But divorce affects even the adult children of parents whose marriages dissolve after they are grown. Although there has been less research on the effects of divorce on adult children, surveys suggests that divorce has a damaging impact on the parent-child relationship even in adulthood. Divorced parents frequently treat their adult children as confidantes, revealing inappropriate information about their former spouses and their new love interests. And parental divorce can also stress their adult children's marriages, removing a touchstone of stability that adult children can count on during their own troubles.
I know it's wishful thinking to hope that the Gores will reconsider their decision. But they have already survived many ordeals that would challenge even the strongest of marriages -- their son's near-fatal accident, myriad political campaigns, including the 2000 presidential election whose outcome dragged on forever, Tipper's battle against depression and who knows what private disappointments, slights, and pains.
Whatever the Gores are going through now, things are bound to get better. Every marriage, no matter how strong, has its downs, which seem insurmountable when you're at the nadir of one. Working through the rough patches and maintaining a commitment to do whatever is necessary to make the bond stronger is a far better alternative than walking away. But that is not the message we get from the culture at large. Instead we hear platitudes about the importance of personal happiness and fulfillment -- no matter who gets hurt.
The Gores, like most couples, made a vow when they married to remain together "until death do us part." Couples make those vows in front of family and friends and with the blessings of religious institutions and the state. They are not private promises; they are public affirmations. So if the Gores decide to break those vows, they've hurt all of us, not just each other, and they've chipped away at the very institution of marriage. Let's hope they don't move from separation to divorce, for all our sakes.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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