I won’t sink to speculate on the cause of their separation. To suspect Al Gore is another link in the chain of celebrity cheaters didn’t even occur to me. (Okay, it did– but just briefly). Whether fame and power are factors in this case, there could be a myriad of other reasons.
Marriage is always a mystery. And 40 years is an eternity in marital years—way longer than dog years. Assuming the Gores truly remain on friendly terms, 40 years of marriage could be seen not as a failure but as an accomplishment.
I’ve come to wonder whether our species is meant to mate for life. Mating has to evolve as we’ve evolved—now that our lifespan has multiplied the years spent under the same roof (or cave). We don’t require a mate to survive—and the challenges to survival are less threatening to the individual—and more threatening to the institution. ( does anyone else wonder about the idea that we refer to marriage as an “institution” to which we “commit” ourselves?)
I confess I sound cynical—and that extends to authorities on “successful” marriages. I don’t buy the idea that there is a recipe for something that will be tried and tested and tortured by life—often through no fault of the people involved. Over the years, if there’s anything I’ve learned—-I’ve learned I know nothing. It’s impossible to predict what brings people together—-or what holds them together.
Personally, (15 years married; one divorce; a second marriage of 15 years and counting) I’ve come to believe marriage is a no-brainer. As in: don’t think too much. So much about marriage is not found in the brain—or the heart. It’s a function of timing, circumstances—and just plain luck. You have to wonder whether marriages worked equally well when matchmakers or parents did the job of finding the right mate.
Equally impossible is to assess the institution itself—when one size doesn’t fit all, it doesn’t seem possible to measure the meaning. I can’t believe any theory of what makes marriage work when it works in a unique way for each unique couple.
Take the Gores and the Clintons. The Gores locked in a passionate kiss at the Democratic convention at the moment the Clintons were mired in the morass of Monica. Which couple would you have predicted would stay married? And what does that mean to them, anyway?
As for finding that perfect mate, I’m also cynical about that. Some people say marriages take work; others claim it’s a piece of cake. Some say opposites attract; some say people should be like peas in a pod. Some couples thrive on separation; others are joined at the hip. How do you know who —and what—to believe?
Ironically I just finished reading Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat Pray Love–who in her new book applies her considerable energy to examine the institution of marriage. Her personal experiences are engaging, still she doesn’t really come up with any answers. Not that Gilbert claims to be an expert—and neither do I.
I’m leaning towards a theory put forth by a friend (definitely not a marriage expert.) She speculates that couples who endure —look at each other with less than clear vision. In other words, her theory is that in order for a marriage to last— when it comes to feelings about each other, both people involved need to have a screw loose.
I love it. Definitely offers a new way to think about the state of the union: Are we committed—or screwed?