Garrison Wynn
Speaker, Consultant, Author

Garrison Wynn

Founder of Wynn Solutions, this keynote speaker is a former stand-up comedian and author of "The Real Truth About Success


What can you put up with?

Q: To the shock of even their closest friends, Al and Tipper Gore have announced their separation, after 40 years of marriage. And this is the couple that openly showed affection and wrote the book "Joined at the Heart." Can a marriage that comes apart still be considered successful? And if Al and Tipper can't make it, is there hope for the rest of us?

Can a marriage that comes apart still be considered successful? I guess it can if you got the results you were seeking -- as in, spending a huge part of your life with someone who will no longer live with you, producing 2.5 kids (that half a child is the slow one who didn't go to college), and losing half your stuff at retirement age. If that is an acceptable situation, then yes, congratulations, you have been successfully married.

I guess if you learned a lesson that is valuable enough, any experience is successful regardless of how it ends. But if the only lesson you learn is that it was the other person's fault entirely, most likely you cannot call the experience a success. In college and through my mid 20s, I learned that any woman who was really attracted to me was clearly not marriage material!

Those early, self-deprecating insights of mine have given way to data that exists on the topic of marriage, which apparently varies a bit based on whether you are male or female.

Most research on how people feel about marriage (which, by the way, no one wants to know) reflects that married men are happier than unmarried men and, paradoxically, that unmarried women are happier than married women. The data has skewed this way since researchers started asking people these questions anonymously 50 years ago. A lot of people -- women in particular -- feel trapped in unhappy marriages; in such situations, divorce might be an option you explore based on family finances, or on your response to pressure from society/your family/your religion to work it out, or both.

In the Gores' case, they can't divorce if they are trying to bring people together for an election or a cause. Can you name one politician who initiated a breakup in the middle of a campaign they thought they were going to win? Most successful men get divorces when they can afford it or if it can't hurt them politically. However, some of the lawyers I have talked to advise their wealthy clients to get separated rather than divorced because the financial fallout of divorce can dramatically reduce the lifestyle of both spouses.

So it really is "cheaper to keep her," and staying married to a rich person you no longer love seems to be preferred by most women to a divorce that leaves you with no country club membership and considerably fewer pairs of shoes. I'm not saying anyone should think that way; I'm just stating what researchers tell us. (Frankly, it sounds to me like being a marriage researcher is bad for your marriage!)

Let's get real and personal: Al Gore became very successful and the political campaigns were pretty hard on Tipper, as you may recall. Also, life with someone in the spotlight does not have a great track record for producing happiness. Oddly, when people who have been married for over 20 years co-author a book about how in love they are with each other, a divorce seems to follow shortly afterward.

The reality of marriage is that you marry someone because of who you think they are; and when, after being together for a few years (or 40), you find out who they really are, you have to decide if you can live with that! People do change and grow, but rarely at the same pace or in the same direction.

So the key is this: How much do you really like each other and what can you put up with long term? Can you accept the faults that may never improve? Love is wonderful, but the fact remains that you can love someone and still dream of killing them on a regular basis. I think you have to love them, really like them, and be able to enjoy their company with great consistency. If you can do that, then you can overcome the differences in thoughts and feelings that have always made understanding each other a challenge.

Many years ago, I gave my wife a half-pound box of chocolates for Valentine's Day and she said, "Do you know how much weight I will gain if I eat all this chocolate?" I said, "Yes, honey ... about a half a pound!" She laughed and said, "That is exactly the kind of answer I would expect from you." I said, "Well ... then our marriage is a success."

By Garrison Wynn  |  June 8, 2010; 12:36 PM ET  | Category:  Marriage and success Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Much work, and reward | Next: A beautiful game


Please report offensive comments below.

I would venture to say one of the Gores stopped putting out a while back and the other one got sick of it. There is no way in hell that either one of them will admit something like that to the media.
No one seems to talk about it much but sexual compatibility is a huge part of any marriage unless you are getting paid so an Immigrant can become a citizen. We all need to remember that without sex none of us would be here. Whatever the "research" says about marriages the sex seems to be missing from most discussions. Most of the people in this country have a difficult time talking about it and considering Tipper Gore has made a crusade of keeping musicians from singing about it; my money is on her not putting out anymore. What continues to happen in the bedroom is what will make or break a "happy" marriage.



Posted by: Rabbitsmoker | June 9, 2010 9:30 PM
Report Offensive Comment

I take my wife everywhere, but she still finds her way home.

Posted by: MarkDaniel | June 9, 2010 1:45 PM
Report Offensive Comment

A wise man once told me that the number one cause of divorce is marriage!

Posted by: devilsadvoc8 | June 9, 2010 8:53 AM
Report Offensive Comment

The Gore family had a life of adventure! Wow! They still like each other. I bet their children like/love them! A newer life awaits! Many women enjoy a life of new partners after a long marriage. What about the women who did not "hook up" before marriage? They have a real opportunity and so do their former husbands! The marriage worked just fine. As a long married but now divorced woman, I do not have to tell anyone when I will be home nor where I am going! Congratulations and best wishes to the Gore family. They will always be a family!

Posted by: judithclaire1939 | June 9, 2010 8:01 AM
Report Offensive Comment

The Gores are no different than anyone else despite our fascination with fame and wealth. I don't think I ever really found my soul mate...and neither did my wife of 40+ years. And so, stumbling and faltering our way thru life, we just made the best of what we did have. All things being equal, and looking around me, I can't say I would do any differently if I had it to do all over again. I never had the courage to ask her if she felt the same way. Maybe, that's what a soul mate is--someone with whom you would do it all over again, but someone, you are afraid, who would not want to do it all over again with you. My father would have mumbled something about that being a koan.

Posted by: johnkwhite1 | June 9, 2010 7:57 AM
Report Offensive Comment

The comments to this entry are closed.

RSS Feed
Subscribe to The Post

© 2010 The Washington Post Company