If you haven’t heard, Bill and Melinda Gates are divorcing after 27 years (34 as a couple1). Not familiar with the name? He is cofounder of Microsoft and one of the five richest men on the planet.2
A recent article on their divorce said, “The divorce…is amicable…the Gates have already agreed on how they are going to split their assets. With these concerns out of the way, there are now questions about what causes a couple to break up after 27 years of marriage”3
What about the kids?
With these concerns out of the way…ok, but what about the kids? Well, they are adults, and their parents are loaded. They should be fine, right? Right?
According to University of Toronto associate professor Michael Saini gray divorce often creates:
feelings that their childhood was fake
loyalty challenges as both parents turn to them for comfort and support
anxiety about their own relationships
feelings of isolation and lack of adequate supports
role boundary problems and TMI, as they may not be ready to provide the support to their parents4
What the kids think
Researchers Sylvia Mikucki-Enyart, Sarah Wilder, and Hayden Barber confirmed this in their interviews with adult children of divorced parents who said,5
“They would come to me for advice and, it was awkward because I’m your child still. I don’t need to be answering these questions or giving you advice.”
“That brings a lot of new things to the table them having boyfriends and girlfriends. If they’d be single I feel like nothing would change, like they would just be mom and dad. But now they are mom and dad with people.”
“Once they were divorced, it’s funny, I started to worry about them. I don’t remember worrying about them beforehand… but a couple of years afterwards I worried that they would be alone.”
“They both only graduated high school and so I was kind of scared financially what was going to happen with them. I was a new college kid, I didn’t know how, with their divorce, I was going to pay for college, and if I was even gonna make it through college.”
“I was a little bit afraid of what does this mean for our family? Like, what does that mean for Christmas? I was gonna have to let go of a lot of things I really liked about my life and my relationships. It was depressing.”
Will the Gates kids experience any of this? Probably—even with all that money. I hope this doesn’t get lost in the “they’re doing such a great job being cordial” mantra. The Gates “kids” are still children whose parents don’t love each other anymore…and that hurts. This is one of the reasons God hates divorce.
Hope for the adult children
However, God doesn’t hate divorced people. God doesn’t hate those who had to escape abuse, addiction, adultery, or abandonment. God doesn’t hate those who made bad choices. The Bible says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”6
But God does hate the discord, unforgiveness, anger, selfishness, division, suffering, loneliness, doubt, fear, bitterness, frustration, and lovelessness that often invades the lives of the children and adult children of parental divorce.
So whether you were 4, 14, or 40 when your parents divorced, I encourage you to turn to God with your hurts, confusion, anger, and feelings of isolation.
Also, see our other blogs, podcasts, and recommended resources for more info on gray divorce.
1Stelloh, Tim (May 3, 2021). "Bill and Melinda Gates are getting divorced, future of foundation in question". NBC News. NBC Universal. 34 yrs as couple
4Choose a Better Path: Overcoming the Impact of Your Parents’ Divorce, Kent Darcie
5Mikucki-Enyart, S. L., Wilder, S. E., & Barber, H. (2017). “Was it all smoke and mirrors?” Applying the relational turbulence model to adult children’s experience of late-life parental divorce. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 34(2), 209-234.
61 John 1:9, ESV
Bill & Melinda Gates by Steve Jurvetson