Filed in Divorce News: I was perusing the NYT and saw a wedding announcement for Carol Anne Riddel and John Partilla. The happy couple were both married and had young children (in fact they met at a Kindergarten pick up for their kids) when they met and divorced their respective spouses to be with each other. They announced their wedding in the New York Times and so there was this whole story on them which reads in part:
WHAT happens when love comes at the wrong time? 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.Part “Brady Bunch” and part “The Scarlet Letter,” their story has played out as fodder for neighborhood gossip. But from their perspective, the drama was as unlikely as it was unstoppable.
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.
So Ms. Riddell was surprised to find herself eagerly looking for Mr. Partilla at school events — and missing him when he wasn’t there. “I didn’t admit to anyone how I felt,” she said. “To even think about it was disruptive and disloyal.”
What she didn’t know was that he was experiencing similar emotions. “First I tried to deny it,” Mr. Partilla said. “Then I tried to ignore it.”
But it was hard to ignore their easy rapport. They got each other’s jokes and finished each other’s sentences. They shared a similar rhythm in the way they talked and moved. The very things one hopes to find in another person, but not when you’re married to someone else.
Ms. Riddell said she remembered crying in the shower, asking: “Why am I being punished? Why did someone throw him in my path when I can’t have him?”
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. “I did a terrible thing as honorably as I could,” said Mr. Partilla, who moved out of his home, reluctantly leaving his three children. But he returned only days later. Then he boomeranged back and forth for six months.
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 [more]
The thing with this story, lovely as it is, one just has to wonder if they can go the distance, or if they will always have trust issues? What if one or the other of them goes off to pick up the kids from after-school, or something, and likewise meets and “exuberant force?” Because forces come in all shapes and sizes and models of exuberance, you know. And so, at some point, once you’ve made a commitment, notwithstanding all the forces and the exuberances and temptations, you have to be committed enough in your marriage to eschew all that and go the distance. And frankly, based on their track records here, it is doubtful they have the constitution to pull off this “second marriage.” But one can only wish them well in giving it their best shot.
Oh, btw, I am not the only one who had misgivings about this story. Read this.