry about. Private school isn't an issue. And, most importantly, you don't have to deal with day-to-day annoyances like listening to him snore or her insisting on watching Lifetime when a big game is on.

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MapleStory has been around since 2003, and hit North America in 2005. Marriages have always been a part of the game — and they're pretty serious business. Male characters buy engagement rings for their beloved, then purchase a ticket letting them arrange the ceremony. That ticket costs real-world cash — roughly $20-$30.

Players can invite between 5-30 guests to witness their vows (and yes, gifts are expected — there's even an in-game registry).

You might snort, but in 2010, there were nearly 27,000 in-game marriages in North America alone. (2010 was a bad year to get married, though: 75 percent of those couples ended up getting divorced.)

Just as in real life, you have to be careful about how the relationship ends if you're unable to make things work.

One MapleStory gamer learned this when his ex-virtual-spouse logged into his account and began dropping items in his inventory.

Divorces, even virtual ones, often get ugly.

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