Seattle, WA

Bill and Melinda Gates Have a Chance to Normalise Amicable Divorce

Toby Hazlewood

Parting doesn't have to involve acrimony, anger and agitation
Hands PartingPhoto by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

When a relationship ends, no matter how amicable or inevitable it might have seemed, it still hurts. I can imagine that Bill and Melinda Gates are going through such pain right now, even though their split has likely been coming for a while:

Source: Twitter

Parting is such sweet sorrow

Most adults have weathered the storm of at least one relationship going wrong while others are veterans of multiple breakups. I met and eventually married my first wife when I was just 23. We were both young, newly out of University and an accidental pregnancy brought out our youthful enthusiasm and determination to make things work - in spite of the better wisdom and governance offered to us by our parents and friends, we set up home and tried to make it work.

We gave it our all for a few years, we married and had another child but just before my I turned thirty, we acknowledged we were never going to be happy together. Reluctantly but with a sense of inevitability we decided to confront the issue and parted. There were no catastrophic issues that brought things to an end. We just grew out of love and recognised we were too different to be happy together.

While we recognised our relationship with each other was over romantically, we both recognised that our relationship as parents to our daughters (then aged 7 and 4) would last for all time. We were both determined to play an active role in their upbringing, and recognised that to do this we had to find a way of interacting that was fair, considerate and respectful for the benefit or our kids but also for each ourselves too.

Equal co-parenting - the exception, not the norm

After a few months of finding our feet, of each adapting to the new normal and of working through the inevitable pain and anger that all surely feel at the conclusion of a relationship of any seriousness - we were ready to set a plan in place for the rest of our lives. We were committed to equal co-parenting and to each playing an active part in the lives of our kids.

The intention was that our daughters would live half the time with each of us, moving between us for alternate weeks. As much as possible we'd each contribute equally to the costs of raising them. We'd be mutually supportive, ensuring that each had the opportunity and time to build a new life and we'd ensure that wider family on both sides got plenty of contact with our kids too.

At the time it felt like a bold and audacious plan - something that for whatever reason was unusual and which prompted raised and cynical eyebrows from those around us. It felt at times although we were suspected of having hidden agendas or a secret desire to get back together. People couldn't seem to understand that we were simply trying to find a fair and pragmatic way of each living a happy life in spite of our parting.
Broken HeartPhoto by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

An enduring solution

I'm proud to say that over 14 years later, our intentions and our plan have stood the test of time.

  • Our daughters are both happy, accomplished and fulfilled young women. The eldest has now left home and is studying overseas.
  • Their childhoods have been (as far as I can objectively tell) happy, loving and stable.
  • We've enjoyed all the usual highs and lows that come from raising two girls from childhood and through their teenage years.

In the meantime, the effects have been largely positive for my ex-wife and I too.

  • We've both benefited from being actively involved in raising our daughters, each enjoying a closer bond with them than we might have had in a conventional family set-up had we remained together.
  • In the time we've had 'kids-free' we've each been able to work through the pain and healing from our parting.
  • We've both had equal opportunities to build our careers and social lives without one or other of us enjoying unfair advantages or opportunities.
  • We've each contributed equally to the financial costs of their upbringing, neither seeking recompense or financial recourse over the other.
  • In later years we've each gone on to meet other people and have both remarried. My second wife and I have a blended family including two kids from her first marriage.

None of this is said with any intended sense of smugness or self-congratulation. It has been incredibly hard at times, and undoubtedly some aspects of all our lives have been made more difficult as a result of being non-conventional.

My point, if I have one is that an amicable, equal, fair and respectful parting is possible if both people are willing to make the effort to make it happen. It requires courage, confidence and determination - at times it requires compromise and patience too. But it should be conventional - or at least more common than it seems to be.

My hope for Bill and Melinda Gates

Their divorce petition cites irreconcilable differences and no matter how much they may have been preparing for this moment, I'm certain that Bill and Melinda Gates and their family and friends are hurting right now. But in time, I'm sure that they'll each be okay and will move on as they intend to do - each living happily while continuing the good work of their charitable foundation.

My hope too, is that their parting raises the profile of amicable divorces and demonstrates that no matter how old your kids are or how many billions of dollars you have in the bank, it's still possible to dissolve a marriage respectfully, fairly and with dignity. Their positive intentions certainly bode well and each seems committed to carry on working together. I hope that their parting will remain cordial, amicable and fair - showing the world that divorce doesn't have to be argumentative, angry and antagonistic.

I wish them well with it and know from personal experience that if they're committed to living a life that's happy and fulfilled - regardless of being divorced, it's eminently possible to do so. It begins with an amicable and respectful parting.

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