What Happened to Bill and Melinda Gates?
Bill, 65, and Melinda, 56, met for the first time at a dinner in 1987. She was a Microsoft employee at the time. They began dating and eventually tied the knot on New Year’s Day in 1994. The couple had three children together: Jennifer Katharine, 25; Rory John, 21; and Phoebe Adele, 18.
On Monday, the tech billionaire released the following joint statement on Twitter:
“After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage. Over the last 27 years, we have raised three incredible children and built a foundation that works all over the world to enable all people to lead healthy, productive lives. We continue to share a belief in that mission and will continue our work together at the foundation, but we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives. We ask for space and privacy for our family as we begin to navigate this new life.”
Rumors about Bill and Melinda Gates
Press reports claim they made the decision to divorce months ago, long before the May 3 announcement. There are several theories on why Melinda and Bill split. Some reports allude to Melinda’s hints that Bill had trouble balancing work and family, while others speculate that another woman was lurking in Bill’s life.
According to Time magazine, Bill and Melinda had an arrangement that allowed him to spend a long weekend with his former girlfriend Ann Winblad every spring. Winblad and Bill broke up in 1987, partly because she was ready for marriage and he wasn’t. They remain close friends, press sources indicate.
Court documents obtained by PEOPLE magazine show that Melinda was the one who filed the divorce petition. She reportedly said in the petition for divorce that their marriage was “irretrievably broken.” There is no prenuptial agreement, but Melinda is not seeking spousal support, according to sources. The court hearing is scheduled for April 2022.
Increasing Number of Older Americans Are Divorcing
Bill and Melinda’s high-profile split is emblematic of divorce trends in the U.S. as a whole. An increasing number of divorcing couples are older, studies show. Divorce among middle-aged and older adults is so popular now that researchers even have a term for it: gray divorce.
The gray divorce phenomenon, which refers to couples 50 and older, doubled between 1990 and 2010, with the rate rising from 0.5 percent to 1 percent per year. Today, more than 1 in 4 people getting divorced in the U.S. are over 50. While divorce rates have dropped among young people, they have risen among older adults.
Another interesting tidbit is that over half of gray divorces occur among couples who have been married for more than 20 years. Researchers wondered what prompts couples who have stayed together for so long to call it quits. They noted that midlife is marked by major life transitions, such as children growing up and leaving the nest. Careers wind down as individuals transition to retirement. Without the grind of raising children and long work hours, a married couple may realize they have little in common.
In the past, many couples chose to stay in these empty marriages largely because divorce had a stigma. Couples today are less willing to remain in these empty shell marriages. Indeed, it’s probably no coincidence that Bill and Melinda made their divorce announcement so soon after their youngest child turned 18.
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