Al & Tipper: Did they fail?

I’ve read a couple of opinions about the Gores’ separation and in one, the guy concluded that after forty years if Al and Tipper couldn’t make it work, it meant that marriage and the family have surely gone to hell in a hand basket.  The other guy thought that we had all been duped because we fell for the storybook image they projected.  Both of these people admitted, as do I, that they couldn’t know the truth because well…we ain’t Al and Tipper.  But to me, neither of these theories works.

I mean, the Gores’ couldn’t make it work?  Really?  What about those forty years that they were together?  Weren’t they making it work then?  And we were duped?  Oh maybe there was some show, like when Al planted a sloppy one on Tipper at the 2000 Democratic National Convention.  But just because he tended toward exaggeration is no reason to conclude that we were duped.  To me, forty years means that there had to have been love—a love resilient enough to weather a lot of storms, including the near death of their 6-year-old son, Albert, who got hit by a car.  A love, like all loves, that goes through ups and downs, twists and turns, morphing into different shapes as time goes by.  Shapes that either continue to serve the two people involved, or not.  It seems Al and Tipper’s relationship has changed to the point that it is no longer fulfilling, so they are choosing to do something different.  I applaud them for that.

Maybe after forty years, their marriage had simply run its course.  Perhaps they needed to grow in ways that their marriage couldn’t accommodate. Maybe it was just time to experience new and different things, to find fulfillment in other ways, and perhaps, like my ex and I, they will find another form for their relationship that suits the people they have become, not the people they once were.  A form that will nurture them as their marriage once did…deep friendship, supportive companions, or people who don’t even see each other, but still carry each other in their hearts.  After forty years, the energy between them is there forever, whether they choose to see each other or not.  It takes courage to call it quits after so long and kudos to them for having the strength to do it in the way that they have—by talking it through, maturely, mindfully and coming to a mutual decision.

Successful relationships can take many forms; marriage is not the only way.  For some, marriage works for a lifetime.  Others stick it out, come hell or high water, whether it’s working or not.  Still others find non-conventional ways of being together that work for them, but may be frowned upon by traditionalists.  I embrace all of it.  To me the point is to find the way that works best for the two people involved rather than for everyone to try and fit themselves into the marriage paradigm.  We all have different histories, wounds and vulnerabilities, and it would be ludicrous to think we would all fit happily into one structure.

It’s not the container of the love that counts, it’s the love itself.  My bet is that after forty years, Tipper and Al still have love for one another.  Maybe not romantic love, but a love that is big enough to say, “Let’s go our separate ways, and see what’s there for us.  I wish you well on your continuing journey.”  To me, whether or not they stay married is beside the point.  They are honorable people doing it the right way, and they deserve to find happiness in whatever way they can.  Let’s not be so quick to judge.

Check out my book, The Affair: From Breakdown to Breakthrough, A Therapist’s Real-life Journey, to learn how my husband and I got through our crisis and made our bond stronger than ever. You can read a synopsis of the book on my website, and buy it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. The book gives you great tips and insights on relationships, as well as how to deal with this painful circumstance.

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