I've seen a lot of analysis in the press this week about Al and Tipper Gore's marriage. I was in the White House press room when the news of their separation hit the wires.They have been married for forty years. Many of us who had covered the Clinton White House were shocked. If we were to have taken bets back in the late 90s we would have never guessed that it would have been the Gores who were going to split. Most of us had seen them up close and personal and there seemed to be genuine affection between them.
Circumstances change and it is hard to underestimate the effect of Al Gore's success on their marriage. First, there is the vast amount of money that Al Gore has accumulated. He is supposedly worth over $100 million dollars and could be worth a whole lot more in the future. He got stock options in Google and Apple and helped found Current TV. He has become a partner in a major Venture Capital firm in Silicon Valley and reports are that he made one investment of thirty five million dollars. When he left the White House, Al and Tipper Gore's net worth was between $1 to $2 million dollars -- including their farm. These days former Vice President Gore's speaking fees can be as high as $175,000. That's more than President Clinton usually takes in!
All of this can stress a marriage and when you add in losing the 2000 election, getting a Nobel prize and an Academy award the effect on a marriage can be huge. Two mental health researchers, Holmes and Rahe developed a scale to rate changes in daily life routine that I find very enlightening. They gave certain "changes" points. For instance, the death of a spouse is counted at 100 points. Life changes can be positive or negative but they still have an emotional as well as physical impact on an individual. Any change -- positive or negative -- in a financial situation rates a 38 on the scale. Other changes such as outstanding personal achievement and changes in living conditions also have impact. Marriages, as well as the individuals in them, have a hard time adjusting to those changes.
The Gores were used to the political spotlight, it was not a change for them. However those that knew the couple when he was a senator said that he watched his money closely and did not go to expensive restaurants or purchase fancy cloths. He and Tipper had adjusted to a simple, family lifestyle. After their son's accident they went into family therapy and they often credited it for saving their marriage as well as their family. In 2007 the same son was arrested for drugs while driving. This could only add to the family stress. When you add on Tipper's known treatment for depression it clearly created a perfect storm.
The Gores are an example that change and stress can ruin even the seemingly best marriages. No couple is immune. No matter what you think of Al Gore it is sad to see this family come apart. It is a lesson that marriages take a lot of work especially in the face of major changes and that good marriage can't ever be taken for granted.
Ellen Ratner is Washington bureau chief of Talk Radio News Service and a Fox News contributor.
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Ellen Ratner joined FOX News Channel as a contributor in October 1997.