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Revive

News arrived yesterday that Al & Tipper Gore are separating after 44 years of marriage. A friend’s pithy statement was, “Who would have wagered Bill & Hillary over Al & Tipper?” It made we consider both of these couples and what makes a successful marriage. The Gores vocalize for the media their internal dialogue. Who knows if this is the true and real reason for the ending of their marriage, but it sounds reasonable. But was their marriage a failure? Their marriage is ending and in that strict definition, most would say “FAIL”. But, they have children that all seem happy and successful in life. And it sounds as if they have genuine regard and respect for one another. I suspect the same could be said about the Clintons. While Bill may be a randy rogue and skirt chaser, I must think that his charisma and intellect overcompensate, even for Hillary. And a truly intelligent man adores a partner that can keep pace. Hillary certainly gives him that. And despite all their dirty laundry, aired for the CNN ticker, they remain together. Would we label their marriage successful? If they stick it out and get their 50 year ticket punched, but have contempt for one another, what is the point?

All living things have a life cycle. A marriage, even a family, has a life span. There is no perpetuity guaranteed by consummation. Some marriages, like a human body in cardiac arrest can be resusciatated, shocked back online. From the brink of death, restored. But that heart still has damage. It is not miraculously renewed like the Risen Lord. Is it the cardiac arrest that finally kills or the years of neglect and abuse with alcohol, smoking, sloth, gluttonly, uncontrolled hypertension or diabetes? The insidious damage caused by years of neglect and wanton disregard are less visible, even easily hidden. But the heart attack is undeniable and garners great sympathy. Poor guy, can you believe he had a heart attack? Why, yes! Yes, I can. He smoked 2 packs of cigarettes a day since age 13. He drank a six pack of beer every day. He never exercised. Every other man in his family had bypass surgery and he never took his medicine. And now….when he is hooked up to life support we shower concern and empathy? Is it not his own fault?

It is pitiable but also predictable.

Marriages and families are no different. Sometimes the damage is too far gone, too woven into the fabric of the organism to be survivable. Like a gangrenous limb or a cancerous tumor, amputation and excision can save most of the rest of the organism. Do nothing and everything dies.

There is a certain bravery and courage to what Al & Tipper are doing. We can judge them as failing or giving up. But, we have not inhabited the body of their marriage. I shall pray they each of them find their true path.

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  1. I agree, just because a marriage crosses a milestone 10, 25, 40, 50 does not mean they have a healthy marriage. Maybe an award for tolerating the other person, but not necessarily a healthy marraige. Any marriage that ends in divorce is in some way a loss, at some point there were hopes and dreams and moments when the two really could not imagine one without the other! Then suddenly (or finally) divorce. I say loss, not failure. I can’t imagine being married to someone for 44 years and then ending it. Wrapping my mind around my husband not being my husband anymore, the family extensions (nieces and nephews, etc.) who have regarded you and auntie for 40 years now..technically you are not. Not to mention the void in your life. But, who knows if they have been “living” as a healthy marriage for years! Like you said..maybe they have been on life support all these years. I know a lot of couples that “tolerate” each other for various reasons, but they are not happily married. Actually, that’s kind of ashame too when you think about it. One life and you live it tethered to someone you can tolerate. Sad. I think it takes tremendous courage to stand up after 44 years and say, it’s been real…but I want to go on my own now. I’ll keep them in my prayers.

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