Just 72 days after their $6 million wedding, the pair call it quits. Was it all a mistake? Or all for ratings?

By Charlotte Triggs and Jennifer Garcia
Updated November 14, 2011 12:00 PM

She was there to have a good time. But when Kim Kardashian arrived at the Midori Green Halloween Party at New York City nightclub Lavo on Oct. 29, conspicuously unaccompanied by her new husband, Kris Humphries, she was all about damage control. Decked out as the Batman villainess Poison Ivy, a subdued reality queen addressed nonstop chatter that her little more than two-month marriage was headed for disaster. “No matter what we do, there are going to be rumors,” she told PEOPLE. “That’s something I prepared Kris for.” True, a newlywed life spent in front of cameras-not to mention rooming with her sister Kourtney’s clan for the E! show Kourtney & Kim Take New York-was “not ideal.” But she was determined to make the best of it. And after all, when you are Kim Kardashian, family drama has a way of paying off. “It will probably be,” she noted matter-of-factly, “the best season yet.”

It may well be. But the romance of Kardashian and Humphries-which had kicked off with an over-the-top wedding for 400 guests estimated at $6 million 72 days before-has already been canceled. On Oct. 31, just three weeks after E! broadcast the four-hour special Kim’s Fairytale Wedding, the reality star filed for divorce in Los Angeles, citing irreconcilable differences. “I had hoped this marriage was forever, but sometimes things don’t work out as planned,” Kardashian said in a statement. “We remain friends and wish each other the best.” Her husband didn’t seem to have quite the same script. “I love my wife and am devastated to learn she filed for divorce,” he told PEOPLE in a statement. “I’m committed to this marriage and everything this covenant represents. I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make it work.”

All of which has led the jaded to wonder if anything to do with the very expensive reality love affair was real at all. While sources close to both insist her love was true, they also concede, after all those diamonds and all that champagne, it was likely doomed from the get-go. “They got engaged before they had ever spent a full week living together,” a Kardashian family pal says of the L.A.-based Kardashian, 31, and Minnesota-born Humphries, 26, a former forward for the New Jersey Nets. After their Aug. 20 wedding and five-day-long Italy “minimoon,” the pair moved in together for the first time in Manhattan, with cameras following their every move, as she launched a collection for Sears and he sat on the sidelines due to the NBA lockout.

“Throughout their whole engagement, they were so excited for what was to come and their life together,” says a longtime Kardashian friend. “But once they slowed down and settled into ‘real life,’ it became apparent that this wasn’t what they both thought it was.” With the stresses of filming, “it’s not like you’re settling into newlywed life by yourselves. You’re settling into it with cameras on you and America watching.”

Little wonder the hard-hearted have dismissed the entire L’affaire Humphries as a PR stunt. As news spread of the divorce filing, sites including The Hollywood Reporter began speculating that the union was “one big hoax all along” and simply a ploy to goose ratings of her reality show. “Kim Kardashian as a bride was a huge ratings boom,” says The Insider correspondent and USC media studies professor Mary Murphy. “Kim Kardashian brokenhearted will also be a ratings boom. They have a brand-new story line.” Not so, says an E! rep who strongly denies the claims: “This is absolutely not a publicity stunt. We were just as surprised as everybody else.”

Especially because ever since this time last year, as the reality star and fashion mogul turned 30, she seemed fixated on the idea of getting married. Kardashian had been down the aisle before-at 19, with music producer Damon Thomas-but divorced after four years in 2004. Still, she hadn’t given up on the institution. “I’ve always thought real success is when you find a husband and make a home and raise an incredible family,” she told People at the time. Friends say she would not have made that commitment for basic cable. “Their love was very real … but sometimes things are not meant to be,” says one of her closest pals, The Spin Crowd‘s Jonathan Cheban. Not only do both parties adamantly deny a staged romance, but some feel their quickie divorce might hurt her ever-expanding empire. “I don’t think it helps her or E! to have a backlash against the Kardashians if viewers feel manipulated,” says Stuart Levine, managing editor of Variety.

While conspiracy theories abound, a friend of Kardashian, who dated model Gabriel Aubry last fall before moving on to Humphries in November, believes it all boils down to this: The heart wants what the heart wants, and sometimes the heart is a pretty dumb organ. “She’s a hopeless romantic, and she felt like she got her fairy tale when she turned 30,” says the close family source.

Humphries, who is proud of his traditional Christian values, was happy to quickly make things official. After just six months of dating, he popped the question with a 20.5-carat Lorraine Schwartz diamond ring he helped design and paid for himself. (Though the ring, estimated to be worth more than $2 million, wasn’t free, Humphries “got a great deal,” admits a pal familiar with the situation.) “Kris was ready to get married right away. He thought things were right, and he said, ‘Let’s go for it!'” the pal recalls. “Kim wanted the fairy tale so badly. She rushed into it.”

And then reality (the non-TV kind) set in. Initially the businesslike Kim “loved that he was a playful person,” says a Humphries pal. But his fraternity antics-like knocking on strangers’ doors at a Las Vegas hotel-didn’t wear well. “Some call that immature,” concedes the source. “But he’s just easygoing.” Adds a Kardashian pal who spent time with them in New York: “They were always arguing over something, from his going out to her working too much. She thought there would be growing pains, but happy-ever-after turned into rudeness and resentment.” (In a preview of Kourtney & Kim Take New York, which debuts Nov. 27, the duo fought over a potential move to Minnesota, with Kardashian griping that she couldn’t work there and Humphries snapping, “By the time you have kids … no one will care about you.”)

Days before the divorce filing, it was reported that Humphries may have been the victim of alleged investment fraud by Andrey Hicks, one of his own wedding guests. A source familiar with the situation says he lost close to $1 million, which added to the couple’s tensions. And as Kardashian celebrated her 31st birthday Oct. 21, “she was getting embarrassed by things that he did, and divorce was on her mind a lot lately,” says the Kardashian family friend. The week before their split, she told Humphries “it wasn’t going to work” and that she intended to file for divorce, according to a close Kardashian source, adding that she waffled about her decision until the night before. Despite their divorce discussion, her actions left him “a little surprised,” says the source.

Now that the divorce is in motion, neither side expects a bitter battle. Sources say that an ironclad prenuptial agreement specifies that each party will keep their own assets, and that Humphries won’t challenge the document. “He didn’t marry her for money,” says a pal of his. “He makes his own millions. He’s a free agent and looking forward to his biggest contract yet.” With the paperwork in place, “it will be a clean break,” says the close Kardashian source. Adds the Humphries pal: “There’s no war here. He just wants things to die down.”

Even so, the split is still humiliating for Kardashian. “Kim is embarrassed about the entire thing,” says the Kardashian family friend, adding that she’s been particularly mortified when considering her wedding’s epic scale and “all the hard work, all the people that got involved.” And as for all the money that was made from the nuptials? While her celebrity status afforded her deals from many vendors, the source claims, “She in no way got that wedding for free,” and both sides insist that once all wedding costs were considered, minimal profit was made. Still, questions about the gifts the couple received linger (see box).

With her family by her side-“We’re very supportive of every decision that she makes,” brother Rob told PEOPLE-Kardashian will cope with the fallout from her blink-and-you-missed-it marriage. “She’s ready to take blame for things,” says the family friend. “She took the whole world through this journey. She got caught up in the fairy tale, but her heart wasn’t there in the end.”