Is There a 40-Year-Itch?

April Peveteaux

al and tipper gore divorce
Did they get the 40-year itch?
While I already explored the 7-year itch in He Said/She Said, today I’m taking it about 33 years further.

The New York Times asked if there was indeed a 40-Year Itch following the unexpected split between Al and Tipper Gore. This idea being that people, mostly women, are looking for freedom after years of marital confinement.

My husband and I also felt similarly blindsided by the breakup of what seemed like a stable, even boring, couple that still seemed passionately in love in public. So for today’s He Said/She Said, I looked into my own home and my own marriage (in its very short five-year incarnation) and asked my husband, Aaron, to discuss:

Is there a 40-year itch?

He Said:

Let’s say in 30 years, we’re grandparents and aren't consumed by raising small children and (hopefully) retired, and able to purse things we want to pursue. That’s freedom! If people want freedom at that point -- what other freedom are you going to get? If you really want freedom, you should probably divorce earlier.

With that said, people marry each other for a lot of different reasons and it’s presumptuous to think you know why people get married and what their life is like behind closed doors. I think people like to project their own fears and their own ideas about marriage. Especially when talking about people in the public eye. Al and Tipper’s marriage could have been political and strategic for them.

I was shocked, because I had my own assumptions about marriage and about people who have been married for a long time. But that’s just me projecting my own ideas; I have no idea what those two wackadoos do. (By the way, I’m not blaming Tipper, but I hated her in my formative years.)

She Said:

I remember when there was a surge of senior citizen divorces a decade or two ago and I thought it totally made sense; mostly because we were talking about generations of women who were stuck in traditional roles and trapped by a lack of income and small children. Once the children were gone and women in the workplace -- even senior citizens -- were more common, a woman didn’t have to stay in a crappy marriage. It was a refreshing revolution to see newly single ladies in their 60s.

Al and Tipper though, I just don’t get. Say Tipper felt pressure to stand by her man during all of the political business, and maybe now she’s like, “See ya Al” as it becomes clear he’s not going to run for public office again. Maybe. But I look at their 40-year union and think, on a personal level, if I were to look back on my marriage on our ruby anniversary and see everything we’d built together, children raised, troubled times tackled, I think I’d be positively giddy. And completely stoked to be starting a much less intense time of life with my husband. These are the golden years, right?

So what itches so badly after 40 years? Al leaves the toilet seat up and makes Tipper call him “Mr. President”? Tipper doesn’t sort the recycling correctly? I thought getting older meant gaining perspective.

Building a life together seems like such an immense accomplishment, especially in the face of adversity the Gores have seen -- I truly don’t get it and hopefully, I never will.


Image via kangotraveler/Flickr

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