Melinda French Gates Opens Up About 'Unbelievably Painful' Divorce: 'I Just Couldn't Stay in That Marriage'

Melinda French Gates, Bill Gates
Melinda French Gates, Bill Gates

SXSW/Getty; Sven Hoppe/picture alliance via Getty Melinda French Gates, Bill Gates

Melinda French Gates says her divorce from ex-husband Bill Gates was "unbelievably painful."

The philanthropist, 58, opened up about her split from the 66-year-old Microsoft co-founder in an interview with Fortune magazine published Monday, more than a year after their divorce was finalized in August 2021.

The couple filed for divorce in May 2021 after 27 years of marriage.

"I had some reasons I just couldn't stay in that marriage anymore," French Gates said in the interview. "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."

RELATED: Melinda French Gates Says She's 'Definitely' Open to Dating Again After Divorce from Bill Gates

French Gates has three children with her ex-husband: Jennifer, 25, Rory, 23, and Phoebe, 19.

The kids were among French Gates' top priorities during the divorce, she said.

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

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Melinda Gates, Bill Gates
Melinda Gates, Bill Gates

KAMIL ZIHNIOGLU/AFP via Getty Melinda French Gates, Bill Gates

In March, French Gates told CBS Mornings' Gayle King that she and her ex-husband remained "friendly" with each other, and maintained professional ties.

The couple founded The Gates Foundation together in 2000, six years after they tied the knot.

RELATED: Bill Gates Says He Had a 'Great Marriage' to Melinda French Gates: 'I Wouldn't Have Changed It'

"Certainly, I wish him well — I don't wish him harm," French Gates said at the time. "And I think we have a productive working relationship, and I think that will continue."

That same month, French Gates told USA Today that the "lowest moment" of her life was when she decided to leave her marriage.

"That wasn't something I ever thought would happen to me," she said at the time. "It certainly wasn't what I thought on the day I got married, but I realized for myself, I needed to make a healthier choice."

She concluded, "That was just a very, very sad day."