09/08/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT
From the start, Rob Sussman had issues with marrying above his tax bracket. When the struggling illustrator wed talk show host Ricki Lake in 1994, he told PEOPLE that having his wife support him "seems really unhealthy and emasculating." But months later he had warmed to the situation. "As long as I'm working really hard too," he said, "we're a team."
Not anymore. Lake, 34, filed for a legal separation from Sussman, 37, on Aug. 13. The two were mum on details of the split, but Lake wants legal custody of their two sons, Milo, 6, and Owen, 2. "I'm not surprised," says one former Lake associate, pointing to the wage gap as a continuing problem for the pair. Lake and Sussman began attending couples' therapy just months after their Vegas nuptials, but Lake remained optimistic. "Two years from now," she told USA Today in 1996, "he could be supporting me."
While Sussman's illustrations appeared in The New York Times, his success never matched that of his wife, who celebrated Ricki Lake's 10th anniversary last year. The couple's move from New York City to a $6.5 million L.A. mansion this year didn't help the marriage. Back in 1994 Sussman told PEOPLE, "I don't want to become Mr. Ricki Lake." Now that's no longer a concern.