The Profile: The World’s Most Powerful Couples

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!

This is a special edition of The Profile, featuring stories of the most powerful couples that I’ve read in the last two years. (Thanks to my friend Lauren who gave me the idea to do this!)

I hope you enjoy the following profiles, and please respond to this email with one lesson you’ve learned from your own experience about what it takes to build and maintain a successful partnership.

Here we go:

The unlikely power duo
The world’s most powerful woman
America’s new power couple
The high school sweethearts paying it forward
The young couple fighting their demons
— The former first lady optimistic about the future
The woman in front of George Clooney
— The breakup museum
— The heartbreak cleanse
The woman who married a terrorist
— America’s love doctor
— The therapist who will fix your love life

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The unlikely power duo: After dating guys like Drake & Common, Serena Williams is very much in love with Alexis Ohanian, Reddit’s nerdy co-founder. At first, Serena considered Alexis an “irritant” who wouldn’t go away. But in a whirlwind romance, he managed to win her over with his techie charm. This isn’t some bullshit love fairy tale, this is real life (wellllll, minus the weekend trips to Paris & surprise proposals in Rome.)

“I felt like a door had been opened to a person who made me want to be my best self. . . . I find myself just wanting to be better by simply being around her because of the standard she holds.”

The world’s most powerful woman: The first time that Melinda Gates ever agreed to do a solo profile was in January 2008. This profile covers the gamut of Melinda’s extraordinary life: meeting and marrying Bill Gates, becoming the essential half of what has turned out to be the world’s premier philanthropic partnership, and dramatically changing the idea around how the power couple should manage their money.

“From those to whom much is given, much is expected.”

America’s new power couple: OK, I’ll admit it, Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez are great together. Vanity Fair did a profile on the actress-athlete duo, and I can’t stop thinking about this story. It goes like this: Imagine you’re on a first date with J-Lo & you’re nervous as hell. Best way to calm your nerves? A-Rod got up, went to the bathroom to gather his thoughts, and texted her an oh-so-romantic: “You look sexy AF.” An interesting approach that somehow worked out in his favor.

“She told me around the third or fourth inning that she was single,” he says. “I had to get up and go re-adjust my thoughts. I went to the bathroom and got enough courage to send her a text.”

The high school sweethearts paying it forward: Everyone knows LeBron James, the NBA superstar. But only the residents of Akron, Ohio know LeBron James, the local hero. Behind the scenes, LeBron & his wife Savannah have been working with low-income, at-risk students in their hometown. While Bill & Melinda Gates are focused on solving global problems, this power couple is working just as hard on the problems in their own backyard.

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?’”

The young couple fighting their demons: This profile demonstrates just how difficult marriage can be — especially if you’re still trying to find yourself. Justin Bieber and his longtime friend-turned-wife Hailey open up about the insecurities, the trust issues, the emotional outbursts, and the petty fights they grapple with in their relationship. With his turbulent past behind him, Justin is still struggling to find peace. “I was real at first,” he says, “and then I was manufactured.”

“You don’t wake up every day saying, ‘I’m absolutely so in love and you are perfect.’ That’s not what being married is. But there’s something beautiful about it anyway—about wanting to fight for something, commit to building with someone.”

The former first lady optimistic about the future: In this Q&A with former first lady Michelle Obama, we get an up-close view of her marriage, her life after the White House, and her views on president Donald Trump. She even delves into the intricacies of couples counseling and relationship insecurities with husband Barack. This interview reveals what it’s like to balance a family, a career, and a country — all while remaining optimistic about the future.

“I always thought love was up close. Love is the dinner table, love is consistency, it is presence. So I had to share my vulnerability and also learn to love differently.”

The woman in front of George Clooney: Amal and George Clooney are the epitome of relationship goals. In this profile, we learn about the internationally-renowned human rights lawyer who fell in love with America’s eternal bachelor. She worked on the Enron case, was an adviser to Kofi Annan regarding Syria, and took on a genocide case while housing a refugee in her home. In this relationship, she’s the professional and George is the amateur.

“She was a woman with a fully realized adult life who, almost overnight, became a celebrity of inordinate privilege.”

The breakup museum: All the memories we don’t want to remember — there’s a museum for that. In Croatia’s infamous Museum of Broken Relationships, everyday objects like a toaster or a toilet paper dispenser have a heart-wrenching back story. This story explores why people look at lost love with such nostalgia and attachment to the “what could have been.”

“This museum recognizes that our relationship to the past—its pain and ruptures and betrayals—is often more fraught, more vexed, full of ebb and pull.”

The heartbreak cleanse: Ever heard of “a personal trainer for heartbreak?” Founded by an ex-Googler, Mend is an app that helps you get over your ex. But it’s not just an app. It’s an app-turned-online-community-turned-content-machine-turned-business. You can listen to the podcast and read posts on relationship advice and self care tips. #content. The real secret to mending a broken heart? “A breakup bootcamp” that consists of yoga, a gratitude journal, quinoa, kale, and home-brewed kombucha (of course). All for a cool $1,500. Maybe we’ve reached peak love, and now broken hearts are all we have left.

“'I know I’m on this earth to help people heal their heart wounds,' she tells me over a bowl of homemade chia pudding and granola.”

The woman who married a terrorist: At 19 years old, Tania Joya met an American named John on a Muslim online dating site. She became increasingly uncomfortable with his extremist ideology after 10 years of marriage. John was a jihadist—soon to become one of the highest-ranking Westerners in ISIS. He became abusive, expected her to be a subservient wife, & dragged the family to Syria. That’s when Tania knew she had to leave to save her life, but it wasn’t so easy.

“I said, ‘I want to be happy.’ He said, ‘You’re not supposed to be happy in this life. This life is prison. The next life is paradise.’”

America’s love doctor: Chris Harrison has been the host of ‘The Bachelor’ franchise for 20+ seasons now (!) He’s the man behind the tears, the rose ceremonies, and the fantasy suite dates gone awry. This 2015 profile of Harrison shows how his role has evolved into something much bigger. In addition to hosting, it’s now also part of his job to discover future Bachelor/ettes, juggle all the crazies, and “be simultaneously the show’s bullshit-caller and its face of continuity and warmth.”

"Love," he told me at one point, "is as much of a competition as anything. If you don’t think so, you’re either losing the game or you’re not playing." He may have been talking about the show, or maybe he wasn’t.

The therapist who will fix your love life: Esther Perel is a Belgian psychotherapist who is an expert at solving problems having to do with love, sex, marriage, infidelity, and just real shit we face. Her secret? She goes right for the questions people are scared to ask their partners. Her podcast features raw recordings from her consultation sessions. When you hear about the man who has been cheating on his wife for DECADES, it really puts that time someone ghosted you into perspective.

“You’re right, but you’re wrong, too. Welcome to life as a couple.”