Why Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Once Agreed That They ‘Could Never Marry’

I Love Lucy put the spotlight on the marriage of superstars Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. The two met on the set of the film Too Many Girls in 1940 and considered it love at first sight. Though they ended up heading down the aisle, Ball and Arnaz originally came to the conclusion that they weren’t meant to tie the knot.

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in bed in pilot episode of television series 'I Love Lucy
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in pilot episode of ‘I Love Lucy’ | CBS/Getty Images

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz took inventory of their relationship

While Ball and Arnaz had instant chemistry when they first set eyes on each other, they came to realize some stark contrasts in their upbringings and personalities. The realization of their differences, plus their frequent arguments, made the couple hesitant about continuing their relationship.

“One night we sat at a small table at El Morocco and hashed and rehashed our problems,” Ball wrote in her memoir, “Love, Lucy“. “A photographer snapped our picture, and it shows us both staring at the table looking deeply sad and troubled.”

Taking stock of their relationship, the pair concluded that marriage would be a mistake.

“We were both head over heels in love and we both longed with all our hearts for a home of our own and children,” she shared. “But everything else in the picture seemed hopelessly negative. We agreed that night that we could never marry.”

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‘I Love Lucy’ stars had a long list of differences

In her memoir, Ball listed the various differences between herself and Arnaz that caused them to determine they wouldn’t have a successful marriage.

“We discussed the six-year difference in our ages (this bothered only me) and Desi’s Catholicism,” she explained. “Our outlooks on life were very different. Desi’s family ranches stretched as far as he could ride a horse in a day. I was raised in a little white house near the railroad tracks and an amusement park. I never even owned a bicycle as a kid.”

They also had opposing views on gender roles which often caused conflict in their relationship.

“Desi was raised with the idea that the man’s word is law,” Ball wrote. “He makes all the decisions. God made woman only to bear his children and run the home. I wanted a masterful husband, God knows. And part of me wanted to be cherished and cared for. But all my life I’d been taught to be strong and self-reliant and independent, and I wondered if that would change.”

Desi Arnaz arranged their elopement

While the two actors didn’t compete with each other professionally and encouraged one another’s success, the schedule demands of their careers and time living apart were a strain. Arnaz’s carefree lifestyle was in direct opposition to Ball’s practicality, making a future together seem impossible.

“Friends kept pointing out that Desi was a romantic,” Ball remarked. “He lived to enjoy life and never thought of tomorrow. I was a levelheaded realist who never lived beyond my means or went overboard drinking or gambling. Nevertheless, I was emotional and sentimental and romantic, too. I was an actress, wasn’t I?”

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Despite their conversation, Arnaz ended up taking matters into his own hands. He set up a ceremony for the couple to tie the knot in Greenwich, Connecticut.

“But I thought we decided that we couldn’t get married,” Ball said. “That’s right, but we are,” Arnaz told her.

The couple eloped on November 30, 1940. Ball and Arnaz divorced on May 4, 1960, after 20 years of marriage.