Welcome to #RelationshipGoals, where we’re giving the stage to the power couples we admire. From admirable long-term relationships to inspirational newlyweds, these are the couples we love and hope to take cues from in our own relationships.
He was already an icon of the tech and business world, leading one of the most famous and successful companies of all times. Bill Gates might have revolutionized the world’s relationship with IT, but when he first asked Melinda French out on a date, she was less than impressed.
She had recently graduated Duke University and joined Microsoft as a product manager. He was the CEO who just asked her out to dinner – a dinner that was supposed to take place two weeks later. Melinda turned him down, later telling Fortune: “That’s not spontaneous for me.” Then 23, she told him to call closer to a date. But Gates surprised her later that day, calling her in the evening to ask for a date again.
All the times they inspired us with their love
Although Melinda had qualms about dating her boss – especially a boss who was already a global figure – she and Bill started quietly dating outside work, keeping strict professional boundaries. With a BA in computer science and an MBA, both from Duke University, the Dallas native had her eyes on professional achievement. Her mom, a homemaker who regretted not attending college advised against the relationship.
But seven years later the couple was still going strong and wed in a million-dollar ceremony in Hawaii. To keep the event private, Bill threw frugality to the wind and not only bought out the entire hotel, but also booked all helicopters on the island of Maui to make sure no paparazzi could intrude. It worked to perfection – to this day few details are known about the power couple’s wedding.
It may have been all about Microsoft those days, but the Gates’s are nowadays better known for the life-altering work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the couples sole focus in the past years. Focused on tackling head-on all the issues governments and other NGOs ignore, the 18-year-old charity is known as the largest private foundation in the U.S., with over $50 billion in assets.
But the seeds for the foundation’s work and the foundation itself were sown during those early years of dating. When traveling, the couple would often be confronted with the levels of extreme poverty many countries faced. The easily curable or preventable diseases that were still claiming lives. Children stuck in endless cycles of poverty due to a lack of access to education.
Meanwhile Microsoft continued to grow and so did the Gates family, welcoming two daughters and a son. Committed to the happiness of their family and the emotional intelligence of their children, the couple decided to leave the children a large enough inheritance so that they could pursue any career, but not large enough to not have to work. After all, the Bill Gates may be the second-richest man on Earth with a $95 billion wealth and the family may live in $124 million compound, but Bill Gates still does the dishes every evening.
Why Melinda and Bill Gates are a true power couple
It first started as the William H. Gates Foundation, but most of us have come to know it as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and it’s undeniable proof of the Gates’ power couple status. Melinda joined the foundation when she returned from parental leave and Bill started a multi-year transition process from Microsoft to the charity. Although not a couple to be splashed all over tabloids and paparazzi websites, going from home life to living and working together, especially in equal positions of power came with some growing pains.
People often ignored Melinda in the boardroom and would turn to Bill for final decisions. Bill himself had to readjust from being the top dog at Microsoft to a dynamic of shared power. They both have been vocal about what that transition entailed – but neither complained. To them life and circumstances changing, meant that their relationship and dynamic evolved too. There was no other option, because there was no one more important than the other.
So they both put the necessary work in. “We’ve had to change to really be coequals. It’s not something that immediately happens overnight, but we’re both committed to it,” Melinda told Business Insider in 2015. And Bill certainly wasn’t going to give up. “Everything I’ve ever done, I’ve always had a partner,” he told the same source.
Their biggest relationship takeaway
For the Gates’s it’s all about synchronicity. A common goal. They share the same set of fundamental values and boost that with being open-minded and trusting each other. “We agree on the big issues. Our occasional disagreements these days are over tactics. Because I’ve been a public figure longer, and because I’m a man, some people assume I am making the big decisions. That’s never been the case,” Bill wrote in the couple’s annual open letter.
Whether it’s about synching schedules, reestablishing professional power dynamics, raising their family or deciding on charitable projects and investments, Bill and Melinda make sure their looking in the same direction, while complimenting each other. Just like the two sculpted birds they got from Bill’s parents for their wedding – the birds that still sit in front of their house, sitting next to each other, staring out to the horizon.
“Some people see Melinda as the heart of our foundation, the emotional core. But just as she knows I’m more emotional than people realize, I know she’s more analytical than people realize. When I get really enthusiastic about something, I count on her to make sure I’m being realistic,” the Microsoft genius wrote in the same letter. Adding: “We are partners in both senses that people use the word these days: at home and at work.”
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