Announcements of divorce can come as a shock. It’s no surprise that many people were blindsided by the news of high-profile couple Bill and Melinda Gates’ divorce after 27 years of marriage.
They both seem like “good people.” They spent considerable time and money in philanthropic works and their relationship wasn’t marred by controversy, drama, and negative press. To many, Bill and Melinda Gates represented “relationship goals.” Both are extremely wealthy, intelligent, and worked as partners for aspirations that went beyond their personal ambitions.
Why, then, did they end up going their separate ways?
The “Gray Divorce”
It’s not a long shot to think that the difference in their interests, among other possible factors, may have contributed to the Melinda and Bill Gates divorce.
This, apparently, is not an uncommon phenomenon in light of what therapists and researchers call “gray divorce.” In an article for NBC News, Susan L. Brown, author of Families in America, says that the Bill and Melinda Gates divorce is but one of the many instances wherein baby boomers leave decades-long marriages. While there are many reasons that couples divorce, Brown explains that gray divorce is “often not precipitated by a singular event, but is instead the result of drifting apart.”
People Change and That’s OK
Divorces don’t always happen because one or both parties cheated, stole, lied, or did a ton of bad things to their spouse. People outside of the relationship may try to look for who is at fault or who caused the relationship to crumble, but that’s not always relevant.
Sometimes, it’s simply the case of people changing, maturing, and discovering other things for themselves and their own personal happiness that might not include their spouse in the equation.
For example, one partner may have developed a passion, mission, or mindset for which the other partner doesn’t share the same enthusiasm.
Especially in amicable divorces, the spouses arrive at a respectful and mutual decision to separate after thoroughly talking through their situation. It’s admirable when spouses commit to communicate and arrive at a tough yet healthy decision to move forward separately.
You Can’t Fix What You Don’t Know
Other times, lack of communication is exactly what creates the inevitable divide. Talking openly, honestly, and consistently is a challenge that nearly everyone faces, yet most people aren’t well-informed on how to go about it. Consistent, healthy dialogue is paramount to a thriving marriage, especially if one or both of the spouse’s needs and wants are changing or evolving.
Sometimes, communication is one-sided or one partner is misreading or simply missing delivered signals. Remember, good people can fall privy to lack of communication, especially in situations where one or both spouses have demanding careers, children, or other factors that require a significant amount of time and energy.
Plus, cultural and familial history can shape the way each spouse communicates. Unless the couple thoroughly explores how historical perspective affects communication, the relationship can hit a proverbial wall.
Revelations During COVID
The quarantine era forced a majority of the population to work from home. However, living and working in the same space can bring about character differences and incompatibility issues that were not apparent when one or both spouses were commuting to the workplace.
For example, one spouse may discover that the other’s job in sales or leadership brings out an aggressive side to them. Perhaps being around loud voices on conference calls and strong language persistently throughout the day has become overbearing for the other spouse. Of course, talking through these matters and/or crafting an agreement could bring about a resolution here. Keep in mind, though, that other COVID issues, including financial pressures, lack of socialization, and childcare are just a few examples of what can make this situation difficult to solve.
Some couples work through it, but for others, revelations during COVID, lack of communication, and/or splitting interests create a fork in the road of marriage. Fact of the matter is, good people divorce and, sometimes, it might not always be a bad thing. Still, divorce can be a challenging and painful experience, and even “perfect couples” like Bill and Melinda can go through it.
If you’re going through a similar situation in your marriage and would like to talk to someone who can provide expert legal consultations on divorce, feel free to reach out to us—we’d be happy to help you through it.