Tainted Vows

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???


24 thoughts on “Tainted Vows

  1. I think it was tacky and deceitful and I’m sure very hurtful to their exes and kids. I’m not one to think that you should stay in a marriage if you are not happy and since we don’tnow the status of the said marriages before the affairs, but this was some cold-hearted s—-. Neither one of these people cared or thought of the affect it would have on (Put the husband and wife aside for a sec) the children, you know divorce doesn’t just affect the people going through it. Heartless and tacky, I hope the kids are able to move on from this and will be okay.

  2. Umm wow. I cannot imagine how I would feel if S came home one day and told me he was in love with a woman whose family had gone on vacations with mine.

    But it’s a good reminder of how easy it can be to get distracted or bored with the everyday “sameness” of married life.

  3. I have been noodling this quite a bit for the past two days because I wasn’t sure I wanted to jump on the bandwagon of calling this couple names. The problem with the story, as I see it, is that we all have absolutely no idea if there was anything wrong in their prior marriages (besides selfishness, of course). It’s easy to dismiss them as just being totally selfish, and maybe they are. I don’t know. But I also don’t know what drove them away from their exes in the first place. I am always reluctant to lay blame because I don’t think many people knew how unhappy my marriage was until I left it.

    And yet, I feel so sad for their five children, who now have so much to work through. This group that used to be friends now has to learn how to become functional co-parents despite the betrayal. They won’t ever be out of each others’ lives or business, which will just keep re-salting the wounds. The other relationships didn’t disappear just because they chose to swap spouses.

  4. There’s nothing cute/funny/romantic about this story to make it publish-worthy in my opinion. Sure, it’s their story, but not one I can imagine a lot of people wanting to read. I’m surprised it made it to print.

  5. The Today show did a story this morning about it after I had to leave for work. But evidently, they are not receiving the “Awwwwww” moment they were expecting. Folks is pissed to the highest level of pisstivity.

  6. I just read the article this morning and my lip will prolly be twisted ALL.DAY behind this foolishness.


    I can’t get over the fact that their kids KNEW each other for real, for real.

  7. I’m divorced. This couple’s story is foolishness and nothing to be proud of or flaunt in the NYT. I would not bless their mess.

  8. I wonder if things would have turned out differently if they had put as much energy into their affair as they did their previous marriages. As far as the article goes, I agree that it was in very poor taste.

  9. Everybody’s business is not everybody’s business. I think I would have been quite fine without hearing it. As well as their ex spouses and children.

  10. People can be very selfish and self serving and are often ruled by their emotions. This is just one example of that. Countless families have been destroyed for the same reasons that these were destroyed; this story just got some shine in the Times.

    Bottom line: many people are selfish and do what they want to do with their lives without thinking of the kids or anyone else. They rationalize what they are doing and proceed forth. It’s not right, but unfortunately it’s common.

  11. They forgot or perhaps their vows did not include the “forsaking all others” part.

    I hope they aren’t shopping a reality show.

  12. I have a problem with the Times running the story as if it’s A – OK. I’m trying not to be judgmental of the couple, although I don’t necessarily condone how they met.

  13. What kinda tom-foolery is this? Seriously. They did this shyt because they wanted to make themselves feel better about this mess. They want to say, “Look. We’re ok. What we did is ok.” But they know it’s not.

  14. I could not agree with you more. It’s the promotion of this “fairytale” that is getting under my skin. It should be enough for them to be happy, being married finally right ? I mean they knew they were hurting many other people by wanting to be together and did not want to become martyrs I get that. But to act like this is some fairytale is amazing ! And to put this out there in such a public forum shows even more disrespect to the spouses who were innocent in the demise of their marriages & still have to somehow deal with the pain, disappointment and embarrassment under a spotlight. Honestly the statistics are against them. Marriages that are borne of affairs (emotional or physical) do not usually stand the test of time. They have a higher divorce rate than first marriages. If this marriage doesn’t last & the spotlight is again turned onto their pain, I wonder if they will really get it then.

  15. I think they are some selfish SOBs. I stayed married 4 years longer than i should have because I wanted to get my son through highschool and into college. I didn’t want my son to be from a broken home and having to split his time between his parents. Plus there was the financial consideration, was son was in a rather expensive private school and I had no intentions of taking him out. It’s called sacrificing and IMO that’s what parents should do for their children’s betterment as long as there is no violence or abuse in the household. It might not be popular in this “me” times we’re living in, but that’s my true feeling. The children didn’t ask to be born, people pray for kids, take all kinds of drugs to have kids, women put their bodies through hours of painful labor, so then what is it to wait a few years and put your desires on hold? They act like this was some great love story or something….geez.

  16. I don’t know… There are relationships that have unorthodox beginnings. It is what it is. I wouldn’t ever recommend a couple staying together just the kids. Life is too short to not be happy and sometimes you have to take an “eff everybody else” stance and do what you like. No one would ask a homosexual person that has just come to terms with their “gayness” to stay in a hetero marriage. In fact, people would condemn them for NOT leaving! So why does it need to be any different for someone that has come to terms with the fact that they’ve fallen in love with another person? I do however agree that they didn’t have to wash everybody’s faces in it by having the story published. But from their point of view, maybe they feel it’s their story and have the right to tell it. *shrugs*

  17. Bragging like this is some great love story?


  18. Err, this one is kinda touchy. Although meeting at the bar was sneaky, secretive and all kinds of wrong, that doesn’t make “an affair”. Depending on their marriages, the “other” spouse didn’t have to notice anything was off. Perhaps the couple in question didn’t even realize that their “friendship” was crossing the emotional line into more. It’s unlikely they could have predicted, or wished this situation into existence. I understand doing things for the sake of your children, but staying in a marriage that your heart isn’t into? Err. I’m not side eyeing them or condemning them to eternal damnation, but I’m surely not envying them. They should probably seek family therapy ASAP.

    • Oh forgot to add – not a fan of the Times publishing the story. Even if they (the couple) was ballsy enough to write it, I don’t think it was in good taste to publish it.

  19. I’m giving one hell of a side-eye to this couple. I’m not convinced that the Lord sends you your soulmate or true love when you are already married. The two couples may not have been meant to be but that should’ve been worked out between them before adding other folks to the scenario. There is no good way to go about leaving your spouse for someone else, no matter the reason.

    I guess it’s a blessing, who wants to be with someone who would ditch you in that way?

  20. The comments to the article are…. 😆 I’d love to get a follow up in 5 years as one commenter suggested.

  21. Side-eye to these mf-ers.

  22. Well, I agree that meeting a friend at a bar, even without the spouce knowing, doesn’t make it an affair. It is a lot of things though, particularly sneaky and inappropriate as hell.

    As for the rest… I also feel some kind of way about them flaunting their love affair to the masses. Eapecially knowing they have kids still healing. Kinda reminds me of Helen Hunts character in Castaway. You had to feel her for staying with her family even tho she still loved Tom Hanks. But then again, I guess there is something to be said for following your own happiness… even if it devistates all in your wake. Perhaps the spouses left behind are now free to find their own “soulmates.” 😕

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