Rendells' separation begins new chapter

Ed Rendell, right, takes the oath of office for a second term in Harrisburg on Jan. 16, 2007. Holding the Bible are his son Jesse and wife Midge. (Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

Midge and Ed Rendell have been married nearly 40 years, so it’s hard to call their decision to separate a failure. Indeed, the former governor and federal judge haven’t said anything yet about divorce, but any dreams of “until death do us part” appear to be shattered.

Maintaining a marriage is hard under most circumstances, but especially so under the microscope that comes with being a state’s first couple. With their separation coming on the heels of the end of Rendell’s term, the public can’t help but wonder how long the relationship has been sour.

Did the Rendells, like many ordinary couples, stay together as long as they did for the sake of appearances? While he was governor, Rendell found himself angrily denying rumors of infidelity. Private-citizen Rendell doesn’t have to answer those questions now. His personal conduct has no bearing on state business.

The divorce rate has actually been going down in this country since hitting a peak in the 1980s, but most statisticians still say about 40 percent of marriages in the United States end in divorce. That’s more than 850,000 divorces a year. The younger the marriage, the more susceptible it is to a break-up. But it’s not unusual to see longtime couples like the Rendells go their separate ways.

Americans have seen the marriages of other politicians come to an abrupt end amid scandals, including those of presidential aspirant John Edwards and former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford. The Rendells, though, say their “parting is amicable.” In an email to friends, they said it was OK to invite them to the same social events. Apparently, they’re already comfortable with their new relationship.