Should We Care About Bill & Melinda Gates’ Divorce

The announcement was concise and respectful. It included language such as “we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple” and, ”After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage.” In that way, Bill and Melinda Gates protected their privacy as well as acknowledging that their high visibility meant that a public statement was necessary.

Given the choice of a surgically unemotional statement versus tear and vitriol-filled videos, I certainly opt for the former. It is none of my business, or that of millions of others who recognize the Gates’ name, exactly what led to this decision. However, it would be hard to deny that this divorce affects more than the couple and their children.

A few years back, one of our young daughters was in a bookstore when she noticed a display table featuring Audrey Hepburn videos. She commented to her friend, “Oh, I love Roman Holiday,” at which point an older woman near her said, “You know Roman Holiday? You’ve given me hope for the future.”

Roman Holiday (1953), along with movies like Casablanca (1942), were among the limited titles we shared with our children. This message in both those movies was that there are responsibilities in life that are more important than the pursuit of personal happiness. Love does not eclipse everything.

In the days before no-fault-divorce there was something tawdry about hiring private detectives to catch one’s spouse in an affair, sometimes even faking such an event so that a divorce would be justified. It is distasteful when drunkenness, abuse and intimate details are plastered on the front page. But, there is something unsettling, too, about treating the dissolution of a marriage as an almost prosaic matter.

Winston Churchill, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and even Spiderman made statements along the lines of, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Like other high-profile couples including Al and Tipper Gore who divorced over a decade ago, Bill and Melinda Gates’ actions inevitably reinforce the idea that marriage is a losing game. When famous people celebrate 40th and 50th and 60th anniversaries, it might receive a nice, small write-up on the social page. Divorce, especially those of celebrities whose marriages featured in their fame, makes the headlines. And too many young people, many of whom have no role models of successful marriage add one more brick to the wall of cynicism and negativity which surrounds their view of wedlock.

The Gates’ Foundation’s policies or the couple’s political views are immaterial to this Musing. I simply wanted to note how in the real world, marriage—or the dissolution or avoidance of it—is never a truly individual matter.


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23 thoughts on “Should We Care About Bill & Melinda Gates’ Divorce”

  1. Sherrye-Lee Scalzo-Lamberto

    Dear Rabbi Lapin:
    Please wish Mrs. Lapin a very Happy Mother’s Day from me. As my mother and my entire family have passed on, I have no one to wish this happy day too. God Bless both of you.

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    1. Maybe not as succinct as your comment, David, but I do appreciate your letting me know this resonated with you.

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  2. In no way do the Gates deserve any positive commendations. Bill Gates has shares in most of the vaccine companies and is making a huge profit from the gene therapy technology . His mantra is de-population so why would a so called vaccine that is supposed to protect life be something he supports. It doesn’t stop the virus(says so on the Pfizer site at least) His statement about the divorce and everything else he does is a huge publicity spin to make him look good. You should have mentioned some-one else as he is an evil person. The Foundation was a PR stunt to make him look good after Microsoft was taken to court. And there are new reports coming out about how people who have taken the injection are passing on to others issues such as miss-carriages and menstrual bleeding irregularities and sterilization issues.

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    1. Grace, no matter what my views of the Gates Foundation or its leaders, I deliberately didn’t want to write about that. I was writing about a non-Hollywood famous couple whose marriage was front and center in their public lives.

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      1. I agree completely with Grace. I have been a long time subscriber and supporter of the Lapin projects and have agreed, at least with enough to say I agree, with most at least in spirit. This article stumps me. Speaking about someone like BG is akin to speaking about about some evil tyrant in history or, say, Hugh Hefner but only as people of business. There is not way to separate their “business” from who they are/were and what they did and/or are doing. I believe the man mentioned in the title of this article is a man whose plan for humanity is as diabolical as almost any other diabolical plotter.
        The discussion would not need to be only about people who were not good. They would not need to have made significantly negative contributions. They could have spent their lives, or be spending, lives making significantly positive contributions. It would be hard to speak about someone like Rabbi Daniel Lapin, who I esteem as a good man, without bringing into the subject of his character and practice.
        It is as hard to talk about the man mentioned in this article’s title and forget his negative contributions as it would be to speak about the man’s name at the very top of the page and not consider his positive contributions.

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  3. Grandpa Vince

    Getting married at 18 our parents said we were too young. 48 years later with 17 grandkids and 3 great grandkids, what is our secret? We made G-d first. That is what the Gate’s needed in their lives. Their actions speak louder than words. They have plenty of money, but never a mention of G-d.

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    1. Deborah R. Evans

      So right, thankful for your input. Great to know some marriages are still possible in long term members.

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  4. Timothy Perdue

    Excellent article and this subject, not necessarily this high profile divorce, has been the topic of conversation among my peers. We, collectively, have been married well longer than the national average. However, the two question always pops up, considering marriage is, in my humble opinion, one of the most difficult jobs a person has, is this, “Is it worth it?” and “is it more than a sense of duty and commitment?” The answers vary from time to time.

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    1. Timothy, I would really love to hear more elaboration on your conversations. Marriages, like all relationships, ebb and flow. I think one of the difficulties we have today is impatience and a lack of a long-term view. When going through a tough spot, it helps to put it in perspective while at the same time knowing that, yes, there is hard work and growth involved.

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  5. We’re not a famous couple but we believe that marriage is a covenant that we made before God and man. We celebrated our 60th last month.

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    1. Mark, I don’t know many women who don’t get teary-eyed at seeing a couple who have been married for 60 years and beam out care and love for each other. However, I think most women have trouble relating that to going through rough patches earlier on.

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  6. Having been married for 33 years to a man on the autism spectrum, my heart goes out to Melinda French Gates. It is a difficult and lonely road. I hope that their experience opens up discussion about much needed support and public awareness for neurodiverse couples. Children on the spectrum grow up to be adults on the (autism) spectrum and continue to affect others profoundly; yet, little help is available for adults. It was saddening to me to see that no amount of money could save their marriage or offer hope for a better tomorrow for them.

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    1. Katie, I am sorry for your difficult road and hope you have found friends and guides. I have no special insight as to what precipitated this divorce.

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    2. Are you implying that Bill Gates is on the spectrum? I’ve had personal experience with a family member who I believe was on the spectrum, but due to the era in which he grew up, was never diagnosed. Also, did you coin the phrase “neuro-diverse”? That certainly sums up our social and relational world!

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      1. Hi Susan and Katie,
        Going well off the original topic at this point, I just received my answer regarding neuro diversity. The termed originated in 1998 by a sociologist. (No need to publish my posts, I realize they’re off topic). Thank you for providing this venue for communication. I very much enjoy the RDL podcast, by the way!

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  7. Your musings made me feel validated about my stance sometime ago when my husband moved out and I told him to be mum about it because as teachers teaching fourteen years in the school, I felt “we have a responsibility of influence”—especially to the students who in one way or another looked up to us as role models— marriage included. (The divorce finally happened last year, but , I am at a different school and only the principal knew about it.) Your thoughts really hit home. Thanks!

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  8. You are absolutely right. My husband and I just passed our 40 year mark and plan to have a large celebration in six months (when, we hope, a large celebration will be possible.) A major reason for this is to provide visibility and hope for younger people, who need to see that marriages can and do work.

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  9. I pray that Bill Gates will Receive a Powerful Revelation of his Creator and to receive Jesus as as his Saviour
    also his ex wife
    Thank you for the message
    God Bless

    + 1

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