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?
There is no Prince Charming or Cinderella and definitely no Fairy Godmother making sure that every couple lives happily ever after. The bridal magazines and romance novels would have you think so, but reality has a sneaky way of entering every relationship.
Can a marriage that falls apart still be considered successful? Yes. For as long as it lasts, there can be "good" in a marriage. Al and Tipper Gore raised productive children and were engaged in outstanding projects. And, as blatantly seen by everyone, there was -- at one time -- true affection and connection in the marriage. If the Gores can't make it, is there hope for the rest of us? Absolutely.
I can go through the countless advice tips cited in magazines, self-help books, and marriage counseling sessions for what is required to have a successful marriage: aligned values, similar backgrounds, agreement on money, solidarity on raising children, mutual support, fighting fair, constructive criticism, frequent communication, sexual compatibility, acceptance/tolerance of in-laws, similar temperaments, enjoyment in the same activities, and on and on.
Research has shown that the top requirement for a couple staying together, no matter what they have been through, is that both people want to work it out and stay together. They find a way to heal, grow, forget, forgive, reconstruct, revitalize, redefine, whatever.
If one person loses interest in the marriage itself, there is failure. In support of this premise, I have found in my own coaching that the couples more likely to stay together are those who talk and share frequently, stay engaged as a couple as they pursue individual endeavors, learn and practice expert dialogue skills, and mindfully pay attention to the marriage itself.
We can only guess that one or both of the Gores wanted out of the boundaries of marriage -- still friends, companions in terms of their history and children, but no longer acting within the union of marriage.
So, like anything else in this world, you have to want it (vision) and work at it (mindful implementation). There is a major study often repeated in the business world on what keeps folks motivated at work. The top three, world-wide, are 1) wanting to be in on things (having information, frequent communication, not left in the dark, having a say in how things are done); 2) wanting to grow and learn as both a person and contributor, and 3) wanting to be acknowledged. Seems to me these are three good motivators for a good marriage also.
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