A public marriage spat that's terribly unbecoming

It is the world's window on the love lives of Manhattan's social elite, the directory of high-society marriages that seals any Upper East Sider's status as a true member of the establishment.

But now the serene grandeur of the New York Times' weekly "Vows" wedding section has been disrupted by a celebration of a relationship that tore two families apart.

The wedding was that of Carol Anne Riddell and John Partilla, she a New York newscaster, he a powerful marketing executive at Time Warner.

Their story - "What happens when love comes at the wrong time?" - has unleashed a torrent of online invective. It is all terribly unbecoming.

The couple fell in love while still married to other people. Each had children. But their tale, illustrated with glamorous photos from their wedding, was presented as a model modern divorce. "The part that's hard for people to believe is we didn't have an affair," Riddell said. "I did a terrible thing as honourably as I could," Partilla said.

In the comments section of the newspaper's website, reader after reader condemned the couple as selfish - if not actually for leaving their spouses, then at least for advertising the fact to the world.

"If the couple had a sense of decency and wished to truly respect the feelings of their ex-spouses, they would have denied themselves the pleasure of having their 15 minutes of fame in the New York Times," said one typical poster.

Others asked when did the New York Times "hire Perez Hilton" and start to "glorify homewrecking"? And an ordained marriage officiant wrote: "Why publish this, a story that cuckolds not only the institution of marriage but the unceremoniously discarded spouses?"

The Today show on NBC featured a psychologist calling the Vows piece the "confessional" of a couple wracked with guilt. Then came the angry intervention of Bob Ennis, Riddell's first husband.

"People lie and cheat and steal all the time," Ennis told the Forbes.com website. "But rarely does a national news organisation give them an unverified megaphone to whitewash it. You could easily try to brush this off as a ... self-serving act by a couple of narcissistic people who for whatever reason have a need to try to persuade people, except for the fact that there are lots of children involved."

- INDEPENDENT

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