Therese Borchard, whose blog on depression and mental illness is quickly becoming a must stop for me during the workday, offers this piece that asks why Al and Tipper called it quits after 40 years.

“We’ve simply grown apart” is the reason the Gores give. And, even if something else did happen that the media hasn’t yet uncovered, that reason is one of the most common listed by divorcing couples among some others: money, infidelity, poor communication, change in priorities, lack of commitment to the marriage, addictions, and physical, emotional, or sexual abuse.
Let’s face it, even with two well-adjusted adults who care about each other, marriage involves a ton of hard work, sacrifice, generosity, selflessness, and other virtues that don’t come naturally to most of us. If we don’t diligently work on our relationship, it will decay. Quickly.

Bingo. Marriage is work. Relationship is work. Love is actually difficult. Or better stated CHOOSING to love and to REMAIN in relationship takes a strong commitment. It doesn’t just happen. Some days we indeed need to temper our expectations because what we expect life to throw us and what we expect our partner to act like doesn’t always meet with our hopes of an ideal scenario.

And it’s all too easy to quit. Perhaps the Gores worked at it, but just couldn’t do it. Let’s remember that Al was out of the house for years campaigning and being in Washington. Perhaps this couple led separate lives and when they came back together indeed they didn’t recognize one another. In essence, they literally “grew apart.”

My wife is great about the reconnecting elements of our marriage. While apart most of the day she will make several attempts at reconnecting throughout the day. If I’m honest, I’ll admit to being annoyed at a call at an inopportune time. Or when I’m on the road, she might wonder why I haven’t taken the time to call her. Two wonderful women in my life, put me wise to looking at this a new way.

Sue Donovan, who was the head of Paulist Media Works (which no longer exists) saw my frustration when Marion was angry once when I didn’t call while I was at a conference. I think her reaction was something like “WELL OF COURSE, SHE’S ANGRY! (big sigh) Mike, you have to make some time for her when you’re away, even if it’s just a quick call.”

The second, Sr. Christine Wilcox, OP, a wonderful friend who I’ve done much work with over the years, said it simply.

“You’re a lucky man. She could not call you at all. She could not care if you’re home or not.”

And since Christine said those words to me, I smile almost every time my phone says that it’s my wife calling.

I said almost…

Because marriage is indeed challenging. When I’m writing and need quiet, or with students on spring break, or when a conference comes and it’s our anniversary, I have to choose between reconnecting my marriage or tending to other matters. The good news is that most of the time we both can give each other the space to be ourselves with a promise to reconnect later and we stick to that. I’m probably the one who fails at this more often but I’m getting better.

It’s only taken me 8 years to learn. 10 if you count the pre-marital dating.

Reminding one another of what it is that we love about each other and what our evolving passions are is actually a moment of seeing God working in our marriage. God shows us new glimpses of one another as we each grow passionate about our commitments and desires. God also stays with us as we struggle at times with sickness, finances, situations and reminds us that we are all together and this unity of God and couple is what provides us with strength for the journey.

Perhaps this is why they make us take vows? And these reconnections, made by my wife and I, remind us both of those vows throughout the day.

Last week, Marion and I were asked to be a “support couple” for the Catholic Charities Volunteer Service Corps. This reminds me of how great Marion has been for my ministry and how we are better together than apart. I bring her on retreats, to mass, to events and she’s always helpful and giving. Another person might not have that commitment to MY ministry. But somehow Marion has made it part of her life and our marriage.

Talk about a blessing.

There’s a great line at the end of The Prince of Tides which says:

It is in the presence of my wife
and children…
… that I acknowledge my life,
my destiny.

I am a teacher…
… a coach…
… and a well-loved man.
And it is more than enough.

So when the dog acts out, or a relative needs help, or when a grumpy morning gets the best of me…

When I forget that this woman simply loves me, or that I’m annoyed by something she’s done or she’s rightly mad at my own inadequacies…

I pray that God reminds me that my wife is so much more than I could have ever dreamed. And as we grow older, may we not just grow without noticing the ways that we are growing, but rather celebrate those new ways that we each grow and celebrate our response to each other in those new areas of growth.

And may we commit to be happy not just for one another, but rather to a happiness that brings us together in choosing to love one another.

For in that choosing, we find God.

And who could ask for anything more?

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3 thoughts on “How to Not Be Al and Tipper Gore”
  1. A good marriage is the greatest blessing. Now that I’m, ahem, “of a certain age”, I am so grateful I didn’t act impulsively on my worst emotional moments — and believe me, you’re gonna have ’em! — and just abandon it all and head for the highway.

    When Jeff Bridges was doing the media tour for Crazy Heart, an interviewer asked him what the secret to his 33 year long marriage was and he replied, “It’s easy – just don’t get divorced! Obviously if you’re married you’ll have tough times, but if you regard your love as precious, you learn to treasure it, no matter what.”

    It’s too easy to get divorced these days, and it’s become almost an expected rite of passage, I think, to the point where no one really talks anyone out of it anymore.

    1. True indeed. Actually I think it might be too easy to get married. People do it for all the wrong reasons and then they can’t really seem to pull off what the vows call for—it totally smacks them in the face and then they don’t know what to do.

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