News From Terre Haute, Indiana


June 5, 2010

STEPHANIE SALTER: Husbands and wives: Even from the cheap seats, you can see a lot

BLOOMINGTON — Marriage is like major league baseball for me: I’ve never played the game, but I have closely observed hundreds of them and listened at length to the players, which gives me some expertise.

What I have learned in decades of watching marriages materialize, run into rough patches (or whole interstates), fall apart or survive is that each union is unique and riddled with mystery. Woe to anyone who tries to judge a marriage or predict its outcome based on percentages, itemized criteria or common wisdom.

Couples do not live on paper or in pockets of cultural norms. They live in a world of their own making, which often seems totally accessible to outsiders, but is not. Each union contains a deep inner chamber that is off-limits to everyone but the married “us” — and that includes the couple’s children, other family members and closest friends.

I’ve been thinking about all of this since news broke of the legal separation of Al and Tipper Gore.

Marriage and family counselors have weighed in, as have friends and associates of the Gores. The couple’s enemies, especially those who hate Bill and Hillary Clinton even more than they hate the Gores, have had a field day. The long, open-mouth kiss Al planted on Tipper during the 2000 Democratic national convention has become a much-shown symbol of sad or gleeful irony.

People have been “shocked” and “not surprised.” They have waited the days since the announcement — issued by e-mail from an estranged but “mutually supportive” husband and wife — for some sort of smoking bimbo or gigolo to emerge. None has. Many, many people have conjectured and theorized, some with a confidence that is in equal proportion to their great distance from the Gores’ actual lives.

Some folks, usually professional counselors, have offered the idea that 40 years of marriage in this day and age is a sizable achievement, and the end of such a run ought not be categorized as “a failure.”

My own theory about why the Gores decided to split up echoes the refrain of a song from the musical, “Oklahoma” — they’ve simply “gone about as fur as they c’n go.” One of them may have precipitated the final decision, but together they agreed they had come to the end of the utility, comfort and sustainability of their “us.”

A veteran couples therapist I know says that kind of decision is becoming more common among baby boomers like the Gores. “The Gores are from a generation that asks questions about everything — jobs, church, marriage, where they live — questions their parents never asked. ‘Am I happy? Is this working?’” she said. “And when both partners have emotional and financial independence, as many baby boomers do, it makes acting on those answers much easier.”

One thing I know for certain from all my years of observing is that a marriage that takes both people from their early 20s into their early 60s is a major feat. Ending it amicably, as the Gores seem to have done, is a triumph, not a shame.

Just like the popular saying, “It’s not the years in your life, it’s the life in your years,” the life in a marriage is far more valuable than the years tallied.

I’ve been around people who should have done everyone a favor and called it quits long before one of them finally died and ended the marriage. I’ve attended golden wedding anniversary “celebrations” that were so desultory, only the deranged could view them as a happy occasion.

I knew a couple who, because of their many years together, were selected to be in a documentary about marital longevity. It was filmed during the husband’s fourth or fifth extramarital affair.

That couple eventually split up … then reconciled. It’s hard to predict, no matter what the betrayed spouse vows in the early stages of discovery. I’ve seen several marriages that did not survive adultery, but I’ve seen many more that did.

I’ve also seen marriages that did not survive the death of a child, one of the most crippling of all challenges to a couple. But I’ve seen more that beat the odds and not only survived, but also grew super-human bonds in the pain-filled aftermath.

Over the decades, I’ve seen couples who, everyone agreed, were perfect for one another, but they went asunder anyway, usually sooner than later. Conversely, I’ve heard, “It’ll never last,” said of couples who go on into grandparent land  together.

I know of a half-dozen couples who married and divorced — satisfying all the doomsayers — then ended up marrying each other again. Two of the couples remarried after they’d had children with second spouses.

My therapist friend says the operative term now is “conflict resolution.” How a couple exercises that skill (or doesn’t) is a more important element than in-laws, money, sex, politics and morning versus night-owl inner clocks.

“You’d be surprised how often infidelity is the result of conflict avoidance,” she said. “People may not know it when they come in for counseling, but I’d say the primary problem I treat is conflict resolution. They either say, ‘We have the same fight over and over,’ or ‘We don’t fight about anything. We just bury it.’”

I ran my off-limits, inner chamber theory by my therapist friend. She concurred.

“It might be an ugly, dark chamber of horrors they’re in together, or it could be the garden of paradise,” she said. “But, you’re right, it’s just them in there. Nobody else gets in. Even a therapist only sees a tiny little portion of the whole.”

One other thing I know from watching: A good marriage is like a batter on a hitting streak: Almost nobody can tell you why it’s working, they just know it is. And for everyone in the stands, it’s a pleasure to be around that kind of success.

Stephanie Salter can be reached at 9812) 231-4229 or

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • EDITORIAL: Get smart with 911

    Worst-case scenarios when emergency service are needed are not things people like to think about. But focused attention on details in advance could make a life-changing, even life-saving, difference in the future.

    April 17, 2014

  • FLASHPOINT: Heading in the wrong direction

    A study released last week by the Tax Foundation reported Indiana taxpayers saw one of the sharpest increases in tax burden since 2001. Dig deeper and the numbers are more alarming.

    April 17, 2014

  • Ronn Mott.jpg RONN MOTT: They didn’t make it!

    The “One and Dones” done went and didn’t! (I know this is grammatically incorrect, but I want those folks down in Kentucky to read it.)

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • tstribunestar EDITORIAL: Dealing with eroded trust

    Our neighbors in Putnam County are understandably concerned, even outraged, over problems in their sheriff’s department. People have a right to expect their chief law-enforcement agency — one of the most important public institutions in any community — to operate professionally and effectively.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Readers’ Forum: April 17, 2014

    • A blessing from our young folks

    • Confidence in judge candidate

    April 16, 2014

  • EDITORIAL: Preparing for voting changes

    The primary election, during which Hoosiers will traipse to their polling places to select party candidates to fill the ballot for the general election, is now three weeks away.

    April 15, 2014

  • Readers’ forum: April 16, 2014

    • Mott’s rant on global warming

    • Salvation through the Indian way

    April 15, 2014

  • Ronn Mott.jpg RONN MOTT: Royce Waltman

    In recent days the papers have been full of good things about Royce Waltman. Not a lot of puffery, but more like Royce himself… straight, true and right at you.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • LIZ CIANCONE: Not much peace since war to end all wars

    My jaw dropped the other day when I read that this year, 2014, marks 100 years since the start of World War I. No, you wise guys, I wasn’t there personally.

    April 14, 2014

  • Readers’ Forum: April 15, 2014

    Sound choice for county judge
    Giving your car the care it needs
    Park restrooms should be open

    April 14, 2014

  • EDITORIAL: Noteworthy in the news (Honors for outstanding women)

    Honors for outstanding women
    Sprucing up around the wetlands
    You can say that again
    Reader Poll results

    April 13, 2014

  • Readers’ Forum: April 14, 2014

    Alternatives to ‘injustice’

    April 13, 2014

  • EDITORIAL: Teaming up to fight the ugliness of graffiti

    Graffiti hurts the Terre Haute community. It deflates property values and local pride. It literally paints an image of carelessness on the city.

    April 12, 2014

  • MARK BENNETT: It’s (Not) So Easy

    Arctic air bled into the Wabash Avenue post-hippie-era diner-pub every time the wooden door swung open.

    April 12, 2014

  • ERIC SCHANSBERG: The 1040 tax form turns 100

    The 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution brought us the federal income tax in 1913. A year later, the 1040 tax form was born.

    April 12, 2014

  • Readers’ Forum: April 13, 2014

    • An attack of hypocrisy

    • New jail not a good idea

    • Thinking about the next election

    • Being positive a tremendous asset

    • Work status a matter of value

    April 12, 2014

  • FLASHPOINT: Time to fix government

    In 1965, the chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, Wilbur Mills, brought legislation establishing Medicare and Medicaid to the floor of the U.S. House. That was my first year in Congress, and I remember vividly the moment when Mills came to the Democratic caucus to explain his plans.

    April 12, 2014

  • Death Notice: April 13, 2014

    Phillip Herman

    April 12, 2014

  • GUEST EDITORIAL: Despite high court ruling, big money may not guarantee election success

    The Supreme Court has taken the predictable next step in the wake of its 2010 Citizens United decision in which it lifted the limit on donations wealthy donors can make to certain political entities.

    April 11, 2014

  • RONN MOTT: Pondering our planet’s future

    I watched a TV show recently and the subject was global warming.

    April 11, 2014

  • EDITORIAL: Warm thoughts for Waltman

    When Royce Waltman left Indiana State University as its head basketball coach in 2007, there was a sense of disappointment in the community that covered a broad spectrum.

    April 11, 2014

  • Readers' Forum: April 11, 2014

    • An appeal for organic farming

    • Kesler best choice for judge position

    April 11, 2014

  • RONN MOTT: Bits & Pieces

    I don’t know about you, but I get a total sense of helplessness when I realize 239 people died in one airplane crash. And to make it worse, if that is possible, the loved ones left behind can’t close. Maybe this week.

    April 10, 2014

  • EDITORIAL: Road work season requires motorists’ undivided attention

    Spring’s budding flowers, trees and grasses are not the only colorful eye candy popping up on the west-central Indiana landscape. Those orange barrels and pylons common to construction areas are appearing as well.

    April 9, 2014

  • Readers' Forum: April 10, 2014

    • Appreciation for writer’s views

    • Amazed by policy on birth control

    April 9, 2014

  • EDITORIAL: Dangers lurking among us

    Hardly a week goes by without multiple stories being published in this newspaper detailing the arrests, court proceedings, convictions or sentencings of individuals involved in sex crimes against children or young teens. It’s a disturbing trend that underscores the ever-present dangers that exist where we may least expect them.

    April 9, 2014 1 Story

  • Readers' Forum: April 9, 2014

    April 9, 2014

  • Ronn Mott.jpg RONN MOTT: Basketball and Done

    I guess I’m going to have to change my mind about the “One and Done” rule. It would seem the future professionals wearing university uniforms — national runner-up Kentucky is an example — has proven me a fool. Why should I care about the education they are getting, or not getting?

    April 8, 2014 1 Photo

  • LIZ CIANCONE: Angling for a mate not fond of fishing

    While many little girls daydream about the dream man they hope to find, it seems to me that they concentrate on all the wrong things. I can’t discount the appeal of beauty, brains and virtue, but my dream man was one who was not dedicated to fishing.

    April 7, 2014

  • Readers’ Forum: April 8, 2014

    Tracking the trail of thieves
    Friendly service at local store
    New voice for judicial system
    Movie strikes a proper balance

    April 7, 2014

Latest News Poll
AP Video
Crew Criticized Over Handling of Ferry Disaster New York Auto Show Highlights Latest in Car Tech Malaysia Plane: Ocean Floor Images 'Very Clear' Captain of Sunken South Korean Ferry Apologizes Raw: Bulgarian Monastery Dyes 5000 Easter Eggs Diplomats Reach Deal to Ease Tensions in Ukraine Agreement Reached to Calm Ukraine Tensions Passengers Abuzz After Plane Hits Swarm of Bees Flamingo Frenzy Ahead of Zoo Construction Obama Hopeful on Ukraine, Will Watch Russians Sparks Fly With Derulo and Jordin on New Album Raw: Two Lucky Kids Get Ride in Popemobile Raw: Royal Couple Visits Australia Mountains Raw: Pope Francis Performs Pre-easter Ritual Chelsea Clinton Is Pregnant Raw: Pro-Russian Militants Killed on Base New York Auto Show Highlights Latest in Car Tech Raw: Blast at Tennessee Ammunition Plant Kills 1 U.S. Sending Nonlethal Aid to Ukraine Military Miley Cyrus Still in Hospital, Cancels 2nd Show
NDN Video
Man Accuses 'X-Men' Director Bryan Singer of Sexually Abusing Him As a Teenager Lea Michele & Naya Rivera Feuding? Don't Be A Tattletale: Bad Bullying Tips For Students Jabari Parker declares for the NBA draft Singing Nun Belts Out Cyndi Lauper Swim Daily, Throwback Thursday The trillest thoughts on marijuana "RHOA" Star Charged With Battery Grizzly Bears Get Snowy Birthday Party Weatherman draws forecast when another technical glitch strikes WGN Elizabeth Olsen's Sexy Shoot Bay Area Teen Gets Prom Date With Help From 'Breaking Bad' Star Boston Bomb Scare Defendant Appears in Court Behind The Tanlines Jersey Strong Part 1 WATCH: Women Fight To Marry Prince Harry! Jenny McCarthy Engaged to "New Kid" Kate and Will Land in Oz O’Reilly Launches Preemptive Strike Against CBS Pixar Unveils Easter Eggs From its Biggest Movies Baby Sloths Squeak for Their Cuddle Partners in Adorable Video

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -


    March 12, 2010