01 August 2012

The Governor's Marriage and Mine

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (a Democrat) and his wife Helen Thorpe, separated yesterday. They lived in a nice urban residential neighborhood in Denver (Park Hill) with their ten year old son. John is moving out, to the Governor's Mansion in somewhat less tranquil Capital Hill. They are doing their best to cooperate and be civil, for each other and for sake of their child. It is still sad.

My wife of eighteen years and I also separated yesterday. We lived in a nice urban residential neighborhood in Denver (Wash Park) with our two middle schoolers, who are just a little older than John and Helen's son. I am moving out, although not to any place as nice as the Governor's mansion (my new home is in Bible Park). We are doing the best to cooperate and be civil, for each other and for the sake of our children. It is still sad.

I'm probably less surprised about the Hickenlooper and Thorpe announcement than most. I have heard credible rumors that this would happen sometime after the 2010 election for about two years now. I don't know if those rumors were correct or if they were simply stopped clocks that are right twice a day anyway.  I don't really care.  And, of course, I'm hardly the best connected person in Denver, so I'm sure that many other people had heard these rumors as well.

It is a testament to the respect that members of the political world and the press have for Governor Hickenlooper that these rumors were not made public or reported on by anyone until he and his wife issued a press release to that effect yesterday.  A large number of people must have known. The media has a strong tendency to consider the private lives of all celebrities to be newsworthy. Needless to say, I personally refrained from blogging about even the fact that those rumors existed until today after it had been announced, and I didn't talk to any of the reporters I count among my friends about these rumors either (although surely some reporters must have known).

In truth, I didn't personally foresee that I'd be splitting up myself until much more recently than I heard these rumors (and certainly had no idea that John and Helen's announcement would come yesterday).

Even though I was born in Georgia and lived there the first seven years of my life, I am fundamentally cut from Yankee, not Dixie cloth. The Governor, Colorado's Governor Bill Owens (a Republican) who also separated while recently serving as Colorado's Governor, and I all agree that when a marriage ends that the right thing to do is to be civilized about it. It is not the time to air dirty laundry, or to seek some sort of legal or extralegal form of fault assignment and redress for wrongs within the marriage. "No Fault" divorce has caused or follows a cultural change our sensibilities as well as our laws. It is a time to look forward and see what is possible now, and not to look back and tally up rights and wrongs.  I'm sure that all of the husbands and wives involved have ranted privately a little to intimate friends and family.  But, private rants and public statements are two different things even in the age of the Internet and cell phone camera.

This isn't to say that that state of our society and our laws when it comes to divorce is the best of all possible worlds. The fact of the matter is that Governor Hickenlooper's marriage, the marriage of Governor Owens, and my own marriage, which is to say marriages of reasonable, together people who are still capable of interacting, at least as co-parents, with each other in a civil, good faith manner, would have continued to stay married and continued to live together in a single household, a couple of generations ago. Then, the people who are capable of having a "good divorce" today would have stayed married.  But, that debate is one for another day.  The situation now is what it is.  We aren't living two generations ago, we're living now. 

Today, John, Helen, their son, my wife, my two children and I start muddling through the complicated world of separated life after long discussions leading up to yesterday on everyone's part.  I wish them luck and hope we'll manage to find some of our own.


AllenM said...

Good luck to you and your family in making these changes.

Middle Age becomes a challenge in this society, but mostly it is a challenge because we have to accept the race of life is mostly run.

Hallie Scott Kline said...

Andrew, good luck to you in what may be a difficult time. As you know, years from now, your cooperative attitude will be well-remembered (and, treasured). Relationships change, but your wife and children will always be your family. I wish the best to you and them.

Doug said...


You have a great blog; just came upon it for your piece on black child-bearing. But I see about your separation and want to add a few words about a place we have been recently that excelled in "good" divorce practices.

In Iceland, there is an almost complete disconnect between marriage and child-bearing, with the average age of first childbearing many years before first marriage, and often followed by several marriages. Yet it is a societal priority to raise well-adjusted, healthy children, by however many fathers and mothers. The social care system is so good there that young Icelandic women have few worries about the financial implications of raising a child alone, and there’s no stigma attached to unmarried mothers or to divorce. As a friend put it, “Marriage is just a celebration of a relationship. It has nothing to do with having children. And furthermore, we are pragmatic enough not to stay in bad relationships. We simply move on.”

Whereas there is no expectation to get or stay married, there is the strong expectation that all bio-family members will stay involved in a child’s upbringing, and that the parents will have joint custody. We heard of, and saw firsthand, a pattern of women having children, often while still at university, with the full expectation that the father, the grandparents, aunts, and uncles, were there for the duration of the child’s upbringing.

I hope that you are able to bring that attitude to yours and your wife’s approach to the future. It is, as you say, definitely forward looking.