Albert Einstein is often celebrated for his contributions to society as genius, but what was he like in his personal life? Interestingly, though he was a brilliant mind who offered much to the world, he wasn’t the greatest husband to his wife. These new details discovered in a letter Einstein wrote shed light on his marriage and have many people outraged.
Einstein’s love letters to his first wife, Mileva Maric, shared many romantic sentiments, but one letter had a list of rigid instructions for Maric to follow. The couple had met at Zurich’s Polytechnic Institute, where she was one of the few women studying. Maric and Einstein were married for 11 years and had two sons, Hans Albert and Eduard.
In one particular letter, written in 1914, Einstein included a list of demands that he believed would help save their marriage so they could stay together for the children. Among the requests was Einstein’s expectation that Maric behave as a servant to the scientist, demanding that she cook him three meals a day and take care of the home. He also instructed her to leave a room immediately if he asked her to and stop talking if he demanded it.
The full list instructed:
A. You 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.
B. You will renounce all personal relations with me insofar as they are not completely necessary for social reasons. Specifically, You will forego:
1. my sitting at home with you;
2. my going out or travelling with you.
C. You will obey the following points in your relations with me:
1. you will not expect any intimacy from me, nor will you reproach me in any way;
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.
D. You will undertake not to belittle me in front of our children, either through words or behavior.”
The list of demands, understandably, didn’t sit well with Maric, and she left him a few months later, taking their sons with her. Their divorce was official in 1919 and Einstein married his second wife, Elsa, his first cousin whom he had met as an adult, shortly thereafter.
Einstein and Elsa moved to America in 1935, and his second wife died a year later. He wrote at the time: “I have got used extremely well to life here. I live like a bear in my den… This bearishness has been further enhanced by the death of my woman comrade, who was better with other people than I am.”
The comments section on OpenCulture.com about Einstein’s list of demands opened a discussion about the genius being on the autism spectrum, with one person noting: “Even if he did fall on the autistic spectrum it does not erase the fact that his letter is basically demands for his wife (who at that point didn’t even get along with) to serve him. Now it can be argued that it is a type of ‘autism survival guide,’ however having your wife fold and do you laundry/make and serve dinner to you in your room (like some god, ha!) is misogynistic and is not seeing one’s wife as an equal but as some sort of slave (even if the marriage was crumbling he should not have a list of demands for his wife to follow like an employee/slave). Smart as he may be in some areas, it seems as though he lacked in the basic understanding of gender equality. A flawed human for sure.”