Known for public smooches that seemed to telegraph a solid...

Known for public smooches that seemed to telegraph a solid relationship, Al and Tipper Gore may have had the same problems the rest of us do, some experts say. This smooch was At the University of Michigan, Dearborn, during the 2000 presidential campaign. (Nov. 5, 2000) Credit: AP

Nobody's perfect, especially that "perfect couple."

When Al and Tipper Gore confirmed they were separating after 40 years of marriage, it surprised those who knew the couple personally as well as the millions who never met them but thought the high-profile couple was living a storybook marriage.

But while news of the separation came as a shock to most, the marriage probably had been fraying for a long time. "Many couples stay in a marriage long after the fire has gone out," says Sam Buser, a psychologist who specializes in marital counseling. "The pain of leaving seems worse to them than the ache of staying."

While Buser says the Gores are a special case because of their public lives, he believes the reasons for their breakup are common among long-married couples. He notes that pressures not experienced by less famous couples may have forced the Gores to stay together longer. "Not only did the kids have to grow up, but the Gores had to face a public reaction," he says. "This may have delayed the decision about their marriage even further."

Buser and fellow psychologist Glenn Sternes have written "The Guys-Only Guide to Getting Over Divorce," a handbook aimed at helping men get past the financial and emotional hurdles as they go from marriage to separation to divorce. While the Gores have not announced plans to divorce, their separation puts them on that road.

For boomers and seniors facing a late-life divorce, Buser and Sternes believe it is harder on the men, at least at first. "Women are the ones that usually file for divorce," Sternes says. "Men not only have to catch up with the legal stuff, they have to catch up with their feelings."

Buser and Sternes advise men not to start a new relationship until they have come to terms with the failed marriage. Most of all, they must wait until the anger dies. "You must realize you made mistakes, value the good things in the marriage and wish the best for your ex-wife," Sternes says.

While the book offers tips on how to survive a divorce, it also gives advice on how to make a marriage survive. And when it comes to the authors, you can do as they say and as they do. Buser has been married for 35 years, Sternes for 16, and neither has been divorced.

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