Jon took a job at a security-technology company in Washington, D.C. But he didn't much like it. And he couldn't find an affordable house near his office. Benjamin, the younger son, developed a severe respiratory disease that had him waking up at all hours gasping for air. Gray Carr hurtled into postpartum depression. One of their two dogs died. And the moving company hired to haul the family's belongings from Cleveland went belly-up. The Piejas' stuff was lost in a storage facility for months. They stayed in a Marriott in Fairfax, Virginia, with a toddler (age 2) and a baby (two months) and no crib. "Our whole life," Gray Carr says, "was gone."

But the house in Virginia brought hope. Gray Carr found it online, while searching an area where she used to go fox hunting. It was in the town of Warrenton, in Fauquier County, where the median family income approached six figures and most adults left the county for work. Jon would be one of them, making the 90-minute drive to D.C. every morning so his kids could go sledding on the fairways. They bought the home for $685,000, and Gray Carr turned it into a showplace, dotting the bureaus with pictures and hanging lush draperies. Soon Jon found a new job that allowed him to work from home.

The best thing about the place was its openness. The granite-slabbed kitchen faced the living room. The stairs led up to a balcony overlooking the foyer. The space felt like one enormous room, which appealed to Gray Carr's "control freak" tendencies—"I like to keep my thumb on the children," she says—and Jon's welcoming, grab-a-drink-and-put-on-some-tunes vibe. "I'm a Buffett fan," he says. "I don't get stressed out." There was no need for tucked-away hallways or quiet rooms, no need for privacy.

But Gray Carr's depression wouldn't go away, and Jon's easy-breezy style morphed—in his wife's eyes—from a blessing to a flaw. "Jon is happy where he is," Gray Carr says. "I'm not." The master bed grew cold. Gray Carr turned to yoga for healing, but Jon saw her new passion as an escape from him. On her birthday in 2007, after several failed attempts at communication, Gray Carr told her husband that she was unhappy. "He just stared at me like I had eight heads," she says. That's where their stories part for good. Gray Carr viewed her confession as a final warning. Jon saw it as a prompt to start working on their relationship. In January 2008, they went to a counselor in D.C., and there Gray Carr told her husband that she wanted a divorce. Jon burst into tears.

The two rode home in silence. Jon fixed himself a Jack and Coke. Gray Carr packed her things and trudged upstairs to a guest room. She sat up wondering what would happen next. Jon sat up wondering what had just happened.