June 8, 2010
An Open Letter to Al and Tipper Gore
Dear Al and Tipper,
Only you know why you are divorcing,
but you could save your marriage. Read “The Second Half of Marriage: Facing
the Eight Challenges of the Empty-Nest Years,” by David & Claudia Arp.
You’ve been married 40 years. Well,
I’ve been married 44 years, and I agree with James Peterson in a study on
aging for the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons): “Old people
can change their behavior up to the day of their death. It is never too
late to make changes for the better to ensure marital success.”
Every marriage experiences a
centrifugal force that pulls spouses apart from each other. Undoubtedly, in
your very public lives, you’ve felt this force with far greater intensity
than most of us. However, you can have an intentional marriage, and say “I
do” again and again.
Indeed, it is essential not only for
happiness, but for life itself. “Being unmarried chops almost ten years off
a man’s life. Similarly, not being married will shorten a woman’s life span
by more years than being married and having cancer,” write Maggie Gallagher
and Linda Waite in their book, “A Case for Marriage.” (Remarrying doesn’t
As a couple in your 60s, ten years is a
lot of time. Therefore read the Arp’s book, awarded a “Gold Medallion” by
bookstore owners as the best marriage book of that year. It’s been
translated into 10 languages, and made into a DVD series.
The Arps surveyed 1,000
couples in long-term marriages “to identify the major issues facing midlife
marriages.” Their empty nest tips:
1. “Let go
of past marital disappointments, forgive each other, and commit to making
the rest of your marriage the best.” When a long-term marriage crumbles,
it’s usually not due to a major crisis, but a lot of “little issues that
have built up over the years.” Forgiveness is hard, but is the “oil that
lubricates a love relationship,” needed daily.
marriages never transition from the child and career focus of the early
years to a partner focus. David and Vera Mace call for a “companionship
marriage” in which couples “help each other grow and change in order to
become the loving and creative persons they are capable of becoming.”
3. “Time is
a corrosive influence. We don’t naturally drift closer together; we drift
further apart,” write Ray and Anne Ortlund. “We have to fight our way back
to each other.” How? Stop avoiding conflict. Learn to listen. “Everyone
should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” writes
James 1:19. Paul adds in I Thess. 5:11 “Therefore encourage one another and
build each other up.”
4. The Arps
write, “We can change no other person by direct action. We can only change
ourselves.” Nina’s husband was a drunk who lost his job. Her efforts to get
him to change failed. But when she stopped complaining, he joined AA.
boomers’ greatest sin is ME focus. They lead separate lives and grow apart.
But “friendship and fun in marriage – especially in the second half – is
important. Have you ever seen a couple on the way to the divorce court who
were best friends and having fun together?” the Arps ask. Develop new ways
to have fun.
romance. Be affectionate. When was the last time you showered together? Be
adventuresome. Leave work for a picnic in the park. Take walks together. Be
7. If you
are in the “sandwich generation,” worrying about adult kids and aging
parents, remember someone needs to take care of the caretaker. When Susan
enrolled her dad in adult day care, she gave herself valuable respite care.
“Faith in God should make a radical difference in our relationship
with our spouse. It should enhance our love for one another.” Jesus talked
about the importance to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” Yet we forget our
closest neighbor is our spouse!
Sadly, few churches do anything to strengthen
marriage. What can they do? Sunday School classes using Second Half of
marriage DVDs and a Participant’s Guide. Or another product the Arps
developed: “10 Great Dates To Energize Your Marriage.” Couples come to
church on 10 Friday nights, watch a 15 minute DVD on “Resolving Honest
Conflict” or “Becoming an Encourager.” Then have a 90 minute date to discuss
As the Arps say, “Having fun is serious
business.” To order, call 301 469-5873.
Try it Al and Tipper!