Bill and Melinda Gates reveal exactly how they've kept their 26-year marriage strong while building a $1 trillion company

Bill and Melinda Gates reveal exactly how they've kept their 26-year marriage strong while building a $1 trillion company
melinda gates bill

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation


Bill and Melinda Gates in 1986.

  • Bill and Melinda Gates know better than anyone how to achieve success in both business and in marriage.
  • The Gates have been married for 26 years, and they share the steps they've taken to build a successful relationship.
  • At a Facebook Live talk presented by Lin-Manuel Miranda at Hunter College in 2018, the Gates shared they set clear boundaries to avoid discussing certain topics at work and during date night.
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Bill and Melinda Gates are a power couple - and just like any marriage, they put in a lot of effort to make it work.

The two met in 1987, just after Melinda joined Microsoft as a product manager, when they were unexpectedly seated next to each other at a work dinner. Melinda rose through the ranks at Microsoft and managed a team of more than 1,000 people. The executive left Microsoft after deciding to quit her job to raise her children. Bill, on the other hand, remains a board member of his trillion-dollar company.

The Gates have been married for 26 years, raised three kids, and are worth $113 billion. In 2000, they cofounded the world's largest private charitable foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, putting hefty investments in developing solutions for worldwide issues like gender inequality.


The Gates have proven that spouses can work together, but it wouldn't have been possible without learning how to become business partners, working parents, and husband and wife.

Here's how the power couple built a strong relationship.

They weighed the pros and cons before saying "I do"

Before Bill got down on one knee, he made a whiteboard list of pros and cons, CNBC reported. Though it wasn't much of a romantic gesture, Bill explained in a Netflix documentary, "Inside Bill's Brain," that he wanted to make sure he was able to commit to the marriage and also run Microsoft successfully. They both thought hard about what they wanted and if their futures aligned.

That whiteboard list Bill made ultimately paid off. Melinda Gates wrote in their 2018 annual letter that the couple can get through disagreements because they share the same core values and are both working toward a common goal.

"For our wedding, Bill's parents gave us a sculpture of two birds side by side, staring at the horizon, and it's still in front of our house," she wrote. "I think of it all the time, because fundamentally we're looking in the same direction."


They learned to be a team

Melinda Gates sat down with Business Insider US Editor-in-Chief Alyson Shontell in 2019 to discuss her book, "The Moment of Life: How Empowering Women Changes the World." In sharing her personal experiences in her career and marriage, Gates said that divvying up chores is a family tradition in her household. The two billionaire philanthropists take turns doing the dishes every night, and Bill also drives their kids to school twice a week, Business Insider reported.

Though it may sound small, Melinda shared in her book that splitting up household responsibilities made her relationship stronger, helped her figure out who she wanted to be in her marriage, and it also set an example for her kids that doing the dishes isn't a woman's job.

"There are still things we do in our home that I wanted to make sure we did as parents and that our kids participated in so they would know what it was to grow up and have responsibilities," Gates told Business Insider. "What happens is that the last 15 minutes gets divvied up really fast. And then five minutes later we all go upstairs. So I think we just have to sometimes name these extra invisible things that people don't even see that we do as women."

They set clear boundaries between work and home life

When it comes to having tough conversations about their relationship, the Gates are game. However, they both agree that it should be done behind closed doors, Business Insider reported.

"Just like in a family with kids, in business we show up with a united front that this is who we are," Melinda said during a Facebook Live talk presented by Lin-Manuel Miranda at Hunter College. Any relationship issues are meant to be tackled at home, the couple added.


She further explained that they sometimes agree to not talk about kids, business, and sometimes politics during date nights. This leaves time for the couple to focus on their relationship, Business Insider reported.