The Vows section of The New York Times is a coveted place for couples to tell their love stories. But last Friday, it was also home to the tale of two broken marriages that preceded the union of New York media execs Carol Anne Riddell and John Partilla.
The couple met when they were married to other people. They fought their mutual attraction. But eventually they succumbed to it, divorced their respective spouses, and married each other.
Similar bittersweet stories have happened before, but this might be the first one documented in such high profile and told as a love story without regard to its casualties.
Unsurprisingly, there's been a lot of backlash against the Times, Riddell, and Partilla. Riddell's ex-husband is angry that the Times didn't contact him to obtain permission to print his daughter's photo. Many Times readers were aghast that the sad and selfish aspects of Riddell and Partilla's story were brushed aside in favor of the joyous "messiness" of true love.
Meanwhile, Riddell can't understand why people are upset, noting that "people are focusing a lot on the negative, but there was a lot of positive."
Riddell and Partilla are in love, and apparently they are so blinded by it that they can't be bothered to see how telling their story to The New York Times twisted the knives deeper into the backs of not just their former spouses, but of anyone who has ever been the casualty of a love like theirs. By crowing publicly about the joy they've found, they've also reminded people of the pain they caused (and in turn, the pain that so many other ex-spouses have borne).
It's surprising that a couple of high-powered media execs couldn't see the potential for backlash. By virtue of their profession, they should have an intimate understanding of how stories will be received by the public. There was no way to tailor their story such that the majority response would be positive. For that reason alone, they shouldn't have worked with the Times.
Worse than that, this sensational telling was gratuitously self-serving and crass. Riddell and Partilla may be over the moon with happiness, but at least two other people -- their former spouses -- are forced to lick their wounds in the public eye. Children of divorce suffer no matter where they live, but as Riddell's ex-husband Bob Ennis noted, "New York can still be a dangerous town for children of wealthy people." The children in this newly blended family have been subject to their parents' whims, right down to the telling of their private story.
For the children's sake, I hope that Riddell and Partilla's union lasts. For Riddell and Partilla's sake, I hope they are satisfied to step out of the spotlight and return to their messy lives, made even messier by their blind selfishness.
Image via The New York Times