Till Hotness Do Us Part

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Dec. 21 2010 11:06 AM

Till Hotness Do Us Part

I would love to know what other DoubleX ers make of the featured wedding this week in the Vows section of the New York Times -the story of the cheating couple who met at their kids’ preschool and dumped their spouses for each other. To me, one of the most damning facts was that they would agree to be featured, telling their sordid love story to the world, further humiliating their discarded spouses. In 2006 Carol Anne Riddell and John Partilla met at a nursery school class where their kids were enrolled. He had three kids, she had two, and they immediately clicked. The two families became fast friends, even vacationing together. All the while Riddell and Partilla were developing an extreme case of the hots for each other. There is nothing unusual about this. It’s easy to fantasize about a better life with the attractive spouse of your friend, the person who is not at the moment nagging you about the bills, or picking up the kids, or all the other stuff that reduces one’s partner’s allure.

Riddell and Partilla found themselves obsessed and longing for each other. There is nothing in the Times story to indicate there was anything wrong with either marriage or their existing spouses (both Riddell and Partilla express regret for the pain they caused them).* They simply realized they liked each other better. There are three basic things people do in these circumstances. One is to conclude one’s fantasy life is getting out of control, limit contact with the object of one’s desire, and count on the lust eventually passing. (That’s got my vote.) Two is to act on the lust, have an affair, but try to keep the whole thing a secret so as to not blow up two marriages. Three is to decide blowing up the marriages is worth it to be together, despite the enormous collateral damage to one’s spouse and children.

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During the agonizing break ups of their existing marriages, Partilla said he asked Riddell for assurance that the kids would be all right. She promised him they will be great. Oh really? Let’s hope they eventually will be, but those are five traumatized little people whose faith in adults, in love, in their understanding of the world has been forever shaken. I wonder if Riddell and Partilla, before they set off on their new lives, thought about how having five unhappy kids swirling around three households might put a damper on their fairy tale. It’s a lot of pressure to put on a relationship to justify the emotional agony, the financial expense of what they’ve done. It’s a sign of how oblivious these people are to the effect they have on others that they have been blindsided by the onslaught of hostile reaction to their story. The Times comment section is full of denunciations, and Partilla told the New York Post , "I think if we had had an indication afterwards of the nerve it would have struck, we obviously would not have shared our life in any way publicly."

* Update: Carol Anne Riddell's ex-husband, Bob Ennis, spoke to Jeff Bercovici at Forbes.com . Ennis called the Times column "a choreographed, self-serving piece of revisionist history for two people who are both members of the media industry." Ennis also says he was most upset that the Times featured a photograph of his daughter along with the article.

Emily Yoffe is a regular Slate contributor. She writes the Dear Prudence column. 

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