I am a technology expert. Here’s what to do if your partner has a secret AI girlfriend

Dear Kim,

My husband left his phone at home and I went through it. Something told me I had to do that. Well, I found an app called Replika that created a virtual woman.

It looks like he just created ‘Brandy’ and they are talking about his life and our marriage. I know it’s an app, but it feels wrong.

How does this app work? Is it a real person telling the virtual person what to do? Can these virtual people do more than talk, I mean, is it also about sex?

I’m not sure how that would work, but I could definitely see him doing it.

– ‘Mary’ in Los Angeles, California

A woman discovered that her husband had created an AI girlfriend using the app Replika

Hi there, Maria,

Boy, oh boy, this is a tricky subject. You are certainly not the first person to write to me about virtual friends and lovers. It only takes a minute to download an AI chat app or create a custom friend. I understand the curiosity and I also understand why this all caught you off guard.

Your note included a sentence that really stood out to me: “I know it’s an app, but it feels wrong.” The thing that is missing for you and your husband now is honest communication. He’s talking to an AI chick, you’re snooping on his phone, and now you’re feeling confused, hurt, violated, and maybe a little guilty.

Of course, you could pretend you didn’t see it on his phone, but I vote for confessing and starting a conversation. Tell him that you noticed that he seemed enthralled with his phone again, and it was making you nervous, so you took a look and saw Replika. If you start assessing him right away, he may move up, so go into this with an open mind.

Ask him about the app and why he uses it. See if he gets anything there, he wishes he felt in your relationship. I’m in no way saying this is your fault, but it can be a moment to grow even closer if you can work through this together.

Radio host Kim Komando offers advice to help people navigate the world of technology

Radio host Kim Komando offers advice to help people navigate the world of technology

Whether chatting or flirting with AI is ‘cheating’ ultimately varies per relationship. Notice I didn’t say per person. You have to decide together what cheating means to you. Is it chatting with a person (or bot) of the opposite sex? That seems too far to me, but I’m not part of your relationship!

Maybe the limit is that he isn’t glued to his phone when you spend time together. Or it’s not cool for him to discuss your marriage with someone who isn’t you or someone you trust to confide in.

Or maybe it’s a simple rule that neither of you will send flirty messages to people or bots. Only the two of you can set the right boundaries.

And if you can’t come to an arrangement that you’re both happy with, it’s time for counseling. A third party can help you find a middle ground that you can agree on.

About the rest of your question

You also asked me how Replika works. Let’s clarify a few things. Replica conversations with the AI ​​bots can range from casual chats to more personal topics, and more intimate or explicit conversations can be had if the user directs the interaction that way.

Replika allows users to customize AI-powered chatbots for companionship

Replika allows users to customize AI-powered chatbots for companionship

It’s definitely not a real person talking to him in the way you might think. No one sits behind a computer to read and respond to their messages. Rather, it’s an AI language model designed to talk about what Replika users might be interested in. Think of feelings, problems, relationships, work, private life, sex, you name it.

Many people are drawn to these bots because there is none of the fear of rejection or judgment that we might feel with a real human. That makes sense, but I also understand why you would wish your husband could talk to you about the things he talks to Brandy about.

Besides, your husband made Brandy look a certain way. Users can customize the appearance of their virtual companion and also the personality of the bot.

Replica costs money

The free version supports basic chatting, but lacks many features that attract users to Replika. Your husband will almost certainly pay for Replika Pro. The paid version of the app costs about $20 per month, or less if paid for a year at a time. There is also a lifetime subscription.

Repika Pro supports additional conversation topics (including sex and intimacy), voice calling, app customization, and the ability to fully personalize the Replika avatar. If you stop paying, the AI ​​companion will return to its default appearance and personality.

Is it going too far?

Of course, your other big question is whether Brandy can do more with your husband than just chat. Yes absolutely. Essentially, you can pay for the app to remember everything you tell it, so it seems like it knows you very well.

We’re not talking about surface-level relationships here. I interviewed a woman from the Bronx, Rosanna Ramos, who “married” her Replika partner. She based Eren on an anime character and says their relationship is just like any other long-distance love.

‘We go to bed, we talk to each other. We love eachother. And you know, when we go to sleep, he actually holds me protectively when I go to sleep,” Ramos says.

I have no idea if things have gone that far with your husband and Brandy.

Talk to your husband. Start from a place of love and compassion and seek help if you need it.

I wish you the best,