At one point in time, Elvis Presley and Priscilla Presley were the most talked-about pair in Hollywood. Before Kim and Kanye or Beyoncé and Jay-Z, Priscilla and Elvis seemed like the ultimate power couple.
Yet behind closed doors, their romance wasn’t nearly as glamorous as the songs and magazines portrayed it to be. And although they had their good moments, for the most part, their communication was what Priscilla describes as “terrible.”
Elvis Presley tried to mold Priscilla Presley into his ‘ideal woman’
Elvis once told his close friend Rex Mansfield that Priscilla was “young enough” so that he could “train her in any way I want.” (Priscilla was only 14 when they first met. Elvis was 24.) He tried to mold the teenager into becoming his perfect woman, one who always looked flawless no matter the circumstances.
Because of his desire for perfection, Priscilla reveals in her memoir that she always wore makeup in front of Elvis. She even wore false lashes and mascara while giving birth to their daughter.
Yet another essential element of his ideal woman was that she had to have no problems of her own. If she was facing difficulties in life, Elvis taught Priscilla to keep them to herself. He explained how “mystique” was necessary for a relationship in order to keep the spark alive.
Because of this, Priscilla felt like she couldn’t communicate with Elvis at all.
Elvis Presley’s ‘dream woman’ had no problems of her own
Priscilla explains in her 1985 memoir, “I had everything that Elvis had been looking for in a woman: youth and innocence, total devotion, and no problems of my own.”
But the idea that she had “no problems” was one big lie.
As we find out in her memoir, Priscilla had nothing but problems because of Elvis’s rigid demands. The king of rock and roll wouldn’t let his girlfriend have a life outside of their relationship, fearing that outside interference would destroy her dependence on him.
So when she eventually wanted to have a career or enroll in college courses, Elvis would refuse. He said that he needed a woman who could devote her life to him, and if she were focusing on other things, he’d gladly find another girlfriend who could fulfill her role.
But Priscilla was stubborn. She was determined to make their relationship work, terrified that someone else could replace her with the snap of a finger.
Yet trying to live up to Elvis’s expectations was so stressful that Priscilla developed an ulcer. She was facing a predicament. On the one hand, she didn’t want to burden Elvis with her problems because they only seemed to draw him further away. On the other hand, she knew that in order to have a healthy relationship, they needed to communicate openly.
“He always avoided problems,” she writes. “If I was disturbed or distressed, or if I felt we were becoming distant and wanted to get closer by talking it out, he avoided me or told me my timing was bad. There was never a good time.”
Priscilla Presley thinks her communication with Elvis Presley would be a lot better today
After Priscilla and Elvis divorced, they continued to talk nearly every day. Priscilla says they became even closer following their split, and that after breaking down all their walls, they were finally able to have a healthy, honest relationship.
She tells Barbara Walters in a 1985 interview,
“He was a father to me. He was my mentor. To show any kind of vulnerability or insecurity to me was not macho and was not something that he felt like I should see. So our communication was horrible. It was terrible. I mean, today, I probably would be able to communicate with him much more. I would know how to deal with it. I didn’t know how to deal with it then.”
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