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Gore Divorce: A 40-Year Marriage Is Never a Failure!

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Dr. Wendy Walsh: This morning, I sat up straight when I heard an NBC reporter refer to the divorce announcement made by former Vice President Al Gore and his wife, Tipper.

The reporter said their marriage had "failed." How could 40 years of supporting each other, raising children, surviving grueling political campaigns and welcoming grandchildren be called a failure?! If that's a failure, I can only imagine what the rest of our relationships could be called!

In truth, back when the "'til death do us part" section was inserted into the marriage contract (some say in ancient Greece), death itself was pretty imminent. Life expectancy was short. Plagues and war took many lives, and nearly 50 percent of women died in childbirth. Therefore, promising to stay together until death was a fairly safe bet. 

Today, serial monogamy trumps lifelong unions -- and for good reason. We live a whole lot longer. The qualities required of a partner to, say, get us through college and embark on a career, or have a stint of child raising, or enjoy a peaceful retirement may be quite distinct. That is, we may choose someone entirely different for each of those tasks. I am of the opinion that a marriage should last only as long as the projects it creates (i.e., until the kids are raised or the house reno is complete).

Now, having said that, do I believe that too many couples today throw in the towel way too early? Yes. Too many people bail when sexual feelings and romantic fantasies give way to the hard work and boredom of long-term monogamy. Or they simply have so few relationship tools that divorcing feels like the only option. These couples have much to learn. But that is not the case with the Gores. They have done their learning and have ridden out the bumps. They should be popping champagne to celebrate. They had a successful 40-year marriage. Here's to your next relationships, Al and Tipper!

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