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In hindsight, it seems like an obvious omen. As Tori Spelling tried to take her first step down the aisle during a lavish ceremony in the 56,000-sq.-ft. Los Angeles mansion belonging to her dad and mom, Aaron and Candy Spelling, her heel got stuck in her $50,000 custom-made Badgley Mischka gown and she couldn't move. Moments later she got unstuck, and everything else went smoothly in her $1 million wedding to Charlie Shanian—featuring 50,000 flowers, a 30-piece band and dinner for 350 prepared by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. Still, there did remain one teeny, tiny wrinkle: her feelings, though she didn't seem to know it at the time. Just hours before her July 3 wedding last year, Spelling told PEOPLE, "My mom always said the man you end up marrying should love you a little more than you love him. I always thought my mom was wrong. But it's that way with Charlie."

Turns out Mom was mistaken. Since early August, Spelling, 32, has been living apart from Shanian, 36, a writer-actor whom she met in L.A. in 2002, when she starred in the play he co-wrote Maybe Baby, It's You. In a conversation with PEOPLE on Sept. 16, the actress expressed uncertainty and sorrow as she talked about a day she hoped would never come. "I went into the marriage with the best intentions, hopes and dreams," says Spelling. "I feel that I've really disappointed people. I've disappointed everyone who came to my wedding. I'm disappointed in myself," she adds. "I don't know exactly what happened and when things started to go wrong."

Reached on his cell phone after he left L.A. to visit family in Boston when Spelling announced the split, Shanian declined to comment about the breakup. But according to a source close to Spelling, by the beginning of August, when she traveled to Ottawa to film the TV movie Mind over Murder, she and Shanian were no longer "a cohesive unit. They were living separate lives." Away on the set for three weeks, "She realized the relationship was not right for her," says her friend. She also realized something else: She was developing feelings for costar Dean McDermott. The actor, 38, who according to a source was also in a "marriage that was not working," was equally drawn to Spelling, and the two became romantically involved. "It just happened," says Spelling's friend. "No one meant any harm to anyone. You can't help who you fall in love with and who you're right with."

Still, her friends insist, the romance between Spelling and McDermott—who filed for divorce on Sept. 9 from his wife of 12 years, Mary Jo Eustace—had nothing to do with Spelling's breakup. "The marriage was over a long time ago," says a friend of hers. "They never should have married in the first place."

So why did they? "My whole life I was with men that I loved way more than they loved me," she said last year. As she explained this April, "I always thought because I was blessed with so much, I didn't deserve a great guy. So I had a string of horrible relationships." Until Shanian, whom she called "the most supportive, wonderful man ever." Their low-key life—playing mom and dad to three cats and two dogs (pugs Mimi La Rue and Ferris, who walked down the wedding aisle in a dress and a tuxedo), watching movies at home with a picnic on their bed—made her feel calm, safe and cared for. "He's a bright, funny, articulate, wonderful man," says her pal. "Her friends adore him."

Ironically, it was in part the overwhelming approval of those close to her that helped push Spelling toward marriage. "All their friends were so happy for them, saying, 'You guys are so great together' and 'He's such a great guy,' and it took on a life of its own," says a source close to the actress. "They got caught up in the excitement and the wedding planning." But after the excitement died down, husband and wife were left with the truth of what they were to each other. "Just close friends," says the source. "She has an enormous amount of respect for him. She cares so much for him and depends on him for advice. But that can't sustain a marriage. They were always meant to be just friends." Adds another: "She loved him. But she wasn't in love with him."

In March, sightings of Spelling with other men during Fashion Week in L.A. sparked speculation that the marriage was in trouble. At the time, Spelling dismissed the talk. "My husband doesn't like fashion shows," she said, adding, "I have a lot of guy friends. I've always had guy friends." In the process of making a pilot for a sitcom based on her own life, called NoTORIous, she wrote off the tabloid reports as "material for the show." (It will air on VH1 early next year.) Privately, however, she and Shanian knew they had issues they had to resolve. "Our relationship was very normal and real," says Spelling. "You go through ups and downs."

By summer they were heading toward a permanent down, one made more certain by her feelings for McDermott. Though she and Shanian separated about a month ago—she stayed with friends when she got back from Canada—they had hoped to keep the news quiet until they had time to sort things out. But according to Spelling, media speculation prompted her to release a statement on Sept. 16. "This has been tough," she says. "I wish Charlie and I had had the chance to figure this out by ourselves, in private."

As soon as possible, Spelling says, she hopes to sit down with Shanian and "talk about all this in detail"—figuring out, for instance, who will live where. For now, her possessions remain in the L.A. apartment they shared. "It's not easy to make decisions like this," she says, "and it takes time to know what you are going to do." According to a close friend, Spelling has "no regrets" about getting married: "It's something they both needed to get through." But now the actress, for one, is ready for the next stage. "I know it's going to be even harder from here on," Spelling says. "But I also know it's all going to work out, whatever happens."

Karen S. Schneider. Ulrica Wihlborg, Elizabeth Leonard and Nicholas White in Los Angeles

  • Contributors:
  • Ulrica Wihlborg,
  • Elizabeth Leonard,
  • Nicholas White.