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Melinda Gates says that her divorce was 'unbelievably painful'

Melinda French Gates is talking about her divorce from Bill Gates, which she says was 'unbelievably painful.'

French Gates, 58, told Fortune magazine, "I had some reasons why I just couldn't stay in that marriage anymore." "But the strange thing about COVID is that it let me do what I needed to do without anyone watching.

"It's unbelievably painful in so many ways, but I was able to get through it because I was alone," she said.

Melinda and Bill, both 66, got married in 1994 and were together for 27 years before getting a divorce in May 2021. They have three kids together: Jennifer, 25, Rory, 23, and Phoebe, 19. During the breakup, their kids were always Melinda's "main concern."

Bill and Melinda Gates also started the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000. Even though they are no longer together, they still run it together, which French Gates says has helped her deal with her feelings.


Bill and Melinda Gates pose in front of the Elysee Palace after receiving the award of Commander of the Legion of Honor by French President Francois Hollande on April 21, 2017 in Paris, France
Bill and Melinda Gates divorced in May 2021.
Frederic Stevens/Getty Images
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation headquarters in Seattle, Washington, U.S., on Monday, May 3, 2021. Bill and Melinda Gates have made the decision to end their marriage, they said in a statement, tweeted by Bill Gates. They will continue to work together at the foundation, according to the statement.
The former couple founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000.
David Ryder/Bloomberg via Getty Images

“I kept working with the person I was moving away from, and I needed to show up and be my best self every single day,” the philanthropist said. “So even though I might be crying at 9 a.m. and then have to be on a video conference at 10 a.m. with the person I’m leaving, I have to show up and be my best.

“I learned as a leader that I could do it. It reminded me that the foundation calls me to be my best,” she added. 

French Gates said that helping people who were going through hard times during the pandemic helped her do her best work when she was going through hard times herself.

Melinda Gates speaks at the featured session,
Melinda Gates said her children were her “main concern.”
SXSW/Getty Images

“We work with unbelievable partners around the world who were also struggling during COVID,” she said. “I was on a video call with a woman who had lost her father, and a week later she’s on a call with me, right?”

In an interview with Gayle King for "CBS Mornings" earlier this year, French Gates said that after the divorce, she "cried a lot for many days" and was "grieving a loss."

Bill had a long affair with a Microsoft employee in 2000, which came out in 2021. He also reportedly asked out several women at work while he was married, but it's not clear how much French Gates knew about this at the time.


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