After forty years of wedlock, the Gores are calling it.  The news was everywhere this week.  Another crap thing to awaken me. Not that there is a lack of hard news more deserving of consideration. I made the mistake of reading below the fold on a couple of online news sources. Big mistake letting my eyes wander down to “comments” sections, where evidence of the demise of civilization lives.

Bilious remarks. So distressing to read what people will write because they can.  Even if somewhere in their witlessness they possess a  modicum of decency and common sense,  this medium allows the freedom of abandoning social civility filters. That’s the thing about the internet-observing the dichotomous nature of human behavior. Why is it that there is so little grey area, no via media?

Trending on Twitter, Gore pick-up lines. I just cannot find the humor in this, likely due to my sensitivities around these issues. Too close to home and all.

For me, the topic at hand is discomforting. Why would anybody have a run of forty years and then take a walk? Closer to home, why would anyone have a go for a quarter century and then say “Basta?”

Coming  to such radical action after so many years is never made casually.  At least I can’t imagine such a decision lacking gravitas and discernment. It takes thoughtful examination.  I found some statistics which correlate length of marriage to divorce rates.

“Marriages are most susceptible to divorce in the early years of marriage. After 5 years, approximately 10 % of marriages are expected to end in divorce – another 10 % (or 20 % cumulatively) are divorced by about the tenth year after marriage. However, the 30% level is not reached until about the 18th year after marriage while the 40% level is only approached by the 50th year after marriage.”

Rose M. Kreider and Jason M. Fields, “Number, Timing, and Duration of Marriages and Divorces: 1996”, U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Reports, February 2002, p. 18.

Am I reading this correctly?  The longer the marriage, the higher the divorce rate?  Do these facts not belie our assumptions that marriages which  fail do so early on?  Those first years require much adjustment,  faith in the relationship, and commitment to the institution to keep a couple focused. Sometimes it’s a matter of absolute, unmitigated will.

(Achtung!  I did not interpret these statistics correctly. Please refer to the comment posted by our resident astrophysicist, Claude Plymate, who will explain things clearly. Thank you, Claude.)

By fifty years of marriage, forty percent of all couples have split? It’s both shocking and telling.

Why do people make the choice, especially women, who are almost certainly entering a  social market for a new partner in which they can’t compete with women twenty years younger?  Old problem.  Middle aged men, especially Alpha males, can collect and trade on experience and  financial stability, qualities young women find attractive.  Middle aged women find they lack a corresponding allure, and the pond is full of men their age and older who are not Alphas.

It’s a cultural disease.

What about these women who find their decades long marriage over?  Take the circumstance of  twenty years as a stay-at-home mother and wife. A woman has managed a household so her partner is able to pursue and excel at his chosen career.  She has used her time to nurture children, volunteer in schools and community, perhaps created a little home-based business to supplement the family income for those “extras.”

Why on earth would a woman with the first three levels of Maslow’s pyramid even consider stepping out alone when the odds are stacked against her?

Since I invoked Maslow, let’s take a quick review of his hierarchy of human needs as the foundation of self actualization and authenticity, and see if we can connect the dots a bit.  As I took a minor degree in Humanistic Psychology, Maslow  was and remains one of my primary influences. To some readers, this might be dismissed as fuzzy, touchy-feely nonsense. Maybe. If your paradigm is structured around Empiricism, the Humanists can drive you bonkers. Human behavior belongs to Rationalism. One hopes.

So, back to our married woman who has stepped into the elevator shaft. In her experience, she has clearly achieved the first level of the pyramid by having her basic physiological needs met. A roof over her head, a way to feed her family- basic stuff which human beings have sought since we decided caves made good houses.

On the second level, Maslow  discusses the human desire for a related physiological need- security. Put  a door on the cave so the bears don’t break in and munch on your kids like so many tater tots.

On level three, having made the cave homey and secure, we have the ability to seek and sustain relationships which create community. Maslow explains this as love and belonging. We are predisposed to love those with whom we share the cave and create friendships with the inhabitants of neighboring caves.

It is on the next level that things become complicated. We begin playing in the higher mind zone. Our esteem needs have to do with how we feel about ourselves both as individuals and in relation to others. If we do not feel valued, if we lack self-respect and/or do not feel it from our relationships, our spirit begins eroding.  We get stuck on this level. We forget about the cave and the door and the full larder, and we can no longer fully experience love and belonging. A hitch now negates the first three levels.

From this level, we look up and see that we ought to be moving through a place wherein we begin realising our inner potentials. We seek meaning and purpose in order to experience self-actualisation. If we have been busy with the business of meeting more basic needs, that distraction at some point ceases to serve us, and we become distressed over a conclusion that we have not been living authentically.

A kind of madness takes root. The desire for truth in us is so strong that vanity is overrun. It is here where the messiness catches up. We can’t fix ourselves, we can’t fix the relationship. There is an experience of harm over-balancing good.

And so we make the agonizing decision to walk away.

Why would one choose to leave knowing the odds are that the balance of one’s life will be spent alone? Hows does a woman find a humble job, let alone a viable career in a hideous recession?

Aye, but you brought it on yourself now, didn’t you?  What an idiot. Right?

For the sixty percent who make the long haul, surely many of those marriages came to similar crossroads and for whatever reason decided to carry on, conscious of and accepting of compromises. I suspect more than a few stay put out of fear over losing the lower half of the pyramid. They bear their esteem and self-potential needs silently. Or not.

I have to believe that there is a good portion in this demographic who have had the right mix of personalities, maturity, purpose and maybe some alchemical influence to live contentedly.

Somewhere the Gores got stuck, like so many of us. Unlike so many of us, Tipper is not going to be out trolling for a minimum wage job.

I wish them well.

(c)GoshGusMusic (ascap) 2010

10 thoughts on “Perche: It’s Been A Long Time

  1. Honestly, my third eye doesn’t open every time I listen to that “news”. For instance, girls or even guys use to said that if Marriage doesn’t work they are happy that they can try again. Been at their 30’s or so, to me this is heart breaking. Try again? Like if it is a product!!! Some people out there is loosing the opportunity of a great life just for a lack of “current info”, or when they get that in their hands may be they lose faith. Point is, body-soul-spirit, to engage it, takes almost a lifetime to get away from. Is obvious that the Power of God can clean every mess, but who needs to invest that time. right? Better get a classroom and start relationships responsibly. W’ve got to know where we are going, and if we are going to hit a wall. We must learn to love for real. Not just for the fear to be alone, for some attraction, for some appreciation, for some affinity, for some affection. Love is so much more and all of that together as well. Ummm. I’m just learning as well. We are learning. We all are.
    ~Great Love to you,
    Mirian from peelingtheorange.

  2. Hey good blog! Like so many tater-tots! Sorry to focus on that particular phrase but it made me laugh. I’m with you, I think the internet allows those who have questionable social filters to really go way out and say things that are unacceptable were you face to face with most. I think the divorce rate gets higher after forty years because finally the kids are gone, the main focus has left the marriage and suddenly nobody has anything in common any longer. Not to mention those that stay together for the kids.

  3. READ EVERY WORD. EXCELLENT! I too wish the Gores well, and wish people would not judge each other so harshly.

  4. I read it through, twice. Great stuff in there. There is substance, humor, and fantastic word structure.
    I cannot speak to the passed 40 years divorce rate. I can only speak to my experience. Like the proverb, “Everywhere I go, there I am.” I found I was the same person in a marriage or not. I was not or have I been a mother. That would make a huge difference.

  5. Kids are a marvelous distraction. You focus on them and integrating into a group. Discord must be pushed aside as well as one is able, and the result is an untidy arsenal of resentment which pile up as the odometer continues turning over. One becomes a person who is inauthentic in order to manage the greater good. It’s a common sacrifice. Having self-aware, tuned- friends such as yourself, are helping me recover because you *remember* who I was & where I was going before I got lost. It’s a recovery process.

    Thank you for your encouraging words. Coming from a person who values writing, it means a lot.

  6. We can’t know what problems or pressures the Gores have gone through in their 40 years of very public marriage. They live in a very different world than we. I’m certain that their problems would seem as alien to us as our day-to-day difficulties would seem to them. Can any of us imagine what Al Gore must have been like after the “election” in 2000. Somehow he appeared to survive that but perhaps their marriage could not.

    I think you may have misinterpreted the point of the divorce statistics. What they really show is that divorce rate steadily declines with length of marriage. 20% of couples divorce in the first 10 years of marriage – 1 in 5! That total number of marriages drops another 10% over the next 8 years – a rate of only about 63% compared to the first 10 years. If couples make it past 18 years of marriage, only another 10% will end up divorcing over the next 30 years! So, the longer you stay together, the longer you’re likely to stay together. This would seem to say that after some length of time, most couples have either worked things out or have thrown in the towel. Still, some life altering discord can surely disrupt any harmony.
    I don’t know what happened between Al & Tipper. It is obvious, however, they don’t represent the reality most of us must live in.

    Mmmmmm…. tater tots….

  7. Claude!
    I blew the statistical analysis alright. Leave it to a music major to mess up the math. Thank you for this correction- I’ll do some editing.

  8. : It’s Been A Long Time « musical milliner
    Christine, if it’s any comfort, my own unscientific “analysis” shows that, as a divorced mother, you stand a far better chance of finding a partner than we the never-married. Over the last decade and a half, I’ve repeatedly seen divorced women remarry, while my never-married friends rarely even had a date. Me? I unconsciously gave up two years ago. My last date was over three years ago – and no one’s asked since.

    Thing is, I’m the farthest thing from alone. As the great Joan Baez stated after turning 50, and being celibate for an extended period, it’s much worse to be lonely when you’re with someone. Personally, I haven’t felt lonely in ages. I’ve wonderful friends, not to mention my Little Miss.

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