When a couple meets on the Internet, it typically happens on a popular dating site, such as Match.com or eHarmony. For Jack and Whitney Sivill, it began in a different venue — a place called EverQuest. Never heard of it? Back in 2001, it was all the rage in online gaming.
Jack was working as a manager of a motorcycle shop in Dallas, Texas, at the time, and had always been a big gamer. EverQuest was his favorite, but he was getting ready to quit the online role-playing game before he met Rainwillow, a character played by the woman who is now his wife. In the beginning he started giving her some of his character’s bonuses and assets, which he would not need when he deleted his account.
“She was a ‘newb,’ and I just started giving her a bunch of stuff (character stats and bonuses),” Jack remembers. “Then we just started talking.”
According to Whitney, she initially didn’t realize Jack was actually a man, as his character, Phenixia, was female.
“I was fairly ignorant of the way things were because I figured if you were a girl, you played a girl,” Whitney said. “Because [Jack] was playing a girl ‘toon,’ I thought he was like my best girlfriend. It never occurred to me to think, ‘This is a dude.’”
Whitney has been wheelchair-bound since the age of 2, after a surgery to repair a malformation in her aorta went wrong and left her disabled. She was living with her parents in South Jordan at the time, taking classes at Salt Lake Community College. It was Whitney’s brother Doug, a fellow gamer, who pointed out the possibility to Whitney that Jack might be a man. She said she felt too embarrassed to ask about it so she prompted her brother to ask him for her. Jack confirmed that he was indeed male. According to Whitney, this drastically changed the dynamic of their relationship.
“There was something about finding out that he was a guy that changed the interaction we had with each other,” Whitney said. “We found out that, on a basic level, we had a lot in common.”
As Jack and Whitney started spending more time together in the game, Whitney began to feel things really were getting serious. Her family was apprehensive about this “relationship” she was having over the Internet, which she claims caused her to try to scare him away.
“I told him I was in a wheelchair. His first response was, ‘So?’” she remembers. “So when it didn’t work, we continued to play.”
Her family remained concerned, and she actually stopped talking to him for about three months, but Jack did not forget about her.
It was Whitney’s brother who again interfered, telling her that Jack had been asking about her in the game, and convinced her to reconnect with him.
“We started talking again and I just realized that I liked him a lot more than I had originally anticipated,” she said.
Separated by more than 1,000 miles, it took a special occasion for Jack to finally make it to Utah.
“I asked her what she wanted for her birthday,” Jack recalls. “She said, ‘I want you to come visit me.’ I hadn’t taken any vacation time for about two years, so I talked to my boss and the next thing I knew, I was on a plane to Salt Lake.”
By then, Whitney had moved to Provo and was preparing to take classes at the then Utah Valley State College. At last, in August 2001, about a year after meeting online, Whitney and Jack finally met face to face.
“He was much better looking in person,” Whitney said.
Turning to his wife, Jack said, “So were you.”
Whitney was a member of the LDS church, but Jack was not. When Jack began to express interest in her faith, Whitney said she gave him the phone number to the local LDS mission home, hoping he would find faith on his own.
“I didn’t want him to explore the LDS religion for me,” she said. “I told him that if he was really interested in exploring the LDS religion that he had to do it on his own.” This he did, and in September 2001, he was baptized.
The month after, Whitney flew to Dallas to spend time with Jack, and he proposed to her at Dallas’ LDS Temple. She accepted and they were married on Feb. 1, 2002. They celebrated their 10th anniversary earlier this month.
Now Jack, 38, and Whitney, 35, have made their home in Tooele, moving here in 2005 when housing in the county was most affordable. Jack commutes to Salt Lake every weekday, where he works as a communications technician for Comcast.
Jack and Whitney also teach nursery in their LDS ward and have three children of their own — Madeline, age 6, Isaac, age 4, and Seth, who is 9 months old. They also have a lively dog named Jackson.
“It (Jack’s marriage to Whitney) has all flown by really quickly, but other than kids actively destroying my house, it’s great,” Jack jokes. “We still have each other.”
Although they only occasionally game together still, they remain very happy together.
“We still like each other — a lot,” Whitney said.