Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were married from 1940 to 1960. They have two kids, but most importantly they were known as a leading comedy duo.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the world was a different place. Divorce was frowned upon and considered an embarrassment. Society didn't consider the bravery needed to exit a relationship that is no longer working for us, but instead highlighted the shame of a failed marriage.
Fear of shame and embarrassment would have stopped many women from breaking free from relationships that were long dead or abusive. Actress Lucille Ball also had similar reservations and till the end, she couldn't end her marriage to Desi Arnaz. Her husband of twenty years had to ask her for a divorce even though she had wanted one for a long time.
The funny couple was partners on-screen and off but along the way, the marriage stopped making sense for them. Ball writes in her book Love Lucy that she remained in her unhappy marriage longer than she should have because she didn't want the details to become public. She wanted to keep their private matters private but she opened up about them after Arnaz made it public.
"I was able to accept the situation for many years because it was our secret," wrote Ball, as per CheatSheet. "Anonymity is a great thing when you’re unhappy. But when Desi made it public domain, I knew I couldn’t be publicly embarrassed any longer."
The actress said that her former husband, to whom she was married from 1940 to 1960, became disrespectful toward her. His behavior started affecting her self-esteem too. "My only to-die moments in life have been when I’ve lost my self-respect. And Desi’s conduct toward me in front of other people became more and more humiliating," she added.
The leading pair of the I Love Lucy show had a horrible divorce because Ball didn't accept Arnaz's mistress, their daughter Lucie claimed. "There was a lot of anger and screaming. Their divorce was horrible. And then there was the alcoholism. I had preferred those things had never been there," Lucie told Closer Weekly. "We didn’t have any abuse, but we did go through some pretty hard stuff and that’s why my parents didn’t stay together."
Most of the fighting was because of Arnaz's infidelities, their daughter revealed. "My father loved women, and Latin American countries have a whole different code of ethics," Lucie explained to Chicago Tribune. "There’s the home with the wife, and the house with the mistress. Each is highly respected by the other. Unfortunately, my mother was from upstate New York, and my father couldn’t get her to go along with that concept," she added.
Their marital troubles started affecting the show, and the cast and crew had noticed the change in the couple's demeanor towards each other. "By the spring of 1960, Desi and I were totally estranged, although he still had to be both actor and director on the show," Ball wrote in her book as cited by CheatSheet.
"The good-natured kidding that used to animate the set disappeared entirely. The fun was gone. It saddened Vivian [Vance] and Bill [Frawley] and our entire crew to watch the painful disintegration of what had been our Camelot," she added.
Unfortunately, Ball shouldered some of the blame for the failure of their marriage. She said that she tried to be supportive of her husband by "making herself weaker."
"I’m a strong, independent woman, but making myself weaker didn’t help Desi," wrote Ball. "I had to realize that deep down he wanted to make all the mistakes in the book and wanted to suffer the consequences. He needed to punish himself. Toward the end of our marriage, he was practically jumping out windows."
By the end of their marriage, working together had also become hard as they stopped talking to each other. "I was at fault too," wrote Ball. "I had lost my good humor and sense of proportion. When you’re too mad and too rattled to see straight, you’re bound to make mistakes."
Eventually, they became friends after the divorce and their children benefitted from their amicable relationship. "I’m grateful for the amicable feeling now between Desi and me and Gary and the children," wrote Ball. "Desi phones me often to discuss the children or the show, and he plays golf with Gary. Since our lives have been straightened out, the children have improved in their schoolwork and they laugh more. Children internalize their parents’ unhappiness. Fortunately, they absorb our contentment just as readily," she added, according to another CheatSheet article.
Ball married Gary Morton in 1961 and was with him until her death in 1989. After Ball, Arnaz was married to Edith Mack Hirsch until 1985. He died a year later. Ball and Arnaz had two kids together.