The recent announcement (Twitter) from Bill and Melinda Gates that their 27-year marriage is over caught many of us by surprise since their PR department made them look like the ideal couple: super wealthy, happy, and very generous, donating to worthy causes to help improve our world.
In the statement above, Bill Gates wrote,
“After a great deal of thought and a lot of work on our relationship, we have made the decision to end our marriage… we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in this next phase of our lives.”
And in the divorce filings (acquired by TMZ), Melinda Gates wrote,
“This marriage is irretrievably broken.”
Irretrievably broken is a legal term in Washington state that expresses “we’ve already gone through all of the counseling services, attempted reconciliation, and ask the court to recognize a no-fault divorce”.
We know Bill Gates is deliberate, focused, highly intelligent, success-oriented, and thorough. (His wife once discovered him listing the pros and cons of marriage on a whiteboard before committing.) So I think it’s fairly safe to assume that they are more than capable of having a great marriage, can certainly afford the best marriage counselors in the world, and would have put in the time and effort aided by experts to try and make things work.
So, Why Didn’t It Work Out?
I’m going to tell you exactly what happened and why.
While my heart goes out to Bill and Melinda, I don’t blame them for the failure of their marriage. From the title, you can already guess that I place the blame squarely on marriage counseling. Not on any particular counselors, but specifically on the “principles,” or lack thereof which they rely upon.
I have a lot of experience with marriage counselors. I used to work with the best marriage counselors in southern California, decades ago. Back then I was a divorce mediator. Guess where I got all of my clients. From marriage counselors referring them to me! The irony would be hilarious if it wasn’t so tragic and disgusting.
As I helped couples divorce amicably without going through the polarizing divorce court system, I shook my head at the benign and mundane reasons people gave for wanting a divorce. It was usually something along the lines of, “we just can’t get along.”
Later I decided to do some research and experimentation to help these couples. What I discovered were principles that do more than just help a couple “get along.” Rather, I found the principles that turn marriage into a machine that generates ongoing marital bliss. I developed an educational process and techniques that help people nurture and maintain that machine.
I shifted my practice to helping couples save their marriages, and developed quite a reputation for success, especially among Hollywood stars who drove all the way down to my office in San Diego.
And it was through the process of helping clients, most referred by marriage counselors, that I realized how fundamentally broken the paradigm they rely upon is.
No matter how rich Bill and Melinda Gates are, or Jeff Bezos and MacKenzie Scott, or Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, or Tiger Woods, Elon Musk, or any other high profile couples are, they could all spend $100 million on marriage counseling and still be unsuccessful because the fundamental premises are wrong.
As a computer scientist, Bill Gates understands that if you write bugs in your code it will crash your computer. And as a rocket scientist, Elon Musk knows if you break the principles of rocketry you get really big fireworks. Similarly, if you break the principles of marriage science, your marriage will blow up.
Marriage counselors are the people who should know the principles of marriage and should teach us. But they don’t know them and they don’t teach them. This is the fundamental problem with marriage counseling.
I have known many marriage counselors. Some of them are great people with noble intentions who truly want to help people. Other counselors are selfish, just in the business for the money, and think nothing of letting their clients continue paying for unsuccessful sessions for years.
And every counselor I have ever known uses different approaches and different methods. They have no principles that have been proven, tested, and consistently used by all counselors. There is no governing body that has established a uniform, successful approach to marital science, and has developed an effective educational curriculum to train new counselors to help clients through the tried and true methods of marriage recovery. The entire marriage counseling industry pretends to be a mental health institution, but they are not medical professionals.
Marriage Counselors Are Not Doctors
Imagine if you had a broken arm, but every “doctor” you spoke with suggested different methods. Some might just give you pain pills. Others a sling. Others might put on a cast without running any x-rays or setting the bone.
In order to get proper treatment, you’d have to become a medical expert yourself and demand an x-ray, proper setting of the bone, and a cast so it healed properly. Otherwise, you’d have to interview countless doctors until you found one who had a successful track record of full recovery.
That is the current state of the marriage counseling industry.
We trust the knowledge of even the greenest medical school graduates practicing under an established doctor because we know about all of the years of rigorous training they received and the testing under intense scrutiny. We also know that the medical principles and practices they have learned were developed scientifically, and have been tested and retested, ad nauseam. We know that the medicines they prescribe, and the techniques they use are consistent with virtually every other medical doctor in the world. We know we can have a broken arm or many other ailments treated in just about any country in the world and expect the same successful treatment.
However, practitioners of western psychology such as marriage counselors and therapists, do not have anywhere near the same standards. They are not medical doctors, unlike psychiatrists who actually went to medical school, have an MD after their name, and provide medical therapies. Even those counselors who refer to themselves as ‘doctor,’ are not medical doctors. They have a PhD obtained not through medical training, but by writing a dissertation approved by a school of non-medical professionals.
As marriage healers, psychotherapists are the modern-day “medicine men and women” who rely on folk remedies, some of which may be successful, some of the time, for certain situations, from the right practitioner. But their methods are not scientific, systematized, proven, nor universally applied.
Western psychology is an industry that presents itself as a society of marriage experts, the way doctors are presented as medical experts. This is false advertising because they are anything but expert. How do we know this? Because most couples see a counselor before getting a divorce, and there is over a 50% divorce rate worldwide. Would you go to a doctor who only had a 50% success rate? Would you continue to pay him or her $50-200 per session, once a week for 6 months or a couple of years, while your symptoms are getting worse? Of course not. But people do that with their marriage counselors, every single day.
Marriage counseling has become the defacto standard for helping marriages, even though it clearly does not work and keeps producing victims from the highest-profile couples like Bill and Melinda Gates, to our friends, our parents, and even ourselves. So, what can you do to avoid your marriage from becoming a divorce statistic?
How Can You Avoid The Mistakes And Have A Happy Marriage?
The key to your marital happiness begins and ends with you, individually, learning and applying the principles of marriage. If you want to build a rocket or a computer program, you must become a rocket scientist or a computer scientist. So, you need to learn enough about marital science to successfully operate your own marriage until it produces love and happiness on a daily basis.
Don’t bother talking to marriage counselors about love. They consider love to be just an emotion, or an abstract thought. This is incorrect. Jealousy is an emotion. Fear is an emotion. Anger is an emotion.
Emotions are negative chemical and energetic responses your body sets in motion when it thinks it’s in danger to motivate you to fight or fly. Whenever you are upset with your spouse, what do you typically do? Express love or fight/fly? The way to a successful marriage is to overcome the base instincts of the body trying to take over your mind and learn how to express love. Even when upset, you can discuss an issue with your spouse from a place of love, rather than blame and selfishness.
Love is not generated by the body. Love is a spiritual force that flows through us, and we can use our free will to rise above the instincts and demands of the body and direct love to our spouse in all circumstances. This is the basic foundation of marriage: understanding what love is, and basing all of your thoughts, speech, and actions around expressing love to your spouse.
I can guarantee you that even the most expensive counselors in the world working with Bill and Melinda would have barely discussed love. They just don’t go there. Instead, they focus on problems and issues which have nothing to do with the deep love connection that people marry in order to obtain.
I feel for Bill and Melinda and wish them well in their future lives. But I wish they had found us before calling it quits. For everyone else reading this article, I recommend you continue your education in the marital sciences. Read my other article, How To Save Your Marriage Alone to learn some of the key mistakes most people make in their marriages. These bad habits are present in all marriages that end in divorce. Once you eliminate those negative behaviors in your marriage, you will have a solid foundation upon which to grow a truly loving and happy marriage.
You can also take a look at my online marriage saving course, which teaches the system I used with my one on one clients, before founding The Marriage Foundation. Unlike what psychotherapists practice, our methods are consistent, based on defining and nurturing real love, and have a highly successful track record of success, over two decades. More than 95% of our clients who put in the effort to practice the principles we teach start living the marriage they dreamed of. Had either Bill or Melinda just read one of the articles we’ve written, that might have been enough to set them on the right track. It may be too late for their marriage, but it is not too late for yours.