Gisele Bündchen says she and Tom Brady simply drifted apart. What happened and what could have made a difference for this most famous of couples?
No. It wasn’t preeminent Super Bowl winning quarterback Tom Brady’s passion for turf that led to his breakup with Gisele Bündchen, herself a preeminent model whose resilience, intellect, and beauty has helped transform a global industry.
“You give everything you got to achieve your dream,” Bündchen revealed in a Vanity Fair interview. “You give a hundred percent of yourself, and it’s heartbreaking when it doesn’t end up the way you hoped for, and worked for, but you can only do your part.”
I asked Seth Eisenberg, author of PAIRS Essentials and a fellow Miamian, about that dream. Despite Bündchen and Brady’s anything but normal life and limitless opportunities, Eisenberg said their dreams were likely similar to millions of other couples:
- Everything I ever wanted in life, I will find with you.
- Everything good I have, I will keep.
- Nothing bad, hurtful, and upsetting that happened in the past will happen again with you.
Bündchen told Vanity Fair that she and Brady drifted apart.
“Sometimes you grow together; sometimes you grow apart,” Bündchen confided in the emotional interview.
“When I was 26 years old and he was 29 years old, we met, we wanted a family, we wanted things together. As time goes by, we realize that we just wanted different things, and now we have a choice to make. That doesn’t mean you don’t love the person. It just means that in order for you to be authentic and truly live the life that you want to live, you have to have somebody who can meet you in the middle, right? It’s a dance. It’s a balance,” she said.
Eisenberg said it’s not unusual for couples to drift apart or to have significantly independent lives, but stressed that doesn’t have to lead to divorce.
One Plus One Equals Three
Every couple creates a “we”, Eisenberg said. That becomes a representation of what they share and create together.
“‘We’ doesn’t mean you don’t still have two ‘I’s'” Eisenberg said. The “we” couples create are increasingly diverse. Today’s generation bears little resemblance to the gender-role dominated models of past generations. “If we expect a partner to always like what we like, want what we want, and dream what we dream, before long we’ll always be looking for a different partner,” he said.
Marriages that depend on how someone feels at a particular moment in time, Eisenberg emphasized, are going to be inherently shaky.
“There’s a difference between a marriage built on commitment and a relationship held together by how someone feels during a given moment or period of life,” Eisenberg said. “No one can promise to always feel any emotion, but we can promise to keep our commitments,” he added.
Eisenberg offered the example of a passenger who boards a flight from Miami bound for LA, discovers the turbulence makes him uncomfortable, opens his parachute and jumps out, floating safely to the destination of his dreams. Children, however, often end up stuck on that plane or find themselves desperately clinging to someone else’s parachute.
Researchers increasingly agree that the concept of marriage changed in the western world over the past half century, which explains something about why Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen “drifting apart” is more likely to lead to divorce than it was for generations past.
Rosie the Riveter
From World War II to the present, as women gained greater freedoms and opportunities, the basis of marriage shifted from “security, stability and raising children” to meeting each others’ needs for “love and intimacy,” Eisenberg explained. “No longer did women have to stay in unhappy or abusive marriages. Increasingly, women wanted to be married to a best friend,” he added. The problem, he said, is that many men never had an example in their own fathers that they could follow, and they didn’t learn about relationships in school, which led to a lot of incompetence.
One price of that incompetence: 24 million American children are today growing up in a single parent household.
So what makes a marriage strong, I asked? Eisenberg said there are six pillars to lasting marital bliss:
- Shared Interests
- What’s We’ve Built Together
Few couples have strengths in every area at any one time, the relationship skills expert explained. “The work of a relationship is to recognize the challenges and invest together. Make it fun!” he stressed.
The Logic of Love
The challenge is to stay a pleasure in each other’s lives, he said, referring to “the logic of love”.
“The logic of love, ” Eisenberg explained, “is the logic of pleasure and pain. We are naturally drawn to what we anticipate will be a pleasure, and that gives rise to the emotion of love. When instead of pleasure we anticipate pain, commitment might survive, but feelings of love don’t,” he added.
What’s a pleasure at 26 and 29 might be the dream of a family. At 36 and 39, it could be something else altogether. But whatever it is, couples that have at least some dreams they share with one another have an advantage.
Daily Temperature Reading
Eisenberg said relationship skills like the PAIRS “Daily Temperature Reading” (DTR) help couples stay connected, become proactive problem solvers, and learn to support each other’s goals and aspirations.
The five-step process requires setting aside a few minutes of undistracted, quality time, ideally daily. Some couples DTR in writing, particularly when separated by travel or deployments.
The exercise begins with sharing appreciations with each other.
“Creating a habit of affirming loved ones makes a difference,” Eisenberg said. “It can be as simple as thanking someone for a nice text, extra minutes of sleep, a delicious cup of coffee, helping the kids with homework – it’s not so much about what as it is about creating the habit of looking for what’s right and saying that aloud.”
The second step is taking turns sharing new information.
“That’s about keeping each other up-to-date,” Eisenberg said. “It might be about something in the family, neighborhood, school, work, something you heard or read – but it’s about staying connected so you don’t find yourselves waking up as strangers one day.”
What are you wondering about?
“It’s important to ask about anything you’re wondering about. Maybe you felt someone was in a bad mood, sad, or angry? Maybe you overheard something and want to better understand? Whatever you’re wondering, it’s important not to make assumptions. Ask your questions,” he emphasized.
Concerns with recommendations
After partners have taken turns confiding – and listening – through each step, they get to concerns with recommendations.
“Often, couples are current and there aren’t concerns, but it’s helpful to normalize and have a space to address differences and concerns that naturally come up in any close relationship,” Eisenberg said.
It’s important to be specific with a concern and focus on just one, single behavior or action, share how it made you feel, and say what you recommend instead.
Wishes, hopes and dreams
Last, the Daily Temperature Reading ends with couples sharing wishes, hopes and dreams. That may be what someone wants for dinner, a test they want to ace, game they hope to win, vacation or anything else.
“Ultimately, it’s about staying connected,” Eisenberg stressed.
Thousands of facilitators coach couples on skills such as the Daily Temperature Reading. “It’s a new paradigm,” Eisenberg said. “Skills training is about recognizing you and your partner have to find the answers that work for your relationship. Skills help you navigate and succeed.”
For better or worse, for Bündchen and Brady, drifting apart has forever changed their lives.