both sides of a breakup

The First Mistake Was Letting Their Mothers Help Plan the Wedding

Illustration: Jeni Zhen

In Both Sides of a Breakup, the Cut talks to exes about how they got together and why they split up. Gina, 34, and Anthony, 39, connected over their shared background, but were torn apart by their tempers. This is their story.

Gina: I hesitate to do this because we have such different sides! He’s probably going to say nothing made me happy, and he tried anything and everything, but that I was just an unhappy B-word …

Anthony: I loved that girl. However, we were not a good match. I can look back now and see it crystal clear. Like, sometimes you look back at things and only remember the good. With us, I look back and remember alllll the shit. But, yeah, I mean, I still love her.

Gina: Where do I begin? Okay. We met in Brooklyn, when I was about 21. We were both born and raised in New York. Similar upbringings, which I loved and still do love. Italians. Catholic. Strict parents. We both liked to go out a lot. We were good kids but wild — your typical Italian smartasses. We both could’ve gone to good colleges but instead, we both chose careers. I do hair and he has his family’s electrician business. They do well, don’t kid yourself.

Anthony: We met at a club in the city, but we were both from Staten Island. We knew some of the same people but hadn’t crossed paths. There was instant chemistry. Instant! I said to my friend, “This is the girl I’m going to marry.”

Gina: I knew it. I just knew it. I was going to marry him.

Anthony: It was picture perfect, the first year we were together. Happiest I’ve ever been.

Gina: He drove me crazy from the start. But it wasn’t always bad crazy — sometimes it was good crazy. It was always extreme. Extreme fun. Extreme fighting. Extremely hot sex. Extremely big fights after sex. I know it sounds like a cliché, but you watch those movies like Casino or Goodfellas, the old-school Italian relationships, all sexy and hostile, that was us. I’d say our fighting got to the point of abusive. He never laid a hand on me, but I think we were both verbally abusive at least.

Anthony: She was perfect. What can I say? She was perfect. She made me crazy, but she was perfect.

Gina: We got engaged in Rome, after a year together. I was 22. He was 27. The first horrible mistake I made was involving both of our mothers in the wedding planning.

Anthony: Things felt rocky, leading up to the wedding. But it was all normal stuff — our mothers were bickering, the guest list was an ordeal.

Gina: Having our families involved in the wedding planning started nonstop drama. Not only were we always fighting, now our families were always fighting. Italians do love to fight, we get off on it, but here’s my secret: I’m like 15 percent Irish. The Irish like to sweep things under the rug and keep things civilized. I craved a little goddamn civilization.

Anthony: We did have a beautiful wedding. Gina was a knockout bride.

Gina: I’m not going to say our wedding wasn’t the best day of my life. It was. It truly was. This is where I start to cry … it’s just that after the wedding, the drama never ended. We fought about everything from money to family to church to freakin’ what to eat for dinner or which wine to open or what to bring to my nephew’s birthday party. I’m telling you, I couldn’t come up for air.

Anthony: It was hard. I come from parents who love each other more than anything in the world, but they fight like animals. So I didn’t really realize how “abnormal” our fighting was. It’s hard to know what is typical marital arguments and a relationship that is … what ours was.

Gina: Torture. My marriage felt like torture. I can say that, and I can also say that I loved and still love Anthony. But our marriage was torture. All that verbal abuse — coming out of my mouth too, mind you. It was toxic.

Anthony: I was pushing real hard for kids. I couldn’t wait to become a father.

Gina: I had a pit in my stomach every time we talked about kids. I knew we could get divorced without kids and it wouldn’t be too hard, but with kids, a whole different story. I probably never would have left him if we had kids. It’s a blessing that I never got pregnant that first year of marriage.

Anthony: I knew she wasn’t happy.

Gina: I kept getting sick. If I didn’t have a bad cold, my back would kill me, or I’d have these bad breakouts on my face. And my weight was up and down. I went to my doctor and I was like, What the hell is up with me? I’ve never been a sickly person in my life! He looked at me and said, “One word, kid: STRESS.” I drove home thinking, My marriage is killing me. We were never relaxed. We’d pick fights over everything. And then I’d just stew. I didn’t want to die young of stress!

I told him I wanted to get divorced right after our one-year anniversary. The reason is pretty easy to sum up: I couldn’t take it anymore.

Anthony: There was nothing I wouldn’t have done to keep her. I’d previously said no to any form of therapy, but I said I’d do it now. She really had her mind made up, though. Before she asked for a divorce she had already set herself up back at her parents’ house. She was ready and nothing was going to stop her.

Gina: Moving back to my mother’s was just a transitional thing. I had to figure out my finances and make some plans. I was there for a few months.

Anthony: I’m not going to say something cheesy like, “If you love somebody let them go …” But my thought process was something in that vein. She’s a great girl, so I wanted her to do what she felt was best. I didn’t want to meet someone new, but I never had problems meeting women. I told myself … take a few months and feel sorry for yourself, and miss her … and then go meet the mother of your children.

Gina: Ending our marriage was a relief. It was very sad, and I cried every day for probably three months, but, it was a relief. After those months at my mom’s, I moved in with a girlfriend who worked all the time. She was the one who inspired me to travel and grow up, to “find myself.” And after my divorce, I did!

Anthony: It’s been maybe ten years. I’m almost 40! I have three kids and a beautiful wife. We moved to Jersey so I could expand my family’s business. Thank God we’re all doing well. I count my blessings every day, I do.

Gina: I dated around, traveled, and had fun for the rest of my 20s. It was what I should’ve been doing all along. Growing my self, expanding as a person, seeing more of the world. Then I met my husband — another Italian, God help me — about four years ago. He’s a saint. We had some trouble conceiving, but now I have two twin girls and they’re the greatest joys of my life. Life has been very good to me. I count my blessings. I think about Anthony sometimes. It’s such a distant memory yet also so vivid. I try not to live with regrets. I look back at my first marriage with a little eye roll, like, Oh, Gina, you were so young and dumb. And then I smile.

Letting Their Mothers Help Plan the Wedding Was a Mistake