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(2010-06-22 16:52:28)



     这并不能使我们停止猜测Al和Tipper Gore离婚的原因,即使他们认定结束自己四十年婚姻由的时候,这对夫妻行为举止也优雅端庄。公众的反应如下,以震惊与怀疑开始:“他们看上去是一对很般配的夫妻。”随后是愤怒:“难道这一切都是假的,特别是他们在传统场合接吻的时候?”最后就是恐惧:“是不是所有婚姻最后都会以离婚结束---我的婚姻也会有这种结局吗?”



    “人们变了,而且忽视相互交流,”Lillian Hellman说。当许多夫妻到该离婚的时候,他们仍然会打招呼。无论他们所处的环境多么舒适,家多少温馨,后代多少成功,他们离婚只是因为他们无法和同样的人一起继续生活下去。





    现在离婚很容易的。我们退休时间会更长,身体会更健康。人们有足够的收入来改变生活。且离婚的困境也渐渐淡化。一个世纪前,Elizabeth Cady Stanton称离婚为“社会地震”。但几十年后,Margaret Mead认为每个女人需要三个男人:一个是年轻性伴侣,一个是安全且可以抚养后代,一个是老年快乐的伴侣。在21世纪,Margaret Drabble,英国小说家,称婚后生活就像“第三纪”。小说中的女主角“七姐妹”说,“我们所依赖的已经消逝或长大。无论好与坏,我们都自由了。”

    所以我们不必对 Al 和Tipper婚姻的结局感到震惊或伤心。相反,让我们祝福他们,希望他们独自且平和地享受他们的“第三纪”。


The 40-Year Itch


THERE’S an old French expression I found useful when I wrote a book about couples who divorced after long marriages: “I wasn’t holding the candle.” It means that I couldn’t know what happened between the two people in a marriage, so how could I possibly know why they split?

That hasn’t stopped speculation about Al and Tipper Gore, who are behaving with grace and dignity as they keep to themselves their reasons for ending 40 years of marriage. Public reaction has followed a pattern, beginning with shock and disbelief: “They seemed like the ideal couple, so perfect together.” Outrage came next: “Was it all a sham, especially that kiss on the convention stage?” And finally fear: “Are all marriages doomed to wither and die — and will mine be among them?”

But such questions expose just a few widespread but unrealistic assumptions about late-life divorce. Divorce lawyers tell me the fastest-growing segment of their clientele is the middle-aged and elderly. And their divorces do not all that often involve husbands running off with someone new, leaving wives alone and bereft. A 2004 AARP survey of 1,147 people who divorced in their 40s, 50s or 60s found that women initiated late-life divorces more often than men did, and if the divorced women wanted a new partner, they usually found one.

For my book, I interviewed 126 men and 184 women who divorced after being married 20 to 60-plus years. And what surprised me most was the courage they showed as they left the supposed security of marriage. To them, divorce meant not failure and shame, but opportunity.

“People change and forget to tell each other,” Lillian Hellman said. Still, many couples seem to have an “aha!” moment when they realize that it’s time to split up. No matter how comfortably situated they are, how lovely their home and successful their children, they divorce because they cannot go on living in the same old rut with the same old person.

Men and women I interviewed insisted they did not divorce foolishly or impulsively. Most of them mentioned “freedom.” Another word I heard a lot was “control”; people wanted it for themselves for the rest of their lives. Women had grown tired of taking care of house, husband and grown children; men were tired of working to support wives who they felt did not appreciate them and children who did not respect them. Women and men alike wanted time to find out who they were.

One spouse might have wanted to keep working while the other wanted to retire. Often, there was an emotional void; one would say that the other “doesn’t see me, doesn’t know who I am,” while the other hadn’t a clue: “I thought everything was just fine; we never argued, we don’t fight.” One grew disenchanted with the wrinkled person across the dinner table and wanted someone new and exciting.

I talked to men who were serial marry-ers with trophy wives they abandoned, as one of them put it, the minute the woman “got broody and wanted babies.” And I found women who wanted a man who would take them dining and dancing, but then go home to his own bed and leave them alone until the next party.

Many stories ended with some rendition of, “It’s my time and if I don’t take it now, I never will.” No matter whether they had spent years gearing up for divorce or decided on the spur of the moment after one minor disagreement too many, few had regrets. Men who wanted new companionship easily found it, and women who wanted new partners had them within two years.

Divorce is easier now. Our retirement years are longer and healthier. Both men and women often have enough money to make changes. And the stigma of divorce has long since faded. A century ago, Elizabeth Cady Stanton called it a “social earthquake.” But several decades later, Margaret Mead thought every woman needed three husbands: one for youthful sex, one for security while raising children and one for joyful companionship in old age. In the 21st century, Margaret Drabble, the British novelist, calls life after divorce “the third age.” The heroine of her novel “The Seven Sisters” says, “Our dependents have died or matured. For good and ill, we are free.”

So let us not feel shocked or sad about the end of Al and Tipper Gore’s marriage. Let us instead wish them well, and hope that they might enjoy their third age, individually and in peace.


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