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Al and Tipper Gore's sad love story: Where do we begin . . . to express our sadness?

Al and Tipper Gore announced in an e-mail to friends that they are separating after 40 years of marriage.

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By Ellen McCarthy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, June 3, 2010

Please, Al and Tipper, don't do this. For our sakes -- don't.

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Yes, famous couples divorce all the time. But we thought the Gores were different. We believed in them. Even if we didn't agree with their politics, we admired their marriage -- the way, after all these years, they still genuinely seemed into each other.

(Photos of Tipper and Al Gore through the years)

They're like the couple down the block with the lush garden and the annual Labor Day cookout. The pair who are always power-walking together and drinking wine on the front porch, who make you nudge your husband and say, "See? I want that."

Sure they had their ups and downs -- her depression, their son's life-threatening accident -- but after four kids and 40 years, they were still in it. And still, we thought, held on to some enduring kernel of love.

Forty years.

Hasn't the finish line been crossed by the time you reach 40 years together?

Seems like this ought to be the time for an Alaskan cruise victory lap, not a move to separate residences.

And, statistically, that should be the case. No more than 1 percent of all divorces occur after 40 years of marriage. Half of them take place within the first seven years of marriage.

So this doesn't just make us sad. It makes us scared.

It means that maybe marriage isn't something we can conquer. That you can have all the necessary ingredients -- romance, good morals, mutual respect and a healthy family -- and still see this precious thing, built over decades, crumble in the end.

It makes us frightened for our parents, our friends, ourselves. "They were seen as this perfect couple, that's why we're traumatized," says Terri Orbuch, a marriage therapist and sociology professor at the University of Michigan.


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