Millionaire Marital Problems

Marriage issues cut across all income levels.

Posted May 14, 2019

Photo by Pierre Gui on Unsplash
Source: Photo by Pierre Gui on Unsplash

Many of us believe that if we were rich then our marriages would be smooth sailing, thinking financial security would ease many of the marital issues confronting us. But in the book released this month, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes The World, Melinda Gates, wife of billionaire Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, opens up about her own struggles in her 25 year marriage to one of the richest men in the world. What's apparent is that despite their wealth, their issues are a reflection of the reality of most marriages.  

“I have gone into several situations where people kind of allude to, ‘Well, it must all be fine for you because you’ve got a lot of money.'  No! It’s not all fine. Sometimes this stuff just needs to be worked through." 

Some of what needed to get "worked through" was how to raise a family with a husband who was a workaholic. "I was thinking, OK, maybe he wanted to have kids in theory, but not in reality. We were not moving forward as a couple to try to figure out what our values were and how we were going to teach those to the kids."

One specific example she recalled was being angry with him years ago because of his challenge of balancing work and life where he reportedly worked 16-hour days for five years. It culminated when the voracious reader was paging through a book about Winston Churchill instead of helping her get their three children ready to go out, or packing up the car.

It eventually escalated to the point where Melinda contemplated if the relationship could last. "I can remember some days that were so incredibly hard in our marriage where you thought, ‘Can I do this?’”

In one story in her book, she notes how she asked her husband to start sharing more of the parenting responsibility by driving their kids to school. When Bill agreed, it started a chain-reaction where other men began driving their kids to school.  

"The reason I wrote that specific story [is that it's] an example of this unpaid labor that women do all over the world. In the U.S., women do 90 minutes more of unpaid labor at home than their husbands do. That's things like doing the dishes, carpooling, doing the laundry. Unless we look at that and redistribute it, we're not going to let women do some of the more productive things they want to do."

Melinda Gates says she and her husband can now look back over the years and laugh it off as growing pains, but as a therapist, life coach, and workshop trainer, I've known all too well—through working with couples as well as my own marriage—that relationships take work. Both sides must invest emotionally to not only care about the other's day to day life but also find space to cultivate each other's dreams and aspirations all the while handling the challenges that come daily with work, parenting, and other obligations. Unfortunately, some marriages don't make it. But to believe others have it easy due to being financially wealthy would be a disservice to the realities of marital relationships.


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