As usual, I read the New York Times Vows section every Sunday. This week’s story, however gave me much pause. Please go and read the whole thing but I’ll pull excerpts out from the the story.
Carol Anne Riddell and John Partilla met in 2006 in a pre-kindergarten classroom. They both had children attending the same Upper West Side school. They also both had spouses.
Ms. Riddell was a reporter and anchor on WNBC television in New York and a mother of two. A glamorous, petite woman with a strong handshake and stronger opinions, she is not the type to be easily dazzled, yet she was struck by Mr. Partilla’s exuberance.
“He bounds into a room,” said Ms. Riddell, who was 40 when they met. “He doesn’t walk in, he explodes in.”
Mr. Partilla, then a 42-year-old triathlete and a president of media sales at Time Warner, recognized a kindred dynamo. “She’s such a force,” he said. “She rocks back and forth on her feet as if she can’t contain her energy as she’s talking to you.”
The connection was immediate, but platonic. In fact, as they became friends so did their spouses. There were dinners, Christmas parties and even family vacations together.
There was nothing wrong with this, right? Couples meet up, form a bond and do couple/family things together. That’s only natural.
In May 2008, Mr. Partilla invited her for a drink at O’Connell’s, a neighborhood bar. She said she knew something was up, because they had never met on their own before.
“I’ve fallen in love with you,” he recalled saying to her. She jumped up, knocking a glass of beer into his lap, and rushed out of the bar. Five minutes later, he said, she returned and told him, “I feel exactly the same way.” Then she left again.
As Mr. Partilla saw it, their options were either to act on their feelings and break up their marriages or to deny their feelings and live dishonestly. “Pain or more pain,” was how he summarized it.
“The part that’s hard for people to believe is we didn’t have an affair,” Ms. Riddell said. “I didn’t want to sneak around and sleep with him on the side. I wanted to get up in the morning and read the paper with him.”
With that goal in mind, they told their spouses.
Hold up and stop the mothereffing press. They didn’t want to have an affair but they are meeting at a bar without the knowledge of their spouses and they didn’t think they were having an affair?? What planet are they on??
The pain he had predicted pervaded both of their lives as they faced distraught children and devastated spouses, while the grapevine buzzed and neighbors ostracized them.
“He said, ‘Remind me every day that the kids will be O.K.,’ ” Ms. Riddell recalled. “I would say the kids are going to be great, and we’ll spend the rest of our lives making it so.”
The problem was she could not guarantee that.
All they had were their feelings, which Ms. Riddell described as “unconditional and all-encompassing.”
“I came to realize it wasn’t a punishment, it was a gift,” she said. “But I had to earn it. Were we brave enough to hold hands and jump?”
They did jump. Both officially separated from their spouses by late 2008, though they waited until July 2009 before moving in together.
I am all for people living authentic lives and being true to themselves. I am all for folks being happy. I know that marriages break up all the time. I am not a Pollyanna by any means, but this couple seems almost narcisstic. There are 5 children between the two of them and they all attended the same school. These folks took vacations together. I quite obviously don’t know the state of their prior marriages but I have to wonder: was there no alarms ringing in the back of their heads that told them that this might not be the best route to take. Then again maybe they didn’t give an eff. But there are a whole lot of broken people who are left in their wake. And 5 very confused children who will probably end up on a therapist’s couch some time in the next few years, if not now.
And much like one would spread a puppy’s nose in shit, they decided to have their story for the world to see in the New York Times Vows section.
I think that is the part that bothered me most all. It reeks of tacky. It’s not very kind and isn’t very gracious to the ex-spouses at all. It’s embarassing enough to get divorced, now all of your social circle has to know why.
I know I have some readers who have been divorced before so I’d be interested to know your input. Am I off base here???