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Elvis Presley began dating Linda Thompson after his divorce from Priscilla Presley. The couple was together for years, and their relationship was serious enough that Thompson would have liked to get married. Elvis had no interest in that, though. He wanted Thompson to be aware that she wasn’t the only woman in his life.

Elvis Presley wanted Linda Thompson to know he was dating other women

When Elvis and Priscilla were together, he took great pains to deny his infidelity. While she was aware it was going on, he would never admit to it. He took a different approach with Thompson. While they were together, he openly dated other women, like Sheila Ryan.

“He would often alternate taking them on tour with him,” his bodyguard Sonny West said in the book Elvis: What Happened? by Steve Dunleavy. “One time he would take Linda, then the next time he would take Sheila. If ever Linda made a fuss about him alternating her with another girl, I would always hear Elvis tell her over the telephone, ‘Woman, take that knife out of my damn back.’ I really think Linda wants to get married to Elvis and you can’t blame her for wanting marriage, but I don’t think Elvis will ever make the step.”

Elvis sits next to Linda Thompson. He wears sunglasses and she wears a blue necklace and blue ribbon in her hair.
Elvis and Linda Thompson | Tom Wargacki/WireImage

He used other women to show Thompson that their relationship wasn’t as serious as she wanted it to be. When a photographer tried to take a picture of Elvis with one of his girlfriends, his driver started to pull away. The driver believed Elvis wouldn’t want an image of himself with someone else to circulate, lest it upset Thompson. The singer encouraged the photographer to capture the image, though.

“Let him take the picture,” Elvis said. “I don’t mind if they use it. Linda thinks she is married to me.”

Linda Thompson was well aware of Elvis’ infidelity

While Thompson said Elvis often denied his infidelity, she was acutely aware that she wasn’t the only woman in his life.

“We had arguments about it. And again, I tried to reconcile in my mind, this is Elvis Presley,” she said on Larry King Live. “I understand that he is secluded from the rest of the world, and it’s not all about sex. It’s not all about being physically unfaithful to me. He wanted to be surrounded with other people who might bring different ideas into his life.”

Though she found it incredibly hurtful, she said she always forgave him.

She said their relationship brought her a great deal of stress

Elvis’ infidelity was a problem in his relationship with Thompson, but she said she was far more concerned about his health.

“In the months following the Aloha from Hawaii special, it wasn’t just his more voracious eating habits and slight weight gain that became noticeable and increasingly troubling,” Thompson wrote in her book A Little Thing Called Life. “He was visibly impaired more frequently, it seemed to me, both when he was attempting to sleep, and during our waking hours. And yet he didn’t seem to notice any difference in his own behavior or acumen.”

Linda Thompson smiles against a pink background. She wears a heart shaped necklace.
Linda Thompson | Harry Langdon/Getty Images

Elvis Had a Very Specific Turn off in Romantic Partners 

She believed they had completely different views on their life together. It began to make her doubt her own sanity.

“This man, I now understood, needed a lot of care, and so I grew more resistant to always accepting his version of our reality,” she wrote. “Maybe I was the one who could see clearly, even though I had the submissive role in our relationship. I didn’t fear for my safety, trusting Elvis implicitly as I did. But I did begin to fear for my sanity, as I understood more and more how I was living a version of ‘the emperor has no clothes.’”