Hot on HuffPost:

See More Stories

'Brady Bunch' Meets 'Scarlet Letter': NYT 'Vows' Tale Ignites Firestorm

4 years ago
  0 Comments Say Something  »
Text Size
The romance between a dynamic, attractive Manhattan TV news anchor and a hunky triathlete and ad exec was called "part 'Brady Bunch' and part 'Scarlet Letter'" in the New York Times' Sunday Vows column.

Collectively, Carol Anne Riddell and John Partilla had five young kids and two spouses when they met in 2006 at a pre-kindergarten classroom on the Upper West Side. The families became close enough to dine and vacation together.

You know, of course, where this is leading.

They fell madly in love, finally admitted it to each other but say they refrained from having an affair. Instead, after much see-sawing, soul-searching and second-guessing, they broke up their marriages, lived apart, lived together, and tried to cope with all the devastation. They were divorced from their respective spouses last year, married each other last month, and then held a celebration attended by their offspring and dozens of well-wishers.

Yes, it happens, but usually not with such tortured and tortuous detail in the prime media real estate known as the Vows column, although New York magazine tracked a trend toward including two-timing twosomes last year. One could argue convincingly that Sunday's saga seemed better tailored to the angst-heavy, confessional "Modern Love" column than the often sappy-happy-obstacle-overcoming wedding section, particularly if one peruses blogs such as YouBeMom, written by a couple of ex-New Yorkers.

Was there any newsroom debate at the Times about the pain such a big story might inflict on the children and the aggrieved exes? Any attempt to contact the unnamed first spouses?

If there was, no one is talking. Instead, communications director Danielle Rhoades Ha offered this breezy explanation:

"The Vows feature gives a close-in account of a wedding every week. Every one is different. We don't attempt to pass judgment on the suitability of the match, the narrative of the romance, the quality of the ceremony or the flavor of the wedding cake."

On Monday, however, the bride happily chatted with, saying they chose to be featured in Vows "because we just wanted one honest account of how this happened for our sakes and for our kids' sakes. We are really proud of our family and proud of the way we've handled this situation over the past year. There was nothing in the story we were ashamed of."

Bob Ennis, Carol's ex, begs to differ, telling Politics Daily Tuesday that the account was a "whitewash" of the romance and that he worried about the story's affect on the five children involved.

Not surprisingly, there has been a firestorm of reader reaction, some outraged, some empathetic. It ranges from "Why does the Times glorify home-wrecking?" to gratitude for "the honest reflection" of two adults "who did not actually cheat on their spouses" to "Soul mates indeed. And people get up in arms about gay marriage."

Riddell called the backlash "sort of surprising to me. I think people are focusing a lot on the negative, but there was a lot of positive. We've had a lot of people say to us how brave we are to do this, how commendable it was that we were as honest as we were."

She wouldn't say whether she and Partilla gave their exes either a heads-up or veto power, although the former spouses are now easily findable via Forbes' links to their original Times wedding announcements.

For a little perspective, I called Stephanie Coontz, an Evergreen State University professor specializing in marriage and family issues, who e-mailed her thoughts while in Hawaii.

"I am disturbed by the tendency to use the marriages and divorces of people we don't know as an ink-blot test for our own anxieties about love, marriage, commitment, and parenting, so I don't think the world needs to hear my opinions on this particular story. What does concern me, not just with this couple, but with so many other marriages and divorces, is people's willingness to invite such commentary by taking their piece of the story public, instead of working with the other adults involved to develop a narrative that doesn't require their children to take sides or to hear things about their parents that they really do not want or need to know."

Meanwhile, the guy with potentially the most to gain from the story going viral is Times nuptial chronicler Devan Sipher, a four-year freelancer who, having told his employer he was working on a novel, just sold a thinly veiled roman a clef about, well, a wedding writer who can't find a bride to call his own.

If the plot sounds vaguely familiar, think "27 Dresses," the Katherine Heigl comedy about a perennial bridesmaid.
The poor thing is smitten with her sister's fiance, but ultimately finds love with the reporter who outs her "never-the-bride" life in the hopes the story will get him promoted.

Who knows -- maybe Ridell and Partilla can introduce Sipher to Ms. Right. And if she has to leave a husband or boyfriend to find happiness with the wedding writing novelist, Vows will be all over it.

Click play below for analysis from two psychology experts on MSNBC:

Filed Under: Republic of Dish, Woman Up

Our New Approach to Comments

In an effort to encourage the same level of civil dialogue among Politics Daily’s readers that we expect of our writers – a “civilogue,” to use the term coined by PD’s Jeffrey Weiss – we are requiring commenters to use their AOL or AIM screen names to submit a comment, and we are reading all comments before publishing them. Personal attacks (on writers, other readers, Nancy Pelosi, George W. Bush, or anyone at all) and comments that are not productive additions to the conversation will not be published, period, to make room for a discussion among those with ideas to kick around. Please read our Help and Feedback section for more info.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum Comment Moderation Enabled. Your comment will appear after it is cleared by an editor.


Filter by:

This is a CROCK!No wonder marriage is on the rocks..with everything from men on men to"as long as we both shall love"marriage is a COMMITMENT..for ONE man and ONE woman to agree to stay together to raise their offspring..80% of all felons come from broken homes..both these folks OUGHT to be taken out and SHOT..putting those little kids thru all that!'s fashionable to be selfish even to put your OWN happiness AHEAD of your children..the idea that the kids will be better off, a secondary rationalization..every time you hear of a child abused or killed by a parent..remember..THIS is where it starts....

December 25 2010 at 1:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The term soul mate seems to justify the most unspiritual behavior, if indeed we believe we have a soul. It also indicates that their soul mate has somehow been predestined for them, to the exclusion of all else, without our free will. The whole concept of soul mate is the ultimate justification for doing what ya damn well please, "can't control it, he/she is my soul mate," regardless of how much damage is done to those left behind. I've seen first hand, in my own family, the aftermath of those who have found their "soul mate" in the arms of another married man/woman. Hmm, if one believes that God created the soul, then I beg the question, upon which side of the argument would rest His judgment

December 22 2010 at 2:26 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

They seem to need some sort of public approval. It is sad that people can be so selfish and put aside the needs of their family so they can meet their own personal needs. In 5 years they will be right back where they were---looking outside their marriage for happiness. It comes from within when you do the right thing and work through your problems rather than jumping ship--or jumping somethin'.

December 21 2010 at 11:56 PM Report abuse +11 rate up rate down Reply

They're very happy now but ... what happens when they meet another couple? They already know that neither one of them can be trusted. How can they really be happily married - ever?

December 21 2010 at 11:26 PM Report abuse +16 rate up rate down Reply

I don't know if my last comment took I didn't see it but my parents have been married for 61 years now as of Sept 4,they were told that the marriage would never work.I love my mom and dad good parents and good people who tried to do the best that they could as parents to us 5 kids.

December 21 2010 at 11:16 PM Report abuse +8 rate up rate down Reply

While I feel they had the right to divorce and remarry, I don't think it was necessary to humiliate their exes OR put it out for the world to see. Divorce is always difficult on children and seeing it in print (or hearing about it from a neighbor or classmate) will only hurt the children. Bad, selfish move on the bride's part. AND extremely tacky.

December 21 2010 at 10:50 PM Report abuse +20 rate up rate down Reply
Lizzie Walsh

This is newsworthy? Comment worthy? When TEEN MOMS are featured on magazine covers, we are going to care that two people fell out of love with their spouses, separated, divorced and then married each other? Worry about teenagers having babies and being famous for it, and then I will concern myself with the actions of legal age consenting adults.

December 21 2010 at 10:44 PM Report abuse +12 rate up rate down Reply

Ok, I don't care how "in love" you are...why would you ADVERTISE a story like this? I commend the fact that they were honest with their spouses at the time instead of having an affair behind their backs, but that doesn't make the story all THAT much better. They have the right to live their lives however they want, and even be proud of it...though I don't see why the ruination of 2 marriages is something to be proud of, but yet again...why ADVERTISE it? Was it necessary to put all the sad details of the deaths of their previous marriages in a newspaper? That seems selfish and terribly self serving. I'm glad you want to pat YOURSELVES on the back, but what about your kids? This couldn't have been easy on them, now EVERYONE knows their private lives. Would the story not have been romantic enough if it began AFTER their divorces as 2 single people? Why go so far back in history?

December 21 2010 at 10:05 PM Report abuse +15 rate up rate down Reply

Right or Wrong we should not judge these people for what they did. We have all faulted in out lives. To some of us its a bad situation to others its a love story. Its life and things happen. You can only grow and learn from these life experiences. Never say Never. They didnt havent a physical affair but they did have an emotional affair and that does hurt their ex spouses.I just hope that the ex wife and ex husband of the new couple find peace, love and happiness. Good luck to all that are involved.

December 21 2010 at 9:56 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
Slow Poke

The grass always looks greener on the other side of the fence. Bad move....

December 21 2010 at 9:50 PM Report abuse +8 rate up rate down Reply

Follow Politics Daily

  • Comics
Featuring political comics by Robert and Donna TrussellMore>>
  • Woman UP Video
politics daily videos
Weekly Videos
Woman Up, Politics Daily's Online Sunday ShowMore»
politics daily videos
TV Appearances
Showcasing appearances by Politics Daily staff and contributors.More>>