The Truth About Marilyn Monroe's Three Husbands

Marilyn Monroe — chances are when you hear the name, one of the iconic images flashes into your mind. Maybe it's her standing over the grate in New York, laughingly holding down her billowing skirt. Perhaps it's her in the pink dress, holding up a necklace as she sings "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend." Or maybe it's her infamous "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" performance at John F. Kennedy's birthday party in 1962. Regardless of how you imagine the iconic actress, few people know much about her life — or her three major love affairs.

After growing up in poverty as Norma Jeane Baker, Monroe married her first husband, James Dougherty, when she was just 16 years old. However, the marriage didn't last long, as Monroe soon left him to pursue a career in Hollywood. A few years later, she became the wife of ex-baseball player Joe DiMaggio — their tumultuous relationship only lasted two years. Her third husband was playwright Arthur Miller, but, again, the marriage didn't last. Here is a little more detail about Monroe's ill-fated love life and the three men she married — James Dougherty, Joe DiMaggio, and Arthur Miller.

James Dougherty married Marilyn Monroe when she was still known as Norma Jeane Baker

Marilyn Monroe first met James Dougherty when she went by her given name, Norma Jeane Baker. As Schani Krug, creator of the James Dougherty documentary "Marilyn's Man," told NPR, she was just 15 when they met. "She was pretty much a tomboy. They met at Van Nuys High School in California," he said. "And Jim really feminized her, took her everywhere with him, and showed her the world."

Monroe had been living in a series of foster homes at the time as her mother was often in psychiatric facilities. Apparently, her foster mother at the time had arranged the match. "Grace arranged it," Monroe once said in an interview. "She and her husband were going to West Virginia, and they were going to put me in a home... or I could marry this boy who was 21 at the time. So I married him." The pair began dating, and just a few months later, in June 1942 (only 18 days after her 16th birthday), the couple married. "We decided to get married to prevent her from going back to a foster home," Dougherty once said, "but we were in love" (via Los Angeles Times).

James Dougherty and Marilyn Monroe lived a quiet life together

After tying the knot, James Dougherty and Marilyn Monroe began to lead a regular life. The pair moved into a small apartment in Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles, then, in 1944, to Catalina Island. "She was just a housewife," Dougherty once told UPI. "We would go down to the beach on weekends, and have luaus on Saturday night. She loved it over there. It was like being on a honeymoon for a year" (via Los Angeles Times).

During a 1992 interview, Dougherty recalled that he and Monroe were happy together (via YouTube). "She only had one problem, that was the time my brother took all of the labels off the canned goods," he recalled laughing. "She was a real good person, and she just laughed, and we never knew what we had for dinner; every dinner was a surprise!"

In fact, before their separation, Monroe allegedly wanted to start a family with Dougherty. "When I was going into service, she said, 'I want a baby, I want a piece of you,'" she said.

James Dougherty and Marilyn Monroe divorced when she was 20 after she began modeling

James Dougherty was drafted into the army, and he joined the Marines. According to the Los Angeles Times, Marilyn Monroe moved back home to Van Nuys while he was away, where she worked at a parachute inspection company. She was featured in a photograph of women at work for the war and asked to start modeling.

Soon, her modeling career took off, and Monroe decided to leave Dougherty. As she told one interviewer, "I went to Las Vegas to divorce him" (via YouTube). According to an interview with UPI, Dougherty claimed that Monroe's real reason for leaving him was for a Hollywood contract. "Studios wanted clauses for no marriage — a pregnant starlet would do them no good," he said. Monroe hoped that she and Dougherty could continue being a couple after their divorce, but, as he put it, "I couldn't do that."

James Dougherty never saw any of Marilyn Monroe's films

After his divorce from Marilyn Monroe in 1946, James Dougherty tried to lead an everyday life. He remarried several years later. However, he always remembered "Norma Jeane" fondly. In his book "To Norma Jeane With Love," documentarian Schani Krug said to NPR, "the subtext basically said that he was deeply in love with her and he was really brokenhearted that she was seduced by the powers that be in Tinseltown, and he only wished that he could have had a great full life with her and grown old together because she was such an Olympian soul, a very special human being."

According to the Los Angeles Times, however, he never watched Monroe's films because his second wife would become jealous. "I destroyed all my letters from Norma Jean — hundreds of them," he also said. "I don't need them for a memory, but I probably could have built a house for what they are worth."

After his second wife, he went on to marry again, this time to a woman named Rita, who reportedly reminded him of Monroe. When Monroe died, he told the Associated Press, "It was like someone had kicked me in the stomach."

Joe DiMaggio wasn't what Marilyn Monroe expected

Marilyn Monroe soon shot to fame after leaving James Dougherty for the bright lights of Hollywood. In 1952, she met her second husband, Joe DiMaggio, the baseball legend who had recently retired. According to, the sports star had asked a mutual friend to set them up on a date.

At first, Monroe wasn't so sure. "I expected a flashy New York sports type, and instead, I met this reserved guy who didn't make a pass at me right away," she once wrote, as quoted in her biography by Donald Spoto. "I had dinner with him almost every night for two weeks. He treated me something special."

The pair bonded over their similarities — both had risen to fame after difficult upbringings. "My publicity, like Joe's greatness, is something on the outside," Monroe told Ben Hecht, author of her memoir "My Story." "It has nothing to do with what we actually are."

Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe had a quiet wedding after a long distance relationship

Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio fell in love, but their relationship wasn't easy at first — after all, they lived on opposite sides of the country. The pair ended up having a quiet, quick wedding at San Francisco's City Hall in 1954. Monroe recalled that DiMaggio told her, "You're having all this trouble with the studio and not working, so why don't we get married now? I've got to go to Japan anyway on some baseball business, and we could make a honeymoon out of the trip" (via

According to, reporters swarmed the couple upon leaving City Hall as someone had leaked their nuptial plans to the press.

They then set off for their makeshift honeymoon in Japan, but tensions soon rose when Monroe agreed to do a press stop in Korea for American soldiers.

Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe's relationship famously hit a snag when she filmed him flying skirt scene

Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio's marriage was famously rocky from the start, with DiMaggio reportedly feeling jealous and insecure about Monroe's sex symbol image. Things came to a head in October 1954 when DiMaggio visited Monroe on the set of her film "The Seven Year Itch." In the film, Monroe had the famous scene involving her skirt flying up as she walked across a grate. Apparently, watching the scene being filmed in front of thousands of people sent DiMaggio's jealousy to new levels.

"Joe DiMaggio was watching, and he didn't like it very much, his wife making a spectacle of herself," Monroe's hairdresser for the film, Gladys Whitten, said in the documentary "The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Taps." "Yeah, Joe got very upset about it." In fact, according to Whitten, DiMaggio actually "beat her up a bit" after watching the scene. "Marilyn said she screamed and yelled for us," she recalled. "But we couldn't hear her through those thick walls, you know" (via Daily Star).

Joe Di Maggio and Marilyn Monroe divorced in 1954 only a few months after tying the knot

Just nine months after getting married for the second time to Joe DiMaggio, Marilyn Monroe filed for divorce. According to Life, Monroe spoke to reporters on the day she filed for divorce and cited "mental cruelty" as the reason for her decision.

Monroe was granted a divorce after a hearing a few weeks later. According to UPI, she told the judge, "I hoped to have out of my marriage love, warmth, affection and understanding," she said, "but the relationship was one of coldness and indifference." She also said, "I voluntarily offered to give up my work in hopes that it would solve our problems — but it didn't change his attitude." Apparently, DiMaggio would "get into moods" and refuse to speak to Monroe for days on end and would refuse to allow her friends to visit her.

Joe DiMaggio never married again and stayed friends with Marilyn Monroe

Even though Marilyn Monroe claimed that Joe DiMaggio was cruel and unfeeling during their marriage, the baseball player spent the rest of his life mourning her loss after their divorce. According to the New York Post, DiMaggio only dated women who looked like Monroe and, according to one bizarre rumor, even spent $10,000 on a life-size Marilyn Monroe doll.

Nevertheless, DiMaggio and Monroe remained friends. Shortly after their divorce, he reportedly took her to the hospital for surgery and helped her during the five-day recovery period.

A few days before her death, Monroe reportedly told a friend, "If it weren't for Joe, I'd probably have killed myself years ago." After her death, DiMaggio honored her wish and sent fresh roses to her grave every week until he died in 1999. His final words? "I'll finally get to see ­Marilyn again."

Marilyn Monroe met Arthur Miller before her marriage to Joe DiMaggio

Even though Marilyn Monroe married Arthur Miller after her divorce from Joe DiMaggio, she met the playwright before meeting her second husband. According to the Express, Monroe and Miller first crossed paths in 1951 on the set of "As Young As You Feel," as Monroe was dating Miller's friend, Elia Kazan, at the time. Miller later recalled that when they shook hands, "the shock of her body's motion sped through me" (via The Ringer).

Miller then watched Monroe acting and suggested she should act on stage. That night, she wrote in her diary, "Met a man tonight ... It was, bam! It was like running into a tree. You know, like a cool drink when you've had a fever." However, Miller was married then, and the pair parted ways. The pair reconnected four years later when Monroe moved to New York, and Arthur Miller began the process of getting divorced.

Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe married in 1956

Once Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe began their affair in 1955, things moved fast. One particularly steamy love letter from Miller, written just a few months before their marriage, illustrates the nature of their relationship. "I will kiss you and hold you close to me, and sensational things will then happen," he wrote. "All sorts of slides, rollings, pitchings, rambunctiousness of every kind. And then I will sigh. And when you rest your head on my shoulder, then slowly I will get HUNGRY" (via Literary Hub).

The pair married shortly after Miller's divorce was finalized in 1956. The quiet ceremony took place at the Westchester County Court House in White Plains and lasted only four minutes. They also held a traditional Jewish ceremony. After their wedding, the pair set off for London, where Monroe was due to film "The Prince and the Showgirl" (via History Today).

Marilyn Monroe felt that Arthur Miller was disappointed in her when she found his diary

Although Marilyn Monroe had hoped that Arthur Miller would be respectful and kind, their relationship was said to quickly take a turn for the worse. According to History Today, Monroe found one of Miller's notebooks just a few days after their marriage. Apparently, the notebook contained comments about Monroe being too dependent and unstable. He even allegedly wrote, "The only one I will ever love is my daughter."

According to author Sam Kashner, Monroe was crushed. "One of her greatest fears," Kashner wrote in Vanity Fair, "That of disappointing those she loved, had come true" (via Mirror).

Although this discovery set their relationship backward, they did have happy moments in their marriage. According to, she was pleased when he dedicated his collected plays to her and she began to enjoy a quieter domestic life with Miller.

Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe's relationship soon disintegrated

By the time Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe joined forces with the film "The Misfits," their marriage was struggling. Monroe had had an affair, which Miller had ignored. She felt that he was drifting away. As she once said, "I want people to respect me and be faithful to me, and they never are. I want to find someone to love me — ugliness and beauty and all. But people see only the glamour and fall in love with that, and then when they see the ugly side, they run away. That's what Arthur has done" (via Daily Mail).

Monroe realized that their relationship was finished on the set of "The Misfits," written by Miller. "Arthur said it's his movie," she said once. "I don't think he even wants me in it. It's all over. We have to stay with each other because it would be bad for the film if we split up now" (via

The pair announced their plans to separate in 1960, and the following year the divorce was finalized.

Arthur Miller decided not to attend Marilyn Monroe's funeral because of the spectacle

After Marilyn Monroe died in 1962, just one year after her divorce from Arthur Miller, the playwright decided to skip her funeral. At the time, he wasn't exactly surprised to find out she had died. "When a reporter called asking if I would attend her funeral in California, stunned as I was, I answered without thinking, 'She won't be there,'" Miller said in a documentary (via YouTube).

While many people assumed that Miller didn't respect or love Monroe, his decision to avoid the funeral was apparently down to his resentment of the press. "Instead of jetting to the funeral to get my picture taken, I decided to stay home and let the public mourners finish the mockery," he later wrote in an essay (via The Guardian). "Not that everyone there will be false, but enough. Most of them there destroyed her, ladies and gentlemen."

In other words, Miller felt that fame had killed Monroe and didn't want to be part of the public spectacle surrounding her death.