With no one willing to even speculate about why Al and Tipper Gore recently decided to separate after 40 years of marriage, I might as well toss some lettuce leaves around.

I’m convinced that older couples don’t break up unless one of the parties is seriously fed up and wants out. It’s very easy and natural for older couples to stay together because it poses the least amount of difficulty, and because breaking up can be (and usually is) enormously stressful and traumatic. Even if things aren’t that terrific between a couple, nobody wants to go there.

So something — a situation or circumstance, I mean — has to be pretty damn intolerable to upset a comfortable 40 year-old apple cart. And most of the time — let’s face it — it’s about the husband wanting to pick up that spear and feel like a hunter again — about his wanting that “great winter romance…[that] last roar of passion before settling into [his] emeritus years,” as Paddy Chayefsky put it in Network.

Or, less frequently, it’s the wife needing more in the way of comfort and tenderness. Or about the couple just opting for a “nice civilized time-out,” which is usually a code term for one of the parties being theoretically open to something new.

I know for sure that people don’t break up after 40 years unless some kind of enormous pressure is forcing them to do so. They break up not because living apart seems like a mildly intriguing idea, but because living together has become intolerable for one of the parties, and because it’s the only solution to “the problem” that affords a certain dignity.