Al, Tipper Gore Shock Friends With Divorce Announcement

For many, Al and Tipper Gore's relationship was summed up in a six-second kiss on stage at the 2000 Democratic Convention.

Fraught with political symbolism, it was a kiss, which seemed far longer than it actually lasted and telegraphed to the country that this was a man and wife whose long commitment to each other could restore to the White House a sense of propriety lost during Bill Clinton's tenure.

VIDEO: Al and Tipper Gore have decided to part ways after 40 years of marriage.
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For all its symbolism, that kiss did not get Al Gore to the White House. And for all its passion it could not keep the Gores together.

After 40 years of marriage, the high school sweethearts announced Tuesday they would divorce, shocking friends and observers, who long considered the couple one of the Beltway's most happily married.

"I was shocked. I've spent a lot of time with the two of them. They had a very close relationship," said Tony Coelho, Gore's former campaign manager. "They had a nice solid relationship. It was fun, personal, romantic. I spent hours with the two of them and I was always impressed by how they got along. I'm totally surprised."

Over the course of the previous decade the couple went from loving "with my whole heart since the night of my high school senior prom," as Al Gore put it in 2000, to having "decided to separate," as they put it in a statement Tuesday.

VIDEO: Al and Tipper Gore kiss at the 2000 Democratic National Convention.
All and Tipper Gore Kiss at the 2000 DNC

"We are announcing today that after a great deal of thought and discussion, we have decided to separate," the Gores said in an emailed statement. "This is very much a mutual and mutually supportive decision that we have made together following a process of long and careful consideration. We ask for respect for our privacy and that of our family, and we do not intend to comment further."

In that same decade, Gore refashioned himself into the world's most well-known environmentalist, winning both an Academy Award and a Nobel Peace Prize.

Tipper, once a very public figure herself, has increasingly kept out of public life, leading some to wonder if that difference caused a rift.

Sources, close to the couple, said infidelity was not the reason for the divorce.

Those looking for signs of strains on their relationship have to limit themselves to recent years. After their son Albert was injured in a car accident in 1989, the Gores entered couple's counseling and were virtually inseparable for the next 10 years.

In the early days of their relationship, "they were completely devoted to each other," said Robert Zelnick, a communications professor at Boston University and author of the biography "Gore: A Political Life."

"She had a tremendous amount of love for him. In the early days, they could not bear being apart. Witness his service in Vietnam, when she could barely come to grips with his absence," he said.

In 2002, during an interview with CNN's Larry King, Al Gore hinted at previous troubles the couple had and overcame.

"Well, we fell in love, and we've stayed in love, and we've worked very hard when there were hard times to work it out, and not that we ever thought about divorcing or anything like that. I don't mean to imply that. I mean that I think people need to work it out," he said.

The couple recently purchased an $8.8 million mansion in California, suggesting to some that they were seeking separate residences. Currently the couple live in Tennessee.

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