Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Marriage, Divorce, Al and Tipper

Interesting news was revealed last week.  After 40 years of marriage, Al and Tipper Gore are calling an end to their marriage.  I don't know why I have such a sad feeling about this particular separation/divorce, especially since such action seems to have become the routine in our day and age. As the only thing I "knew" about their marriage was the longevity, I cannot comment about it specifically.  But it seems a commitment of 40 years would have come to an end in some other way;  this "amicable" parting seems ineffably sad because, lacking either death or adultery, the marriage appears to have run out of steam, as it were.  Such an end could and perhaps should be a warning to all couples who think they have gotten over the hump of challenges and difficulties that the first few years of marriage can bring.  Perhaps something bubbles beneath the surface for all of us married folk.  Is a "friendly separation" in our future?  The reasons why the Gores reached this point will never be known by anyone other than themselves, and that is as it should be.  It really is not mine, nor the business of anyone else who is not directly involved.  But, the concept of an amicable separation is what I would like to ponder for a while.

One commentator remarked that she saw this "not as a failure of marriage", but a "celebration of life."  Gentle Reader, I have to tell you:  that comment shocked and angered the pants off me!  No one I know has ever described their separation or divorce as a "celebration of life."  It has, however, been described to me many times as a "living death."  Some feel that their spouse has, for all intents and purposes, died - yet the living "ghost" of her or him still hangs around, ever near yet never present.  I am familiar somewhat with that particular description because I am a second wife.  My husband was married to his first wife for 10 years before she left him.  The fact that both of them had been unhappy in their marriage for most of those years in no way mitigated the pain my husband experienced.  I would never have called their separation and divorce "amicable," nor would I refer to it as "friendly."  It was, however, civil, and each treated the other with respect throughout the process.  It was hardly a celebration, and certainly it came with a huge feeling of failure.  In their case it was a failure to create a marriage in the first place, rather than the end of one that had been.

This distinction is something that came to me when I was preparing to marry a divorced man.  The words pronounced over couples who celebrate a Christian marriage are, "Those whom God has joined together, let no one put asunder."  While the desire and intention of each couple that marches down the aisle together is that they are a "God-matched" pair, I  believe that this is not always the reality.  While I believe that all divorces are failures, not all failures end up in divorce.  As a matter of fact, failures can end up in marriage! Many marriages are unions created by the couple itself, and God is not always the "Joiner."  Even with all the prayers that each marriage be a heavenly match, surely the divorce rate in this country today would prove that God's blessing on the union is not in all respects the case.  Since the rate has remained at a steady 50 percent for a long time, it is apparent that indeed, God has not done all the joining, otherwise, many of those divorces would have never been. I do not mean to say that God's Will for a union is always done; many times God's Will is flaunted or ignored - which brings a sadness and grief all its own to bear on all involved.  But the fact that so many marriages are self-generated explains, to me anyway, why so many are then self-destroyed.  It also seems that some couples who are part of a DIY marriage are persistent in their efforts to stay together. While the result of such persistence  can be a Godly union; sometimes "staying together until parted by death" is simply that:  staying together - for reasons other than a true marriage.  It may be fear of a life alone, or fear of having no financial means, telling the children, or facing the unknown that is more than either party is willing to bear. For many it may also be the simple fact that a promise was made to one another, before God and witnesses, to remain married until parted by death. That reason is sometimes the saddest because it assumes that we are not capable of acknowledging our own mistakes, regardless of how well-intentioned they may have been, asking forgiveness, and moving on in life with some wisdom gained.  We are fallible beings, and all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God.  How we handle ourselves in the midst of our failures has a much greater impact on our lives (and those of others) than the failure itself.  Abraham Lincoln said, “I am not concerned that you have fallen / I am concerned that you arise.”  How the Gores manage to relate to one another - either together or apart - will be the more instructive event in their lives. I do wonder, though, when couples "drift apart," how much time and effort have they really spent in trying to get back to each other before they find the distance between them is too large to bridge?

Still, I cannot see divorce as being a celebration.  Divorce may be necessary, and perhaps a relief, but how could it ever be called a celebration?  The one good thing about failure is that it is a "teachable moment."  If lessons are learned and new insights are gained, then failures - which are a fact of every human life - can be  valuable indeed - in ways successes could never be; but I submit that the failure is not the celebration!  What we do with our downfalls should be the true source of our celebration - assuming what we accomplish is worth celebrating!

I probably read way too much into what was quoted, and it is entirely possible that the excerpt I heard was totally out of context, (although it certainly sounded well within).  In any event, when did we as so-called "rational" human beings decide to "rationalize" all our sins, failures, and/or shortcomings, and turn them by definition into celebrations?  As I have said, there is a huge difference between managing to bring celebration out of disaster, and celebrating disaster!  Mentioning "sin" is perhaps risky in this particular forum, but since this is my forum, after all, I do not hesitate to use that word.  Sin is the act of separation from God (or Good, if you will), and therefore is particularly apropos in this discussion of marital separation and divorce.  It is also important that I add right here that sin/separation is a human act, and not of God.  We separate ourselves from God, and it is never the other way around. But, our perception of the presence of God is a topic for another posting.  Suffice it to say that we are getting far too good at "forgiving" ourselves, by never calling anything we do as something in need of forgiveness!  Think about it!  If our "separations" are a cause for celebration, for what should we ask forgiveness?

While my mind is still churning away, Gentle Reader, (if you have managed to stay with me all this way), I must call an end at least for now to this meandering.  Please let me know your thoughts on the subjects of separation and divorce. So many feelings are involved in such a complicated and intricate subject, that with your own unique insight, you may be able to bring some some clarity to mine.

For all of you - indeed, all of us, I wish enough time, enough love, enough failure, enough celebration, enough...


  1. First, I expect that the Gores' longevity resulted from political aspirations ~ and the desire to avoid negative aspersions.

    I suspect they have led separate lives for a long time.

    Second, I do view their agreement to separate as a celebration of life.

    When we stick with decisions made 10, 20, or 30 years ago (when we were different people) even though those decisions are no longer making us happy . . . we are NOT making the most of the time that we have left.

    Taking stock of our lives, evaluating where we are, and deciding where we want to head from here . . . that is cause for celebration.

    Third, just because a door closes (on a marriage or a career) doesn't mean that God (or Spirit) was not involved in opening that door originally.

    I am convinced that God/Spirit/The Universe wanted me to become an attorney because it was part of my path.

    I am equally convinced that God/Spirit/The Universe wanted me to STOP being an attorney because it was time for me to do something different . . . like write without boundaries.

    Fourth, just because a door closes on one experience does not mean that everything leading up to the door closing should be considered a failure.

    Just the opposite . . . the time I spent practicing law was an overwhelming success.

    The time I have spent since leaving the practice the law . . . also an overwhelming success.

    Finally, while I don't share your views on what constitutes a success or failure in marriage (or life), this piece was an enjoyable read from beginnning to end.

    You have a way with words. : )


  2. You might be interested in the following post, about Elizabeth Gilbert's book, Committed:

    "In an effort to come to terms with the institution, Gilbert explores the rather fascinating history of marriage across the miles and ages: from the tribal days of the Bible’s early testament (when marriage was both condoned and encouraged by church elders) through the early days of the Christians religion (when church elders frowned upon marriage, and actively discouraged men and women from exchanging marital vows with one another) through the present time."

  3. Wonderful, thoughtful comments! I cannot disagree with anything you said (and I don't believe what I said (or intended to say...those pesky hermeneutics again) contradicts your feelings; however, I will always see failures for what they are: failures! But, there is absolutely nothing wrong with failing, in and of itself! We all do it! I think it is the way that we learn the best and the most! The problems come when we start piling on failures/missteps/misjudgments one on top of the other without ever considering that perhaps we ought to change or correct something that lead us into trouble in the first place. It seems to me that if we see breakdown as a celebration, then we will continue willy-nilly down that same path again and again, seeking out those "celebrations," instead of finding better paths to walk.

    I too believe that God opens and/or shuts doors and windows that God had perhaps previously shut and/or opened! (If I could understand God, then God wouldn't be God!) Maybe I am tripping up on the uses of the words "failure," and "celebration." What it boils down to, though, for me, is that while celebration may grow out of failure, it is in no way synonymous with it!

    I enjoy reading Elizabeth Gilbert. I've not read Commitment, but have read other work by her. Marriage is truly a blog-worthy, even book-worthy subject. So many different ideas, opinions, and concepts that we humans have attempted to codify into some sort of standard operating model. There ain't no such animal, I'm afraid, and the sooner we get over the whole legalistic, contractural view, and move on into the arena of personal commitment, the better! I do suspect that you are right about the Gores, though. But weren't they a good jumping-off point for discussion? :-D

    Now...on to "Ode to My Keyboard..." (Good grief!)

  4. It was indeed an excellent jumping off point.

    In fact, I may be back to chomp on this topic a bit further. : )

  5. 11 years ago my husband and I divorced after 27 years. The decision was so amicable that we were able to use the same lawyer and the decree was granted in three days. I do not in any way consider it a failure. I consider it freedom for both of us. You just never know what goes on behind closed doors!

  6. Thank you, Barbara! My husband's divorce was not in the least acrimonious, and they used the same lawyer as well...she asked for no alimony. As I said, everything was very civil, and it was definitely the very best thing for all involved, and lead to a great deal more happiness for them both. However, I still contend that while their life, separately and together, had wonderful successes, the marriage was a failure - in that they were unable to keep the promises they had made to one another. Both have gone on to wonderful celebrations in their lives, but neither she nor my husband would see their marriage (NOT their lives) as a success. They made a mistake, a costly one, but they learned and grew, and so they were able to begin a new dance of celebration, following a period of mourning the loss. And you are right...not only do we (as the public) not know what goes on behind closed doors, we should not is not our business to know! Thanks so much for sharing with me/us!

  7. Paula ~

    I read back over your comments and have a few additional observations.

    First, you seem to be equating a couple's decision to divorce as a recognition that it was a mistake to get married in the first place.


    A couple happily married for 20+ years should not view the decision to get married as a mistake, nor (necessarily) view the decision to divorce as a failure.

    My decision to go to law school and practice law for 13 years was not a mistake ~ it was a successful career decision.

    My decision to leave the practice of law after 13 years was not a failure ~ it was life affirming decision that practicing law would not be the best use of my remaining time on the planet.

    The same is (or at least can be) true of marriages that end in divorce. We change, we grow, and spouses/careers do not always grow in the same direction. Just as corporations merge and divest ~ people marry and divorce.

    When there is a parting of ways, it's not necessarily a "failure," or proof that the marriage/career/merger was a mistake from the outset.

    It's just a recognition that the needs of the parties changed over time.

    It's proof that nothing in life is constant ~ and that promises often are made to be broken because when we are 20 we don't know what we will need when we are 40.

    Second, when we try to hold on to things too tightly, we miss the next experience that God/Spirit/The Universe is trying to lead us to.

    Boats are safe in harbor, but that's not what boats are for.

    Sometimes, we need to let go of the shore, and go with the flow of life.

    BTW: Where are you in NC? We lived in Winston Salem for 8 years and visited the mountains often. I'll sit on your porch and set a spell. : )

  8. I'm posting this separately so that you can delete it easily if it offends you.

    The reason I pointed you in the direction of Gilbert's book is because of her research into "holy matrimony."

    Her research reveals that the Christian church has flip flopped about the sanctity of marriage over time.

    Initially, church leaders discouraged (and even prohibited marriages).

    Then, when it suited the church's purposes . . . it sanctified marriage and condemned divorce.

    At that point, church leaders started talking about the "holy bonds of matrimony" in an effort to control their congregations and flocks.

    Given the church's about face on the issue, it's clear (to me) that marriage vows and promises, like the "institution of marriage" itself, are man-made and man-defined creations.

    I don't buy into the portion of marriage vows that say that marriage is a holy union sanctified by God that "no man should put assunder."

    I don't see getting a divorce as a sin, or something that (necessarily) requires forgiveness.

    That's like asking a toddler to apologize for outgrowing his clothes.

    We're here to live, love, laugh, learn . . . and grow.

    If we grow in different directions than expected . . . well, that's all part of the process, the uncertainty of life.

  9. I,too, see their agreeing to divorce as a celebration of both of their lives. My partner and I were together for 19 years and a year ago we mutually decided to separate. It was the hardest decision I made in my life and most painful but in the best decision. We had grown in different directions and needed to create the space in which to continue growing. We now communicate more openly and honestly than before because we are more free to be ourselves.

    When I use the word celebration, I don't mean that I went out and celebrated by throwing a party. I cried everyday for a couple of months. The emotional pain upon the separation for me was painful. What I mean by celebration is knowing that both of our spirits are more happy knowing we can both continue to grow the way we need to.

    I am thankful everyday that we made this choice.

  10. I agree. Calling a divorce a "celebration of life" is the worst kind of misnomer.

  11. I've invited folks to come round and join us:

    BTW: Two points I should make even though they don't relate directly to your comments:

    (1) Most of the comments I've raised above relate to situations involving a mutual decision to separate ~ an amicable parting of ways.

    (2) Divorce is much SADDER when children are involved, and also when only one party to the union wants out and the other is still head over heels in love.

    That said, I don't feel that the one who wants out should sacrifice their happiness by staying put . . . when love is absent, marriage can be even more painful than divorce.

    Well, here's hoping a few more folks join you, me and Barbara to engage in civil discourse about these heated issues. : )

  12. I just posted a comment on Nancy's blog in reference to the above, as for some reason or other, this site is not accepting the posting! Hopefully this problem will be resolved before I desire to make future comments. I have asked Nancy to copy and then try to post my comment here. If she is successful, then read on, and if not, go to her blog at:

  13. From Paula _ Part #1

    Well, unfortunately, a comment that I spent a long time on – and, (since it is gone), was PERFECT – has been lost in cyberspace. I clicked on Post Comment, and was sent to a page that said my request could not be completed. Going back to where I made the comment did not bring it back…alas! I shall try to “recreate” at least a part of what I was thinking at the time.

    First of all, don’t worry NR – you could not possibly offend me. We are having a great discussion, and I really love reading, thinking and either agreeing, disagreeing or further explaining myself concerning all the comments I receive.

    I still feel that we are tripping up on semantics, and the way we as individuals use the words “failure,” and “celebration.” That being said, here are a few responses to your responses:

    You are absolutely right regarding the church (small c) as an institution. The greatest flip-flopping since fish tried to leave water! The church has over and over again changed its “mind” about what is acceptable, and often seeks to dictate over people rules and regulations that have absolutely no bearing on what Christ taught and asked of and for us. There is no argument with you on that score. I often ponder how God must weep over the HORRIBLE things that are done and said in God and Christ’s name! (No wonder so many want to distance themselves from the church and/or Church!)

    Different denominations see rites of their church very differently. I am a United Methodist (just as imperfect a group as all the others!), and there are only two rites/rituals of the church that are considered “sacraments:” Baptism and Communion. A sacrament is defined as a rite that was initiated or ordained by Christ. While marriage is not a sacrament for us, it is a ritual, but within each congregation of our denomination, often depending upon the clergy and laity, there can be differences in the order or elements of the ritual.

    Concerning promises, I disagree. I believe firmly that promises are made to be kept, not broken. Making a promise is not to be taken lightly, but considered very carefully. I believe that couples – gay or straight – who are planning to be married in a church or a civil ceremony, should spend a lot of time considering what they are promising to each other. The vows made in the ceremony are made to one another (and before God or not, but how can it not be?) and I consider them vital and important. They are “holy” in the true meaning of the word, which is “set apart.” You are right that people change/grow/regress(!)/move on, etc., but that is a given. My concern in some marriages is that some couples make their vows knowing this, but disregard it, or are totally oblivious and/or dismissive of it. Do you remember the old “Rhoda” TV show? When she and Joe got married, their vow was for “as long as we both shall love” (not live). Also, there is no requirement that I know of to keep the phrase “those whom God has joined, let no one put asunder” in the ceremony. Couples are often asked to write their own vows, as there really is nothing required in a church wedding except “do you?” and “I do!” (There are of course legal requirements which vary from state to state – but that’s a subject for another discussion!) Promises are made to be kept, and that is especially important to teach our children. When promises are made, then broken repeatedly – with young ones or even adults – this can inadvertently teach that anyone can promise anything and that they don’t really signify anything! I have broken promises on more than one occasion, and I asked forgiveness from the person/s to whom I made the promise, as well as from God. Hopefully I am growing and becoming wiser – always the goal – and learning when it is important to make a promise, and when not to! Asking forgiveness helps me to move on and not wallow in guilt. Guilt is a very effective life-stagnater!

  14. From Paula ~ part #2

    Also, Nancy, I do not believe I attempted to equate marriage vows with career or lifestyle choices. If I did, it was entirely unintentional, and wrong, to boot! When we choose a career, job, way of life, we are not making a vow or promise to stay with it until we die. Changes of that sort are often life-affirming, wonderful things, and should be celebrated, but I still feel that even once-happy marriages that end in divorce, no matter how amicably, are in their own ways, “failures,” in that the couple did not find ways to grow or change together, and could not fulfill the promises made. That does not necessarily mean, as I’ve said, that the two are not better off for separating – I would imagine that many are (certainly true in my husband’s case) – but in my mind it does not mean that the actual divorce/separation is prima facie a “celebration of life!”

    I do understand how both Al and Tipper (and others in similar situations) have reason to celebrate their lives – both together and separately – but I in no way see that their (or any) divorce can ever be defined as a “celebration of life,” even though, as I have said, celebration may grow out of such a decision.

    That’s about all I can remember – but of course I said it much better, and more succinctly in the first version…heh-heh-heh…and you’ll never be able to prove me wrong!

    Keep commenting – all of you – this has been very edifying! Until the next time, I wish you all enough!

  15. ALL READERS PLEASE NOTE: The last two comments above were written by me - ptc - and were kindly posted here by nrhatch at my request, because I could not get this L - O - N - G comment to post. Please don't hold her responsible for any of the comments made in those can hold her responsible all you want for HER comments! :-D

  16. When I tried to post your comment, I got a message that said the comment was too long.

    So I posted it in two parts.

    You might want to break it down futher so that people can respond to the part that interests them:

    *the church
    *marriage vs. career

    Then you can go back and delete my efforts to post on your behalf. : )

  17. Hi, Paula,

    I came over to check out your blog after your lovely visit to my blog. And what do I find but a debate. Oh, my.

    Paula, I think you have made some very valid points. I enjoyed the way you write. Interesting observation about many marriages being self-joined instead of God-joined. I think you may be right.

    Nancy, I don't really see the 3-part breakdown as an appropriate breakdown for the original post or for Paula's response. I don't see anything in the original post about church or careers. And any mention she made of these later was in response to your comments. These could fit for your comments. You, too, have made some valid points about career and doors opening and closing. Do you know the Gores?

    Celebrate: 1 : to observe a holiday, perform a religious ceremony, or take part in a festival
    2 : to observe a notable occasion with festivities

    Divorce isn't the same as leaving a job. My life became better after my divorce 20 years ago. But there was a lot more pain - for many people - than there ever was when I left a job or changed professions. And there are still repercussions and things that have to be dealt with.

    Now I'm going back to my blog where I can approach subjects with a little more levity. :-)

  18. Grandawn: Thanks so much for stopping by, and leaving a comment! My posts run the gamut of subjects and styles. I tend to think a lot of them are funny, but then again I also tend to amuse myself more than anybody else! :-D

    I also love your blog. Please stay with me - I'm sure you will be entertained at least once in a while! Oh, I have taken your advice! Sign me

    -Granny- :-D

  19. Hello "Granny" :-)
    I'm definitely staying. I really enjoy the way you present your thoughts.

  20. Thanks for this great post. Very interesting. I think it's very well thought out and intriguing. :-) Definitely something to think about.

    1. I really wanted my ex to return to me, but I also wanted the reassurance did this actually works and I did not want to be taken advantage of. I did not have a lot of money so I wanted this to work. I wanted my ex back and I will do anything to get her back. I love her and want only her in my life. Priestess Munak went over some important details of my life, and after casting the spell, my loved Lisa called me back, and moved in with me again. We are very happy now, I would advice anyone to meet this spell lady for her spell is strong. her email is