Bill Gates divorce from wife of 27 years, Melinda has cast an unwanted spotlight on women who the Microsoft top boss previously dated, or was reportedly involved with. In Bollywood style, the blame for this power couple’s separation found its way to the “other” women in Bill Gates’ life, without anyone spelling it out. Should anyone, man or woman, bear the “blame” for this high-profile divorce? And what does this zeal of ours to elbow each other and point at women in Bill Gates’ life, or at least rumoured to be, say about us and our understanding of marriage?
Whenever a relationship falls apart, it is our innate nature to find faultlines. This holds not only for celebrity couples but those in our family and friend circle as well. How did it go wrong, where and when? Why did this couple choose to separate, they seemed so happy and successful? Was one of them having an affair? What could have damaged their relationship to the point of no repair?
What we are unwilling to accept is that most often the reasons for a relationship’s breakdown lie within it, and not on the outside. Also, playing a blame game is unfair to those whose lives we end up scrutinising.
For instance, we have been lapping up all the details about Bill Gates’s annual arrangement with his former girlfriend Ann Winblad, and how he reportedly made Melinda sign a pre-nup, giving him a clearance to spend a weekend with Winbland every year. Even when Gates said the nature of these weekend getaways was to have meaningful conversations, it hasn’t kept people from rolling their eyes. Similarly, the blame for Gates’ divorce also found its way to a Gates’ Foundation employee Zhe Shelly Wang, who had to go on record to state that she had nothing to do with it.
“The other woman” phenomenon is our society’s attempt to turn a blind eye towards the labour that goes into making a marriage work, which makes it susceptible to dysfunction all the time. We love this idea of a temptress luring a man, almost hypnotising him into breaking his marital vows. As if men have no self-control? Women are indeed very powerful, but controlling minds is sadly not one of our specialities!
Irrespective of gender, people can reach a point in a marriage where they fail to see any future with each other. By robbing people of this reality check, aren’t we further pushing them away from finding solutions to save troubled relationships? Or a chance at closure, when relationships decade-long relationships come to an end?
Even when a married man does have an affair, why must the accountability lie with the other woman in his life, and not him? And while we are at it, doesn’t the same hold true for any woman who may stray outside of her marriage. People who have extra-marital affairs may say they have their reasons to do so, but even then the onus lies on them, and not on the person with whom they cheated.
Let us leave Winblad and Wang alone. Bill and Melinda are paying the price of their celebrity status, but what we are doing to Windblad and Wang, purely on basis of conjecture is unfair. The Gates’ know what went wrong between them, they’ll sort it out like two adults. Why must these two women pay the price of their high-profile divorce?
The views expressed are the author’s own.