I was sad to read that Jeff & MacKenzie Bezos are divorcing after 25 years of marriage.
I do not know Jeff personally, nor am I married, so I’m not here to judge. I just want to take what he and MacKenzie wrote at face value and think about what it means. I’m processing out loud.
Here’s their Tweet:
Frankly, my heart winces at these well-crafted words. They project unreserved optimism without acknowledging pain. While a respect for privacy and not going into the reasons why is understandable, this level of positivity perplexes me.
After a long period of loving exploration and trial separation…
It sounds like Jeff conducted an experiment to see if he and MacKenzie would be happier apart. Although it may have been a long process with “great deliberation and consultation” (cf a recent Amazon shareholder letter on decision making), experimental separation combined with loving exploration seems to result in a foregone conclusion.
New relationships are front-loaded with excitement. If you think short-term, this will always feel better than going back to long-running unresolved marriage problems. How does this decision accord with ownership and long-term thinking?
Lucky, grateful, would do it again…
The gratitude expressed in the Tweet is fantastic, which makes the decision to divorce all the more jarring. Perhaps it means that their choice doesn’t erase any of the goodness of the past–they just want to be freed up for the future.
But something feels off about that logic…maybe because it epitomizes the modern conception of marriage as self-fulfillment?
Using Amazon’s language of Customer Obsession, we could ask, “Who is the ‘customer’ of marriage?” Is it the partners, the children, society, God, or maybe all of the above? If marriage were a product (it’s certainly more than that), what would it look like to work backwards and iterate so that it fulfilled more of its purpose?
Labels have changed from married to divorced, but we’re still cherished friends…
What’s significant about dropping the marriage label? Jeff and MacKenzie are already parents, friends, partners, individuals and a family. What does it mean to be cherished friends, but no longer a married couple?
I’m guessing that it means you don’t have sex, no longer express intimacy or romantic affection towards one another, and drop all expectations of exclusivity and personal commitment. Which leads to the seemingly impregnable question: Why?
Not to belittle or oversimplify the very real struggles of marriage and the uniqueness of every situation, let’s imagine applying Amazon’s 5 Why’s exercise to this situation:
Why is marriage no longer a suitable label for our relationship?
Because we don’t love each other.
Why don’t we love each other?
Because we don’t spend time together.
Why don’t we spend time together?
Because we want different things.
Why do we want different things?
Because we already have all we want materially and the things money can’t buy require sacrifices we don’t want to make for each other.
Why won’t we make these sacrifices for each other?
… at this point, I find Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:8-9 incisive…
The Bible teaches Christians to pray for those in power. Money is power and the Bezos are the richest couple in the world.
So last Thursday, I gathered with 30 other people in South Lake Union (Amazon HQ’s neighborhood) to give thanks and pray for the Bezos, their family, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, the whole Seattle tech scene, the relentless tech culture and the Christians who work in it. We also prayed for each other and for the impact of the tech industry on our communities.
If you’re a Christian reading this, may I invite you to pray for Jeff, MacKenzie and their family?