A sad, slow unraveling
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?
Like mostly everyone else, I was stunned that Al and Tipper Gore are separating. But what I am really trying to figure out is, "Why do we all care so much?" With a divorce rate hovering at around 50 percent, divorce is hardly breaking news. What is it about Al and Tipper's situation that fascinates us? Is it because they appeared to have it all together?
They clearly have weathered many storms ... it isn't as if they had smooth sailing all the way through their 40 years. (And besides, wouldn't that be boring?) Is it because in spite of those storms, they always seemed to be able to reach back to one another for strength, support, understanding and friendship?
For me, I think that is where the sadness sets in. Where did the connection start to unravel? To make a decision to end a marriage that spans four decades, through careers, the death of parents, career successes and failures, serious challenges with children ... to leave all of that isn't a decision that's made overnight.
I think what is also hard to accept is the fact that -- as far as we know -- there is no "scandal." Al didn't hook up with an Argentinean journalist when he was supposedly hiking the Appalachian trail. He didn't hook up with an "escort." He didn't have an encounter in a men's bathroom in an airport. He didn't carry on a relationship with an aide. He didn't father a child from a mistress (who posed half-naked for GQ and cried to Oprah that she was misunderstood) and then arrange a staffer to claim the paternity.
Sadly and surprisingly, he and Tipper simply grew apart.
Marriage therapists and relationship "experts" are having a field day with this "news." According to the "experts," due to life expectancies now, people who marry young (say in their 20s) could conceivably be with the same person for 70 or 80 years. Is that realistic? Is 60 becoming the new 40?
Is it really possible for two people to travel the exact same road, grow at the exact same pace, and develop in the exact same way emotionally, spiritually and intellectually so they stay in sync for their entire lives? Or, at the very least, to be able to find their way back to each other if their paths diverge?
I think it's possible that married couples look at Al and Tipper Gore and can't help but internalize and personalize the situation. They examine their own unions and perhaps look for evidence of cracks in the foundations. They start to question their own long-term compatibility, perhaps pondering the possibility that the grass may be greener on the other side.
The truth is that we never really know what happens behind closed doors -- in any marriage. Even the most seemingly perfect unions have their flaws. Every couple must decide for themselves what works and what doesn't work, how much compatibility and connectivity they need from their partner, and whether they want to preserve what they've built.
It's a highly personal decision, and one couple's outcome really shouldn't have any bearing on the rest of us. But, as the headlines demonstrate ... it does.
Posted by: Straightline | June 9, 2010 10:53 AM
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Posted by: druvas | June 9, 2010 7:36 AM
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