If the Gores can’t make it work, what hope is there for the rest of us?

Former Vice President Albert Gore Jr. and his wife Mary Elizabeth (you know her as Tipper) are separating after 40 years of marriage. This from the couple who exchanged one of the most public and memorable kisses in American history.

I haven’t really seen any information as to what prompted the couple to split up, but I can’t imagine that after 40 years they suddenly came to the realization that they didn’t realize what they had gotten into. This marriage survived a long political career and even a heartbreakingly narrow defeat for the presidency. That amount of pressure and pain would weigh heavily on even the best of marriages.

It had to be something else.

I doubt it was because the Gores were broke either – in 2007, Al’s net worth was valued in excess of $100 million. (He was “only” worth $2 million at best in 2000 so he has made most of the money since leaving Washington.) I mean if the Gores were just having a marital spat they could just flee on private jets to their separate mansions until things cooled off.

So that leaves us to speculate about other factors. Did they simply grow apart? Was there an extramarital affair a la John Edwards? (Side note: Many marriages survive affairs…just ask the Clintons.) Did one of them meet someone else to grow old with? Did one of them change so radically that the other couldn’t live with it anymore?

Marriages are not easy things to preserve. I recently experienced a divorce after six years of marriage. There were warning signs early on in my case, even before the wedding that I stubbornly ignored, so you can chalk that one up to hubris and holding on too long.

Yet I recently saw an old friend and met his second wife – since I had seen him last, he and his first wife of 31 years had been divorced. They were able to keep it together for decades, so you would imagine they learned how to resolve disputes at some point. I can’t imagine what the breaking point was, but it must have been really painful.

Maybe it’s the whole concept of marriage that isn’t working. I’m not saying it never works…my parents are still married after 31 years. But it fails often enough that we should question it. Is any of us really prepared to look into a crystal ball and make that kind of lifelong commitment (particularly when we are just starting out in life)? Are humans really built to be monogamous for life when our closest relatives in the animal kingdom are quite promiscuous?

P.S. Note to Tipper: your husband is not only fabulously wealthy and politically influential, but he has also won an Academy Award and the Nobel Peace Prize…all without a hint of scandal. He was a two-term Vice President and a few hundred Floridian votes away from being the President of the United States – he actually won the popular vote. Do you honestly think you can do better?

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