There were once two very different women. One woman was known for her charm and sweetness. Old people loved her. Children loved her. She could cook. She was a neat freak. She was patient and affectionate. She always dressed and smelled nice. She was educated and had no children. The other woman, while also lovely, had a foul temper, was judgmental, yelled a lot, was not beloved by old people or children, was such a terrible cook that you'd think health services would shut her kitchen down and was unrefined. She cursed a lot and had a child from another relationship.
Both of these women found husbands who loved them. Both. A man wondered how, why anyone would ever marry the second woman and I told him unless you're in the marriage you just don't know.
There is a lot of head-scratching going on over the end of Al and Tipper Gore's marriage. Many people are comparing it to the turbulent marriage of Bill and Hillary Clinton. After all, no one excepted the super affectionate Gores to break up before the volatile and calculating Clintons. But, let's be honest? Why are we surprised? No one knows what goes on in a marriage but the two people in it.
Every couple has a cost-benefit balance sheet in their head when it comes to the one they love and they're not going to tell YOU what's on it. Oh, yeah. They'll give little hints and pointless platitudes about how "He's always there for me" or "She's a good partner," but they're not going to let you in on the details. Like, my own parents will have been married 38 years this year and as close as I am to both of them, as well as I know both of them -- they know each other better.
They know each other in a way I'll never know or understand because I don't get to know their marriage. I don't get to understand that part. The marriage is a separate and different relationship. It's like staring at the mysteries of the Sphinx. I have some hints and some ideas why my parents' marriage has lasted almost 40 years, but I'll be damned if I know why they're together and others aren't. My parents can be with each other and relate to each other in a way that they can't with anyone else. It's like they're speaking Esperanto over there.
Marriage is hard. It's funny how people, usually people who've never been married, talk about it like it's a destination. It's more like a way of life, a state of being, a joint personal/business venture that you plan to keep working on and investing in until one of you dies (or leaves). Many of my peers in college thought my ex and I had the "perfect" relationship because we never fought publicly and we didn't call each other out of our names. They had no clue how suffocating, how toxic that relationship was. We didn't have the kind of relationship that was destroyed by yelling. It was destroyed by silence. Where he made decisions and I tried to make peace and because I operated by "rules" and he had no rules things rapidly devolved into a marriage based on grudges and recriminations. In the end, I couldn't live with it, him. I couldn't live a life like that. We were not happy people. Or at least I wasn't.
I plan on marrying again one day (I'm the marrying kind). But I'm not in any particular rush. If I'm going to put my heart, body and mind into something like that again it's not going to be conducted lightly.
If the Gores decided after 40 years that they would rather go their own way, and if the Clintons die five seconds after each other 20 years from now, still married and still together, you shouldn't be confused. Other people's marriages are the sphinx, baby. You're not supposed to know.