Albert Einstein is regarded as one of history’s greatest geniuses, both for his contributions to humanity’s understanding of physics and for his embodiment of the stereotypical traits of the eccentric brainiac. Unfortunately, those stereotypical traits included some serious issues with human interaction, which resulted in Einstein treating the women in his life terribly. It’s a part of his life story that makes his overall — largely untarnished — legacy tough to digest.
Albert Einstein married his first wife Mileva Marić, a mathematician and his fellow student at Zurich Polytechnic, in 1903, and from the beginning, he didn’t treat his spouse very well. As the marriage deteriorated, things got simultaneously ugly and ridiculous, culminating in Einstein creating a list of demands that Marić had to adhere to if she wanted him to stay in the relationship. The demands themselves were patently misogynistic and downright abusive, effectively meant to curtail any and all human interaction between the couple. Crafting a cruel list of demands wasn’t Einstein’s only offense against Marić however; some historians argue that he also erased her contributions to his groundbreaking theories — including the Theory of Relativity.
When Einstein married Marić, he was already married to his work
When Albert Einstein, aged 24, married 28-year-old Mileva Marić in 1903, it was a marriage that seemed almost destined for unhappiness. Einstein and Marić were initially wild about each other, and they shared a deep passion for physics, allowing them to bond over their work. However, Einstein was notoriously reclusive at times and was often so bogged down with his studies that he neglected his own personal hygiene. Marić had married a man that was already married to his work — and one that couldn’t have been easy to live with.
Einstein began cheating on Marić almost immediately — and without remorse
Although Einstein shared many great passions with his wife, he didn’t feel a need to be particularly loyal to her. Einstein began to cheat on Marić almost immediately, and he eventually began an affair with his cousin, Elsa Löwenthal, whom he would go on to marry after divorcing Marić. He was not faithful to Löwenthal either, as he maintained several ongoing affairs while married to her and even used his step-daughter to pass letters to some of his mistresses. With both of his wives, Einstein showed little remorse about his cheating ways. In fact, he was fairly open about his extramarital activities.
With their marriage on the rocks, Einstein drafted up a ridiculous list of demands for Marić
Due largely to his own behavior, Einstein’s marriage to Marić became very rocky. After a temporary split in 1914, after 11 years of marriage, Einstein drafted a list of demands that he presented to his wife as conditions for his return to the relationship. The two were open to maintaining the marriage for the sake of their two children, but Einstein was not willing to compromise on his vision of a union, which included no responsibilities for him and plenty of demanding ones for his wife.
The rules included demands that Marić act as his servant
Some of Einstein’s demands seemed to indicate that he expected Marić to act as his personal servant. The first subsection of his neatly organized, marriage-maintaining contract stated that Marić, “will make sure:
1. that my clothes and laundry are kept in good order;
2. that I will receive my three meals regularly in my room;
3. that my bedroom and study are kept neat, and especially that my desk is left for my use only.”
Oddly enough, Einstein didn’t include a section of which chores would he his. Where on earth could those be?
Even worse, the list decreed that Marić “renounce all personal relations” with her husband
Einstein did not appear willing to do much work around the house, according to his list of demands, nor did he want to do pretty much anything else that a good partner should do in a relationship. In the would-be contract, Einstein ordered that his wife, “renounce all personal relations with me insofar as they are not completely necessary for social reasons.”
The physicist wasn’t afraid to go into greater detail, either, as he noted that, “Specifically, You will forego:
1. my sitting at home with you;
2. my going out or traveling with you.”
The demands made clear that Marić should expect no intimacy from Einstein
Likely a result of his ongoing extramarital affairs, Einstein made it perfectly clear to Marić that she should expect zero intimacy from him, be it physical or emotional, if they decided to continue their marriage. The largest clause in his list of demands demanded that Marić, “obey the following points in your relations with me:
- you will not expect any intimacy from me, nor will you reproach me in any way.”
In other words, Einstein was going to sleep with whomever he wanted, and it wasn’t going to be his wife. Oh, and she better not mention it.
Einstein’s #1 goal seemed to be getting his wife to just leave him alone
The same clause in Einstein’s insane marriage re-upping contract concluded with demands that his wife shut up and leave him alone whenever he wanted, which was probably going to be fairly frequently given the tone of the whole affair. Written in chillingly removed language, the clause included points such as,
“2. you will stop talking to me if I request it;
3. you will leave my bedroom or study immediately without protest if I request it.”
Einstein sure did have a bee in his bonnet for trying to stifle his wife’s criticism of his behavior.
Unbelievably, Marić agreed to the demands for the sake of the children
One would hope that the logical conclusion to this tale of Einstein making preposterous demands of his wife and the mother of his children would be Marić dumping his sorry a** — fast. However, for the sake of their two children, Marić acquiesced to her husband’s demands, and the two remained married for another five years, which couldn’t have been very enjoyable for her.
Don’t go thinking that Marić was the only one worried about their children, however; Einstein made sure to include them in his list of demands, asking that his wife, “undertake not to belittle me in front of our children, either through words or behavior.”
Some believe Einstein hid his wife’s contributions to his theories
Many of Einstein’s demands for his wife seemed to hint at him feeling a sort of inadequacy, and some historians believe they know the reason why. Marić was also a physics student of note, and some who knew her assert that she was an uncredited collaborator on a number of her husband’s greatest discoveries. Some even go as far as to claim that she deserves credit as a co-author of Einstein’s famous theory of special relativity. This would certainly explain why Einstein wanted her to agree to a document that forced her to never criticize him — or really even speak.
When he divorced Marić, Einstein promised to give her his Nobel Prize winnings… even though he hadn’t won it yet
Einstein was definitely a man with confidence, as evidenced both by his treatment of Marić and the things he offered her when they divorced. Among the compensation he planned to send Marić’s way was,
“The Nobel Prize — in the event of the divorce and in the event that it is bestowed upon me — would be ceded to you in full a priori. Disposal of the interest would be left entirely to your discretion. The capital would be despited in Switzerland and placed in safe-keeping for the children.”
Of course, Einstein had yet to win a Nobel Prize, but he felt confident enough about his chances that he used the prize money as a bargaining chip in his divorce.