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Autumn Divorce…The Gores Lead the WayShow

June 4, 2010

First there was Autumn Love, now there’s autumn divorce, heralded by the 40-year split of Al & Tipper Gore.  Is this a trend, an aberration, can we read the tea leaves and discern what does this mean for you, or for your long-married parents?  First, let’s be realistic. All marriages end. It’s just that 100 years ago (when the rate of marital dissolution was the same as it is today), marriages ended by death.  When you think about it, since you can no longer count on your spouse to die, divorce has become a substitute for death. One hundred years ago, one-fourth of women died in childbirth, and one-fourth of men died in agricultural or factory accidents or war. Today, if you reach 60, the odds are that you’ll make it ’til 85 (on average). And since 60 is the new 50, and Americans expect to live longer, healthier lives, coupled with our value placed on individual happiness (whereas Europeans value loyalty to family unit more), the odds are that there will be a rising incidence of later life divorce.

Yet, it’s a bit more complicated than that. The divorce rate has actually been going down for those married in the 1980’s and 1990’s. But  those married in the 1970’s (such as the Gore’s), tended to marry 5 years younger (in their early twenties), and were in the gap between the traditional marriages of their parents, and the more equitable marriages of the next decades. A lot has changed regarding cultural expectations of marriage since 1970 (which has been the greatest divorcing age cohort). Some spouses in my practice both recognize and lament the fact that who was Mr. or Mrs. Right in 1970 is not Mr. or Mrs. Right today. Some stay together, for reasons of economics, the kids, the grandkids or fear, some undertake the creation of a new marriage, a new deal with their old Mr. & Mrs. Right; some like the Gore’s split up.

While there is no sure-fire way to bullet-proof your marriage, try these tips:

  • Show daily appreciation.
  • Turn blame into a claim for what you want.
  • Try to see it his way/her way…from all sides.
  • Give credit where credit is due.
  • Repair injuries, rebuild trust. Do it sooner than later–and before 40 years.
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