Bezos’ Divorce & the Value of Barriers

jeff & mackenzie bezos
Jeff & MacKenzie Bezos in happier days

The richest couple in the world, Amazon’s MacKenzie and Jeff Bezos, posted on January 9 an artfully-crafted Twitter statement to announce their impending divorce after 25 years and 4 children. The split made every newscast, and was swiftly followed by an Enquirer expose of Jeff’s marital transgression with Lauren Sanchez, whose husband worked with Bezos on the film “Manchester By the Sea.”

Jeff had everything–not just money, but the kind of wife who seems ideal. She is intelligent and accomplished, Princeton-educated, winner of the American Book Award for fiction, and founder of organizations to prevent bullying and help homeless families. She is beautiful, with a slender, fit form. Most importantly, she is the mother of Jeff’s four children, three sons and an adopted daughter from China, the eldest of whom is 18.

It makes no sense that Jeff hurts his children, discards his vows, and pursues a married mother of three who is no younger than the lovely wife with whom he built a business and a home. To be fair, we do not know the dynamic of the Bezos’ marriage, nor anything about MacKenzie Bezos’ behavior or perspective, all of which may be relevant. The whole thing is really no one’s business, except that Amazon has become so much more than just the Bezos’ business.

But the news reminds us of what everyone intuitively knows that in romance, emotions trump logic. Jeff  wasn’t trying to be reasonable or prudent or decent or kind. The explanation for his irrational act is that the thrill of forbidden love, the excitement of new, passionate sexuality, is so strong it over-rides every shred of sense.

I write about the supremacy of emotion over logic, even when the detriment is clear, in my book Don’t Divorce. Succumbing to attraction is most likely when people “have everything” (including boredom), like Jeff Bezos, and when they’re feeling weak and vulnerable. But flirting and following through happen all the time, no matter the state of philanderers’ marriages.

What can we learn from this? First, awareness. If the world’s richest man would part with half his wealth, stop living with his family, subject himself to ridicule and pity to pursue someone with equally difficult entanglements, then we need to keep foremost in mind that sexual attraction is dangerous and powerful. Better to count our own blessings, and protect them–using unabashed gratitude.

If you’ve got a loving partner, children with whom you want to be close, a home and rhythm that is predominantly pleasant, don’t just coast. Tell your spouse and kids specifically what you appreciate. Remind yourselves actively and often that you love each other and that furthering the welfare of your family is your most precious commitment. Say flat out that keeping your family relationships healthy is priority number one.

And show it by putting up protective barriers. Not a wall costing billions of dollars and causing a government shutdown–but your own personal standards for behavior.  If your conscience gives a twinge, ask outright, “would I want my mate to see me right now?” If you wouldn’t be comfortable with your partner knowing about or seeing you in this or any situation, it’s probably wrong. Just cut it off; no half-way; turn right around, before you even start anything.

If love conquers all, it sure conquered Jeff Bezos. The case is compelling because most people occasionally fantasize about having his kind of unlimited wealth, or being able to attract any person they fancy. But no one wants a divorce. No one wants to see his or her family, a long-term emotional investment and the hearts and hopes of beloved children crushed.

So we keep watching from the outside as details of the Bezos split emerge. It’s sad and sordid, and a reminder about what’s important…useful to us normal people, who will just keep on summoning Alexa and ordering from Amazon.



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