Where Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen's Marriage Went Wrong After So Much Went Right

Life wasn't always as charmed as it looked for Gisele Bündchen and Tom Brady—but it still looked awfully good. So here's what led up to their decision to divorce after 13 years of marriage.

By Natalie Finn Oct 29, 2022 12:00 PMTags
Watch: How Gisele Bundchen & Tom Brady Worked Out Custody Amid Divorce

Gisele Bündchen and Tom Brady could only scramble for so long before they had to let the ball go.

Following months of reports that the supermodel and the conspicuously not-retired NFL star were leading increasingly separate lives, the pair announced Oct. 28 that they are, in fact, getting divorced.  

In respective statements posted to Instagram Story, the parents of Benjamin, 12, and Vivian, 9, emphasized their commitment to co-parenting and otherwise giving their children all the love, attention and care they deserve.

Ending their marriage has been "painful and difficult, like it is for many people who go through the same thing every day around the world," Brady wrote. "However, we wish only the best for each other as we pursue whatever new chapters in our lives that are yet to be written."

Bündchen noted that they had "grown apart and while it is, of course, difficult to go through something like this, I feel blessed to the time we had together and only wish the best for Tom always."

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Though well mapped out and hardly sudden, this can't help but feel strange when you think about their glamorous, high-profile life together that has produced no shortage of enviable scenes-from-a-marriage. But it's also not surprising, taking into consideration the many times Brady has talked about his singular devotion to football and, more frequently in recent years, the admitted toll it took on his home life.

And ultimately, paying public homage to Bündchen's tireless support and how she held their family together—"She takes a lot on for our family and she does an unbelievable job of prioritizing our kids and making sure all their needs are met," the athlete said on E!'s Daily Pop in June—wasn't a substitute for what she actually wanted.

"I have my concerns," Bundchen told Elle in a story published Sept. 13, a month after Brady took an eyebrow-raising break from training camp. (Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Todd Bowles cryptically explained that the 45-year-old quarterback was "going to deal with some personal things.")

Football "is a very violent sport, and I have my children and I would like him to be more present," Bündchen said. "I have definitely had those conversations with him over and over again. But ultimately, I feel that everybody has to make a decision that works for [them]. He needs to follow his joy, too."

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That certainly wasn't the first time Bündchen had voiced her fears about the long-term effect the game might have on her husband's well-being. The 42-year-old courted controversy in 2017 when she said Brady had suffered a concussion at some point during the 2016-17 season—which, since that was never included in any Patriots injury report, was news to everyone. 

"I don't think it's a healthy thing for your body to go through," she observed on CBS This Morning. "Through that kind of aggression, like, all the time. That cannot be healthy for you, right?" (Brady's agent said the athlete was not diagnosed with a concussion during that time and the NFL said that medical records from the season supported that assertion.)

Neither confirming nor denying, Brady told ESPN, "She's there every day. I mean, we go to bed in the same bed every night, so I think she knows when I'm sore, she knows when I'm tired, she knows when I get hit. We drive home together. But, she also knows how well I take care of myself. She's a very concerned wife and very loving."

Brady's plans for his end game always sounded as if they included fully supporting Bündchen's endeavors—once he had retired from the NFL. And we know how that's gone.

"He did tell me that he was going to play only for 10 years, I just want to say that," Bündchen recalled on the Facebook Watch docuseries Tom vs. Time, which premiered in January 2018. "When I met him in 2006 he said, 'Listen, I'm just going to play for 10 more years and I'm going to win one [more] Super Bowl and I'm going to be happy.'"

Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen Hit the Beach in Costa Rica

Brady, sitting next to her, smiled.

"And then I told him last year," Bündchen continued, "I say, 'Well I think this is great. What a great win. Now you won two Super Bowls, it's the end of the 10th year, like you know, now we're going to go and"—"Live in Costa Rica," he interjected—"I was like, 'whoo-hoo, let's go, I'm ready.' But then he's like, 'No.'"

"Still got a few more to go," Brady noted. "Yeah, he said that," Bündchen said.

"Football, as far as I'm concerned, it's like, his first love. I mean, it really is," she added as they both started laughing. "And I think it's, like, his main love, really, quite frankly. He tells me [otherwise, but] it's true."


Four years and two more rings later, including one with the Bucs after his 20-season run with the Pats ended in 2020, it looked like Brady was going to go through with retiring. In fact, he almost did go through with it.

"To my wife, Gisele, and my children Jack, Benny and Vivi, you are my inspiration," Brady said Feb. 1, confirming his decision after days of is-this-really-happening sports talk speculation a few weeks ahead of his 13th wedding anniversary. "Our family is my greatest achievement. I always came off the field and home to the most loving and supportive wife who has done EVERYTHING for our family to allow me to focus on my career. Her selflessness allowed me to reach new heights professionally, and I am beyond words what you mean to me and our family. Te amo amor da minha vida."

Forty days later, he changed his mind.

"These past two months I've realized my place is still on the field and not in the stands," Brady wrote on social media. "That time will come. But it's not now. I love my teammates, and I love my supportive family. They make it all possible. I'm coming back for my 23rd season in Tampa. Unfinished business LFG."

The Bucs' current 3-5 record doesn't bode well for the finishing of that business, one of the rare instances of a pivotal Brady decision not panning out.

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But his life with Bündchen has involved a series of pivotal choices since they met in December 2006—just usually ones that were conducive to them being together.

"This friend told me he knew a girl version of me," Brady recalled to Details in 2009, his future bride adding, "and he said to me he'd found a boy version of me." (And one who managed to love clothes even more than she did, so he was a perfect date for Met Galas.)

"The moment I saw him, he smiled and I was like, That is the most beautiful, charismatic smile I've ever seen!" Bündchen shared with Vanity Fair in 2009, just days before they got married. "We sat and talked for three hours. I had to go home for Christmas, but I didn't want to leave. You know that feeling of, like, you can't get enough? From the first day we met, we've never spent one day without speaking to each other."

Let's just say, communication was key when Bundchen found out that Brady was having a baby with his ex-girlfriend, Bridget Moynahan.


"It was definitely a surprise for both of us," Bündchen told VF. "In the beginning you're living this romantic fantasy; you're thinking, This can't be true, it's so good! And then, Whoops—wake-up call! We were dating two and a half months when he found out, and it was a very challenging situation. Obviously, in the beginning, it's not the ideal thing."

"You question at times—'Should I stay here? Maybe you should work this out,'" she remembered thinking. "But when people break up, it's for a reason."

"That's not how you envisioned your life, that's not how you envisioned having children," Brady, who like Bündchen grew up in a big, tight-knit family, acknowledged to Details, "but it happens...Life is not living in the suburbs with a white picket fence. That's not life. Somehow our American culture has made it out that that's what life needs to be—and that if it's not that, it's all screwed up. It's not. You go through life and you try the best you can."


Faced with the classic I-love-him-but-who-needs-this-drama conundrum, Bündchen bought the ticket and decided to take the ride.

"I think it was a blessing, because otherwise I don't think I would have known what he was made of, and he wouldn't have known what I was made of," she told Vanity Fair. "I wouldn't have seen the integrity in him—the way he was a good person through all the times. I was like, You have the heart in a good place! It made me feel more in love with him; it made me realize who he was. Our relationship has become so much stronger, and I think I wouldn't be as certain as I am today if it weren't for that."

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Ultimately, she added, "my idea of that is you have a partner who's got your back. When I'm weak, you can be strong; when I'm strong, you can be weak. That's what I believe marriage is. Loving someone, you want to grow with them, share with them, share the same values, the same feelings about things, the same beliefs."

So, they got married on Feb. 26, 2009, in a small civil ceremony in Santa Monica, Calif., followed by a slightly larger beach affair that April in Costa Rica.

"We planned it in like 20 days, and it was perfect," Brady told GQ. "We went back to the house and I barbecued aged New York strips. We had champagne, a cake, some ice cream. It was a great night. I think you always have this idea that weddings need to be 200 people and you invite everybody, and I'm all for it if people want to do that, but I think there was really something special about just having our parents there."

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Bündchen also, incidentally, was over the moon for her eventual stepson, John Edward Thomas Moynahan (Jack, for short), who was born in August 2007 and attended both of his dad's weddings. 

"I understand that he has a mom, and I respect that, but to me it's not like because somebody else delivered him, that's not my child. I feel it is, 100 percent," the model told VF in 2009. "I want him to have a great relationship with his mom, because that's important, but I love him the same way as if he were mine. I already feel like he's my son, from the first day."

Talking about her blended family in 2018, Bündchen told People, "It wasn't the ideal situation for anyone—there's no manual to prepare you for that. "But I'm so grateful for [Bridget]. I know this was hard, but I couldn't imagine my life without [Jack]. I call him my bonus child."

But even the Brady-Bündchen honeymoon period had to compete with football.

"You know, we find time to spend together," Brady told GQ in the fall of 2009 of his then-pregnant wife. "But Gisele understands the job requirements. I get some time with her on my day off, Tuesday, and then Wednesday, Thursday, Friday nights. Probably after wins I'm more with her. After losses, I don't think much of anything other than the game. This morning at breakfast, for instance, I was talking to her, but I just wasn't there."

Benjamin Rein Brady, was born on Dec. 8, 2009, followed by Vivian Lake Brady on Dec. 5, 2012, their presence demanding that Brady reroute his one-track mind even during football season.

But while average losses plagued him enough, the scandal known as "Deflategate"—in which the Patriots were accused of purposely letting the air out of balls at their quarterback's behest during the 2014-15 AFC championship game (which he denied)—really pricked his blissful domestic bubble.

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All told, the saga resulted in real concern about the state of his union.

"We're in a great place. I'll just say that," Brady said on Boston's WEEI radio in September 2015, looking to sack any rumors of marital discord where they stood. "I'm a lucky man."

"There's no bigger supporter that I have than [my wife] and vice versa," he added. "I've been very blessed to have an incredible relationship with my life partner, and I don't think anything will ever get in the way of that."

Tony Gutierrez/AP/REX/Shutterstock

The couple were indeed back on track, visible proof coming a couple days after that interview when Bündchen cheered from the sidelines at the Patriots' home opener. 

"I think we've been through a few tough times together," she told CBS This Morning in November 2015. "I think that's when you know who are your friends and who loves you. My father always said the quality of your life depends on the quality of your relationships, and I think, no matter how challenging it was, we've always been supportive of one another. I think that's the most important thing you can have in life, you know? A support system and love."

But she acknowledged to People in 2018, three years after retiring from runway modeling, that her full-time job(s) taking care of the kids during football season while trying to attend to her various business ventures, didn't always leave her in the best mood.

Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com

"You're overwhelmed and tired and then you're not the nicest partner," Bündchen said. But, the author and activist added, "When someone you love is happy, it makes you happy, or if they're sad it makes you sad. You suffer with them and you have joy with them."

It turned out that her ultra-disciplined lifestyle—another choice she shared with her husband—wasn't entirely in service to looking runway-ready. Rather, she cut out sugar, alcohol and caffeine and got heavily into meditation and yoga after suffering from debilitating anxiety and panic attacks in her early 20s.

"When I was going through my panic attacks, I didn't even feel like I could share with anyone," Bündchen told Porter magazine for its spring 2019 issue. "I thought maybe I don't have the right, everybody is going through so many difficult things in the world, and I don't have the right to feel this way. So I'd suppress it, and the more I suppressed it, the bigger it became."

She learned from that experience to not keep her feelings bottled up.

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Brady revealed on The Howard Stern Show in April 2020 that Bündchen had confronted him a couple years prior about what she felt was missing from their partnership. Which was basically his half.

"She didn't feel like I was doing my part for the family and she felt like I would play football all season and she would take care of the house," Brady explained. "And all of a sudden, when that season ended, I'd be like, 'Great, let me get into all my other business activities, let me get in to my football training,' and she's sitting there going, 'Well, when are you gonna do things for the house? When are you gonna take the kids to school and do that?' And that was a big part of our marriage, that I had to like, check myself because she's like, 'I have goals and dreams, too...so you'd better start taking care of things at the house."

Bündchen wrote him a "very thought-out letter" about their marriage, he shared, that he kept in a drawer.

"It's a good reminder for me that things are gonna change and evolve over time," Brady said. "There's family decisions that are made and I think most men want to focus on their career, and it's very easy for men to focus on their career."

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

On Tom vs. Time, he compared the end of football season to a "crash landing," going from spending 10 to 12 hours a day training, practicing and playing to not having anywhere pressing to be. But he agreed with his wife, as she held court in the clean-eating kitchen of their 14,000-square-foot home in Brookline, Mass., that it was nice to be there when his kids woke up and went to sleep.

"The only thing, I believe, that limits us is time," Bündchen said on episode five. "What we want to do with this time...It's about priorities, you know, what are the priorities?"

When the Patriots lost Super Bowl LII in 2018 and Jack, Ben and Vivian were old enough to be truly sad for their dad and his team, Brady used it as a learning experience.

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"I said to them, 'Look, this is a great lesson. We don't always win. We try our best, and sometimes, it doesn't go the way we want,'" he shared on the finale of Tom vs. Time, which he presumably envisioned ending another way. "That's probably one of the best moments I've had as a parent, because you really feel like you're parenting."

"He's been much better this time than the other times [the Patriots lost], you know," Bündchen said. "But I feel that, you know, now their dad's job has finished and now actually they're really happy because they get more of their dad. They never get their dad."

"This off-season is going to be about my family and they deserve it," Brady concluded. "There's more to think about than just me. And I think that's what you commit to when you have a family, and they commit a lot to me. That obviously goes both ways."


He also said on the 2018 show, "When I am done playing I do really want to be able to support [my wife] and what her dreams are, to be more flexible with schedule and time and commitment. You know, a lot of that time will be freed up that's been so committed to pursuing this career, that will only last a short while longer. At least not another 10 years."

But time ran out on that idea.

"It's not always about what I want. It's about what we want as a family," Brady said in January on his Let's Go! podcast days before he claimed to be retiring. "I'm gonna spend a lot of time with them and figure out in the future what's next."

When he decided to keep playing, Bündchen's actions spoke louder than words, her absence from the Bucs home games this season duly noted.

"They worked out settlement details and once everything was agreed upon there was no reason to wait," a source close to the former couple told E! News Friday about their divorce proceedings. "They're both ready to move on and move ahead."

(A version of this story was originally published Feb. 26, 2019, at 3 a.m. PT.)