Dr. Wall uses the latest announcement from Al and Tipper Gore, that they are divorcing after 40 years of marriage, to look at what we might learn. For Part Two click here.
What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.
Today we’re taking a break from a larger series of blogs on communication in marriage to comment on the Tipper and Al Gore announcement that they are cashing in their marriage after 40 years. When I heard that news I didn’t know quite what to think. Depressed is probably the first thought that came to mind. How depressing that a couple that had portrayed a pretty solid public class act regarding their marriage to date (whatever your take on their political views) and then all of sudden to hear that the whole thing is going to end up in the dumpster.
I didn’t really want to enter the fray of prognosticators who were guessing what it was that led to their demise, like the ESPN announcers postulating whether Bret Favre may or may not return from the dead and the reasons why this or that. Various theories are floating around. That’s all they are: Theories. The Gores are saying they aren’t going to say anything as to reasons. We end up with people in different camps. Just stop it already. If they wanted us to know they’d tell us.
I have no idea why their marriage ended up expendable. I have an idea what people in long-term marriages have told me caused them to believe divorce was an option. It ain’t usually an affair, I’ll tell you that. Not after 40 years.
Not that I’ve never seen it. Long-term marriages don’t usually end over affairs unless the affair won’t end or the marriage was already terrible and the affair was just the doctor pulling the wires on life support. No, I would say the two most common reasons I’ve seen for people in long-term marriages giving up the ghost are due to neglect or resentment and it is probably a combination of both.
So let me say right off I have NO IDEA what led to the Gore’s demise. I’m only using their announcement as a cautionary tale to all of us in marriages, who would like to survive the 40 year mark and beyond should our health and the Lord tarry.
We’ll look at nurturing resentments in our next blog. Today we’ll look at how folk ignore the care and feeding of their marriage: The tyranny of careers, children and grandkids and/or separate interests. The big three. There’s nothing wrong with dedication to your career. Nothing wrong with kids and grandkids. Nothing wrong with having interests. Let’s just make sure that these things don’t take over our lives so much that we don’t have time to nurture our love for each other.
‘Cuz here’s the deal: As you go through life and get older your friends are literally gonna die or move away and your kids are gonna move away and even if they don’t they’ve got their own lives to lead, their own careers to tend, their own children with whom to invest, their own interests to pursue. You are on their list of people to call, but you are NOT THE LIST. You are just ON the list. And that’s how it should be. If you spend even an ounce of time and energy being resentful about this, that your kids have a life and you are NOT THEIR LIFE you should be pitied. You will also be a thorn in the flesh of your sons and daughters-in-law and maybe even to your own kids. What fun that will be: You call your kids on the phone and they cringe? Not the way to go. You have to have a life on your own that is NOT piggy backing on your kids. If you are getting the lion’s share of your jollies from your kids or your grandkids, you will probably become a curse to your kids and they will find a way to be even busier. No, you and your spouse need your own life, your own interests, your own things that fill your tank beyond your kids and grandkids. Your kids are on your list. They are NOT YOUR LIST.
Don’t tell me that your kids are your number one priority. If your kids are you number one priority, than that means your spouse is way down the list and your spouse isn’t gonna like being way down the list just because you’ve got a thing for kids that grow up to have their own life and you don’t have a life other than them. It would really be sad if you didn’t figure this out until your husband says he’s tired of not receiving any of your joy and excitement. And now all of a sudden you get it and he’s done caring. Yeah, that would be sad.
Careers wane, too. I talked to an aging millionaire once who told me I’d better accomplish what I intend to accomplish by the time I’m sixty, because after sixty no one is going to care one wit what I have to say. Dang, I sure hope he’s wrong, because I’m in no way ready to not have anything to say. I’m just getting to the point where my point of view is interesting (well, ahhhh, at least to me!)! My 60th BD is only 17 months away! AHHHH! I feel like I’m just now starting to figure things out!
But look. Here’s what happens: You give your life to your career and you give and give and give and if you aren’t nurturing the wife or husband of your youth over the years, just about the time you are either bored to tears with your career or your employer grows bored to tears with you, that’s when you are going to have some extra time and energy to invest in your marriage and have a ball and travel with your spouse and do stuff you’ve put off. Wouldn’t that be a crapper if just when all your career stuff is winding down your spouse says she’s got better things to do cuz she was never a priority before and she’d been saying for years that your career was more important than her and she’s frankly tired of it all and not gonna live that way, not gonna put up with that any more and all of a sudden you answer the door and there’s a handsome young man standing there in his crisp uniform with some foreboding documents that he’s been sent to make sure you get, and no, you didn’t win the lottery or the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes and he’s not driving a brown van.
And I hope you have more than one thing that interests you because there’s nothing more boring than a person that has only one thing to think about, one thing to talk about, one thing to dream about. Well, there is one thing more boring than that and that is to be married to this person. A person on a one track mind goes one way and one way only and that is away from everyone else. After about 40 years of that, a spouse wakes up one day and says to herself: I am not on my husband’s list. His list is on the list, but I’m not on it. I would like to be on a husband’s list. I’m not gonna spend the rest of my life, being second, third or forth.
And please spare us the boring, selfish drivel that this is who you are and if your spouse is going to relate to you the only way she can relate to you is around the interests that you hold dear. You certainly are not going to spend one lick a time doing her booooring interests. Doesn’t she know your interest is fun? I hope you hear how badly this sounds. You are saying that she has to conform to you, that your two lives have to revolve around you. Maybe she would be willing to put up with that when she was twenty or thirty years old, but not when she’s 55 and she’s gonna want to have a say and she should have a say and she should have cropped you on the back of the head 25 years ago to get a life instead of this myopic vision, but no, she was too shy back then, and, no, she’s not 25 or 35 or even 45 any more and now she has an opinion, which you should have heeded and investigated and nurtured and listened to for years prior, but since you were too busy just being who you are you forgot it takes two to do the tango or even to waltz and holding hands with yourself is really not very fun after a while.
So don’t put off investing in your marriage till you have time. Don’t say you’ll get to that later. Now is later. If you wait until later to be now your later could be very lonely and I don’t know about you, but the last thing I want to do is to enter the dating scene at 65 years old. No, that would be just about the second to the last thing, just short of picking out my casket from a brochure the funeral director is showing me while I’m on life support in the hospital and then telling my kids the songs I’d like to have sung at my funeral.
At least I won’t have to pick out the food to be eaten after the funeral. I’ve already decided it’s gonna be tuna casserole with tuna, noodles, mushrooms and chips…potato chips (thank you Garrison Keillor).
For the second in this series on Long-Term Marriages and Al and Tipper Gore see:
Part Two: Al and Tipper Gore: A Cautionary Tale: Resentment and Stubbornness: Two Handmaidens of Disaster
This is Dr. Wall’s second blog on the recent Al and Tipper Gore announcement of the end of their marriage after 40 years. Here he explores two more ways long-term marriages can meet their demise: Resentment and Stubbornness.
Check out these other blogs by Dr. Wall that look at similar topics:
This blog is the third in a series on living as roommates instead of living together as husband and wife. In the first article, Dr. Wall spelled out the different ways living as roommates will destroy your marriage.
Dr. Wall continues his series on roommates vs. husband and wife by looking at the temptation parents have to invest in their kids and ignore each other. This is fine for roommates; not for husband and wife.
Dr. Wall continues his series on living as roommates instead of husbands and wives by mocking the excuses people use to NOT be affectionate with their spouses.
Dr. Wall laments the dearth of real men and ponders what a real man might be today. He explores the theory that if men were men, women wouldn’t have to be nags. A win-win.
Dr. Bing Wall is a marriage therapist with a practice in Ames and Urbandale, Iowa. To set up a time to see Dr. Wall click here or call 888-233-8473. For more information about Dr. Wall click here.
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