Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen appear to be the perfect couple, but they’ve faced their share of major relationship challenges. Their first test came early on when, just a few months into their courtship, when they learned that Brady’s ex was pregnant.

More recently, after nearly a decade of marriage, they faced another roadblock when they stopped communicating properly and the supermodel found herself unhappy in her union with Brady. But rather than allowing these things to derail them, the pair has always found a way to learn, overcome, and grow stronger.

Here’s what we can learn from Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen’s imperfect romance: 

Knowing when to let go 

For six years in the early 2000s, Gisele Bündchen and Leonardo DiCaprio were one of Hollywood’s hottest couples. The pair began dating in 1999, then split in 2002 because Bündchen (who became the world’s highest-paid model that year) was reportedly “getting a bit bored and wanted to move on,” then reunited months later.

In 2005, the pair called it quits for good when Bündchen realized she needed to be true to herself. Despite calling DiCaprio her “the first love of my life,” the model knew she had to let go. 

In 2018, Bundchen penned a memoir titled Lessons: My Path to a Meaningful Life in which she revealed that she had begun suffering from panic attacks and having suicidal thoughts in 2003. Writing candidly about her journey of self-discovery and her road to getting healthy, she confessed: “No longer numbing myself with smoking, drinking and too much work, I was becoming more and more aware of things that I’d chosen not to look at. Was I alone in wanting to do some serious soul-searching while [Leonardo DiCaprio] stayed the same? In the end, unfortunately, the answer was yes.”

The time she spent with DiCaprio certainly wasn’t a regret, however. As the Brazilian beauty told People, “Everyone who crosses our path is a teacher. They come into our lives to show us something about ourselves,” she explained. “And I think that’s what he was.” 

Not searching doesn’t mean not finding 

Just because you’re not actively looking for a relationship doesn’t mean it won’t find you. Good things have a tendency of happening when you least expect them and that was the case for Gisele Bündchen who met Tom Brady right when she was enjoying being alone.   

“I’d been single for a year, and I wasn’t looking for a relationship,” Bundchen told Vanity Fair. “I’d always been in serious relationships, but you learn a lot about yourself when you’re by yourself, and I was enjoying that process. But you don’t choose,” she noted.

It was December 2006 and, after a couple of unsuccessful blind dinner dates — “Everybody thought they needed to find me a boyfriend,” she told Jimmy Fallon — during which she felt “stuck,” Gisele agreed to one final try.

It would be her third blind date and, this time, she was only open to meeting for drinks “because it can take three minutes or two hours,” she laughed. As soon as she met Tom, she knew it would be the latter.

When I saw those kind eyes, I literally fell in love right away.

Gisele Bündchen

Connection comes first; Love is “something that grows”

According to Gisele Bundchen, love at first sight exists, but not in the traditional sense. “I believe in feeling connected,” she told Vanity Fair.

Love is something that grows, that comes from nourishment; it builds. But there is a great feeling that happens, that is telling you, I don’t want to leave this room! Whatever that’s called, that’s what happened.”

Gisele Bündchen to Vanity Fair

Recalling her first date with Tom, she told the outlet, “I knew right way — the first time I saw him.” They “sat and talked for three hours” and even that didn’t feel like enough. “I had to go home for Christmas, but I didn’t want to leave,” she remembered. “You know that feeling of, like, you can’t get enough? From the first day we met, we’ve never spent one day without speaking to each other.”

Perfect fairy tales don’t really exist 

Gisele Bündchen and Tom Brady’s instant connection appeared to be like something out of a rom-com, then their fairy tale nearly fell apart as quickly as it had started.  

“In the beginning you’re living this romantic fantasy; you’re thinking, ‘This can’t be true, it’s so good!’ And then, whoops — wake-up call!” Gisele told Vanity Fair, revealing how she felt the moment she found out that Brady’s ex-girlfriend, Bridget Moynahan, was pregnant.  

Moynahan and Brady’s publicist confirmed their split on December 15, noting that the couple had “amicably ended their three-year relationship several weeks ago.” Tom and Gisele became serious soon after and then, “two months into our relationship, Tom told me that his ex-girlfriend was pregnant,” Bündchen wrote in her memoir.

I felt my world had been turned upside down.

Gisele Bündchen

The news spread like wildfire and, speaking with Vanity Fair, the model admitted she considered breaking things off, but eventually decided against it. “You question at times, ‘Should I stay here? Maybe you should work this out.’ But when people break up, it’s for a reason,” she reasoned. 

Finding strength in obstacles 

Despite facing a major challenge at the very start of their relationship, Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen have enjoyed over a decade of marriage since saying “I do” in a top-secret ceremony in February 2009.

Looking back, Bündchen is thankful for the hurdle they had to overcome so early on. In fact, she credits it with their success as a couple. “I think it was a blessing, because otherwise I don’t think I would have known what he was made of, and he wouldn’t have known what I was made of,” she told Vanity Fair.

It made me feel more in love with him. Our relationship has become so much stronger, and I think I wouldn’t be as certain as I am today if it weren’t for that.

Gisele Bündchen to Vanity Fair

John Edward Thomas Moynahan was born in August 2007 and, although she’s never met his mother, Bündchen immediately embraced her “bonus child.” 

In December 2009, the couple grew their family further when they had their first child together, son Benjamin Rein Brady, then daughter Vivian Lake Brady arrived in December 2012. 

Having a support system is what it’s all about

Opening up about what marriage means to her, Bündchen told Vanity Fair that it’s all about teamwork. “My idea of that is you have a partner who’s got your back,” she said. “When I’m weak, you can be strong; when I’m strong, you can be weak. That’s what I believe marriage is.” 

It’s a sentiment she also touched on in her memoir, writing that her quarterback hubby “is someone you can count on. It’s a quality I hadn’t experienced in any of my other romantic relationships. I love my husband, and most of all, I trust him,” she proclaimed.  

The couple put that belief to the test in 2015 when Brady was embroiled in the “Deflategate” scandal. As Gisele told CBS News, “No matter how challenging it was, we were always being supportive of one another. And you know, that’s the most important thing you can have in your life: a support system and love.”

They were tested yet again during talks of Tom’s retirement from the NFL. During a SiriusXM interview in January 2018, the Super Bowl champ revealed, “If it was up to my wife, she would have me retire today. She told me that last night three times. And I said, ‘Too bad, babe, I’m having too much fun right now.’”

Couples need to change and evolve over time

As Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen learned early in their courtship, there’s no such thing as a picture-perfect love story. Despite appearing to be the perfect couple, Brady admitted to Howard Stern in April 2020 that all is not as it seems. 

In addition to being on different pages about Brady’s retirement, the pair also couldn’t seem to strike the right work-life balance. It got to a point where it almost broke their union, then Gisele spiller her heart.

“A couple of years ago, she didn’t feel like I was doing my part for the family,” Brady admitted to Stern. “She felt like I would play football all season and she would take care of the house, and then all of a sudden when the season ended, I’d be like, ‘Great, let me get into all of my other business activities’ […] and she’s sitting there going, ‘Well when are you going to do things for the house? When are you going to take the kids to school and do that?’”

Admitting that “the situation wasn’t great” and that his wife “wasn’t satisfied with our marriage,” Brady had to “check myself because she was like, ‘I have goals and dreams too.'” So he began pulling back on his commitments, but was feeling “resentful” about the situation. 

The turning point? A letter that he still reads to this day.

She actually wrote me a letter. It’s a very heartfelt letter for her to say, ‘This is where I’m at in our marriage,’ and it’s a good reminder for me that things are going to change and evolve over time.

Tom Brady to Howard Stern

“What happened and what worked for us 10 years ago won’t work for us forever because we are growing in different ways,” Brady explained, adding, “You can get caught up in your life where you think a relationship’s great, because it only works for you. And the point of a relationship — it has to work for both,” otherwise “it’s not sustainable.”

It’s easy to turn on autopilot and stop putting in the effort you once did as the years go by and you discover a new status quo. However, as Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen show us, that’s dangerous territory.

Becoming complacent and not communicating constantly leads to stagnation and can eventually ruin a great partnership. So talk — talk all the time — and don’t be afraid to change and grow as a couple while you grow as individuals. 

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