‘I Love Lucy’: Lucille Ball on the Heartbreaking Last Days of Her Marriage to Desi Arnaz

I Love Lucy star Lucille Ball was married to Desi Arnaz from 1940 to 1960. Here’s how she described the heartbreaking last days of their marriage.

Why Lucille Ball stayed married so long

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz | CBS/Getty Images
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz | CBS/Getty Images

In her book Love Lucy, Ball said she stayed in an unhappy marriage for as long as she did because she wanted to handle her problems privately. She wanted to keep the troubles between her and Arnaz a secret. However, she said when Arnaz made their private matters public, she couldn’t remain silent.

“I was able to accept the situation for many years because it was our secret,” wrote Ball. “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.”

Ball said Arnaz became increasingly disrespectful toward her. According to her, the situation got to a point where her self-esteem became affected. “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.”

Lucille Ball described the decline of her marriage as a ‘painful disintegration’

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

Ball said the I Love Lucy set had been their “Camelot” before they started having marital problems. However, things quickly began to disintegrate once the marriage was in trouble. Ball said the cast and crew noticed the change and were sad about what was taking place.

“By the spring of 1960, Desi and I were totally estranged, although he still had to be both actor and director on the show,” wrote Ball. “The good-natured kidding that used to animate the set disappeared entirely. The fun was gone. It saddened Vivian and Bill and our entire crew to watch the painful disintegration of what had been our Camelot.”

Ball and Arnaz got to a point where they were no longer speaking. She said this made working together incredibly difficult. “Finally, I stopped speaking to Desi altogether,” wrote Ball. “‘Lucy dear,’” he’d say with elaborate politeness, “‘Would you please step over here when you say that line?’ and I’d follow his directions without a word.”

Lucille Ball felt she was partly to blame for the divorce

Ball said she tried to support Arnaz by “making herself weaker.” She thought fading into the background and not being assertive would resolve their marital issues. However, her plan didn’t work. Ball said she realized her husband had to make his own mistakes and deal with the result on his own.

“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.”

Ball said she had a part in the breakdown of her marriage. She partly blamed the end of their marriage on her attitude, saying she lost her sense of humor and became an angry person.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.”

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