‘I Love Lucy’: Lucille Ball Failed the First Time She Tried to Divorce Cheating Desi Arnaz Before the Show Began

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were the definition of couple goals on their hit sitcom, I Love Lucy. But their real-life romance was a lot more complicated than that. The pair experienced attraction at first sight when they met on the set of Too Many Girls, a film title that later proved prophetic. Over the years, their marriage was plagued by infidelity, alcoholism, and deep unhappiness.

However, Ball truly loved her husband and tried to make it work. She even halted divorce proceedings the first time around because she couldn’t give Arnaz up.

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz wed after a whirlwind romance

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Ball always aspired to be a Hollywood star and worked on several films and Broadway productions before landing her breakout role heading her own sitcom. During her early career, she got cast in Too Many Girls (1940) and quickly became enamored by one of her co-stars.

The pair didn’t wait long to take their relationship to the next level. “You could tell the sparks were flying with Lucy,” Too Many Girls actor Eddie Bracken said, according to People. “It happened so fast it seemed it wouldn’t last. Everybody on the set made bets about how long it would last.”

Ball and Arnaz got married the same year they met, 1940, just six months after their initial meeting. And they lasted longer than most people expected.

Their marriage was plagued by difficulties

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz | Archive Photos/Getty Images

One of the biggest points of contention in Ball and Arnaz’s relationship was how they both approached marriage. Their daughter Lucie Arnaz explained that her father didn’t think cheating was a big deal and saw it as part of his cultural heritage.

“There’s the home with the wife, and the house with the mistress. Each is highly respected by the other,” Lucie told Chicago Tribune. “Unfortunately, my mother was from upstate New York, and my father couldn’t get her to go along with that concept.”

Lucille Ball tried to divorce Desi Arnaz in 1944 and failed

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz | Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Fed up with his drinking and cheating, Ball filed for divorce from her husband in 1944, biography.com reported. And if she’d gone through with it, the television world would be a vastly different place. The couple split because of their epic fighting and then reconciled when they realized how badly they wanted the relationship to work.

The proposed fix for their marriage was spending more time together, they figured. This resulted in creating I Love Lucy, a show they could work on together. Ball could keep an eye on her husband who previously spent a lot of time traveling. It seemed like the perfect solution.

“All their hopes, plans and dreams for a happy future were wrapped up in that TV sitcom,” Lucie wrote in the intro to her book. I Love Lucy debuted in 1951.

They eventually got divorced but remained close

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz | Leonard McCombe/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

Though the couple was able to reconcile the first time, eventually their marital issues were too much to overcome. Ball and Arnaz divorced for real in 1960 after two children and 20 years of marriage. But they remained close even after both remarried other people.

In his autobiography, Arnaz wrote of Ball, “All I can say is that I loved her very much and, in my own peculiar way, I will always love her.”