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Melinda Gates Opens Up About 'Unbelievably Painful' Divorce From Bill Gates

She says her main goal was to protect the couple's three children.

Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, speaks during the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting in New York on Sept. 19, 2022.
Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, speaks during the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting in New York on Sept. 19, 2022.
Michael Nagle/Getty Images

Melinda French Gates is sharing details about her "unbelievably painful" divorce from Bill Gates. French Gates was married to the billionaire Microsoft co-founder for 27 years. The couple divorced in August 2021. And perhaps surprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic made that break a bit easier.

"I had some reasons I just couldn't stay in that marriage anymore," French Gates told Fortune (as reported by People). "But the odd thing about COVID is that it gave me the privacy to do what I needed to do."

She added, "It's unbelievably painful, in innumerable ways, but I had the privacy to get through it."

Though the Gates' three children are all adults now, their mother wanted to shield them during the shift.

"My main concern, of course, was trying to protect my kids through it," French Gates told Fortune. "And we got to the other side."

It isn't the first time French Gates has discussed her divorce from one of the world's richest men. In March, she told CBS' Gayle King that she grieved the loss of her marriage, a loss she never saw coming when they wed in Hawaii in 1994.

Bill Gates acknowledged an affair with a Microsoft employee during the marriage. In the interview with King, French Gates was asked if he had more than one affair, and she said only, "those are questions Bill needs to answer."

The couple continue to run the philanthropic Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle.