While many wealthy folks have fallen into various relationship pitfalls in their lifetimes, Bill Gates has remained faithfully married to his beloved Melinda for 26 years. The happy couple revealed the secret that keeps their marriage strong, but it might not be what you expect.
1. Start As Co-workers
Melinda French joined Microsoft as a marketing manager in 1987. She met Bill Gates at a trade fair dinner where they happened to sit next to each other. Within minutes, the two felt a special bond with one another. Bill then asked if she could go out with him "two weeks from tonight."
2. Is This Spontaneous Enough?
Surprised, Melinda replied, "Two weeks from tonight? I have no idea what I'm doing two weeks from tonight." And she added, "You're not spontaneous enough for me." Still, Melinda gave Bill her number and told him to call her the day he had scheduled. However, Bill called her later that very night, saying "Is this spontaneous enough for you?"
3. Change To Be Coequals
Turns out, it was. Bill then began dating Melinda, inviting her to fancy parties, driving in limousines, and eating caviar. In the beginning, Melinda's mom didn't think dating the CEO was a good idea as they had a big difference in status. Even after they went public, it wasn't always a smooth road. But the couple insisted and decided to become real coequals. "It's not something that immediately happens overnight, but we're both committed to it."
4. Respect Each Other
"When I look back, Bill was the same kind of guy I was hanging out with in college. I had a lot of respect for him, and he had respect for me," Melinda recalled. "I was definitely attracted to his brilliant mind, but beyond that, his curiosity."
5. Always Make Her Laugh
Melinda also mentioned Bill always made her laugh, saying "he has a huge sense of fun. He was funnier than I expected him to be. I love that wry side of him." Sure, we wouldn't typically think of such a billionaire as a comedian. But in private, Bill could be a funny man, at least to his wife. The couple dated for seven sweet years before they wed in a private ceremony.
6. A Private $1M Wedding
On New Year's Day of 1994, Bill and Melinda got married in what was then Manele Bay Hotel in Hawaii. To keep the wedding private, Bill booked all the rooms in the hotel and all the helicopters on Maui island to "prevent unwanted visitors from flying over." Reportedly, the wedding cost $1 million.
7. Looking In The Same Direction
At the wedding, Bill's parents gave the newlyweds a special gift - a sculpture of two birds sitting side-by-side and staring at the horizon. "It's still in front of our house," Melinda wrote in the couple's 2018 annual letter. "I think of it all the time, because fundamentally we're looking in the same direction."
8. Do The Dishes Together
After tying the knot, the couple welcomed three kids into the world. As Bill was busy running a billion-dollar company, Melinda decided to become a full-time mom. But this didn't mean she would have to do all house chores alone. The Gateses would wash the dishes together every night to remind their children that housework isn't just women's work.
9. Share Responsibilities
Melinda says the key to her strong marriage is having her husband Bill participate in home responsibilities equally, whether that be laundry, packing lunch, or driving the children around. When a couple manages to share that responsibility, their marriage becomes more balanced.
10. Cherish Family Moments
Bill and Melinda would do anything to spend time with their little ones. Gates said his wife is a driving force behind bringing the family together. "Melinda is very creative about helping me find chances to spend time with the kids. Even just driving them to school is a great time to talk to them." Melinda said, "Bill and the kids cherished those moments in the car."
11. Same Child-rearing Philosophy
Bill and Melinda held the same philosophy in child education. They didn't let their kids own a cellphone until they were 14. Instead, the couple would read to them books of various genres, from Guess How Much I Love You to Fahrenheit 451. "We've raised our kids in a religious way," Bill said. "They've gone to the Catholic church that Melinda goes to and I participate in."
12. Strike A Balance
The couple will give each of their three children about $10 million of their $100 billion fortune, while most of the rest will go to charitable causes. "We want to strike a balance where they have the freedom to do anything but not a lot of money showered on them so they could go out and do nothing," Bill told TED.
13. Expanding On Melinda's Dream
Besides building a harmonious family, the Gateses have tried to expand on Melinda's dream to make the world a better place. That idea took root in 1993 on a trip to Africa, where they encountered many people living in extreme poverty. "It's not fair that we have so much wealth when billions of others have so little," Melinda wrote in an annual letter. So they began supporting one charity after another until they finally decided to switch gears.
14. Run The Foundation Together
In 2000, the couple launched the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which is the largest private foundation in the world, holding an endowment of $50.7 billion. Its slogan reads: "All lives have equal value. We are impatient optimists working to reduce inequity." They now work as partners at the foundation and "look over our schedules a lot to make sure we are balancing things well."
15. Sharing Fundamental Values
"Melinda and I believe that everyone deserves the chance for a healthy and productive life - and so with the help of our amazing partners, we are working to find innovative ways to help people in need all over the world," Bill wrote in one of his Reddit AMAs. For their efforts, both Bill and Melinda received Presidential Medals of Freedom in 2016.
16. There Are Disagreements
The couple certainly have disagreements. However, they avoid serious disagreements by sharing fundamental values, trust, and a sense of open-mindedness. "Our occasional disagreements these days are over tactics. Because I've been a public figure longer, and because I'm a man, some people assume I am making the big decisions. That's never been the case," Bill wrote in the foundation's 2018 annual letter.
17. They Are Complimentary
In the 2018 annual letter, Bill added, "Just as she knows I'm more emotional than people realize, I know she's more analytical than people realize. When I get really enthusiastic about something, I count on her to make sure I'm being realistic." Warren Buffett, who is close to the couple, told Fortune that Bill was "smart as hell, obviously," but "in terms of seeing the whole picture," Melinda was smarter.
18. Busy And Happy
In 2019, the couple celebrated their silver anniversary. "Bill, when I met you nearly thirty years ago, I never could have imagined all of the things we'd build together," Melinda said. All in all, the company, family, and charity have kept Bill and Melinda busy and happy. They have worked out exactly how to cope with their different roles, their money, and their fame over the years.