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Priscilla Presley fell in love with Elvis Presley when she was a teenager. She spent nearly all her teenage years and a good portion of her early adult years with him. Elvis’ wealth and fame meant Priscilla could have nearly everything she wanted. The one thing she wanted out of her relationship was time with her husband, though. Elvis struggled to give this to her. 

Priscilla Presley wanted to spend more time with Elvis

In the years Priscilla and Elvis were together, she spent long stretches of time at Graceland or one of their other homes while he traveled for work. After Elvis began performing residencies in Las Vegas, their time apart increased. He did not want her to travel with him, preferring to spend time with the members of his entourage.

“It was like everything he does,” bodyguard Sonny West said in the book Elvis: What Happened? by Steve Dunleavy. “He got what he wanted, put it away in storage, and went on to something else. Priscilla could have anything she wanted, but the thing she wanted most was Elvis. In the last couple of years she was with him, he was away from her eighty-five percent of the time. She wouldn’t see him for seven weeks at a time. Then they would spend the weekend together and then he was off again.”

Elvis and Priscilla Presley stand in front of a red curtain on their wedding day.
Elvis and Priscilla Presley | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

West said Priscilla wanted a normal family life, but Elvis struggled to give this to her. He kept nocturnal hours even when he wasn’t touring. She began to feel isolated from the outside world.

“She didn’t want that kind of life. Toward the end she wanted to do something with her days, get out and enjoy life,” West said. “She didn’t want to stay in a hotel room all day or the bedroom of Graceland all day, asleep.”

Elvis tried to keep news of his affairs from Priscilla Presley

One reason Elvis didn’t want Priscilla to join him on the road or on film sets was that he often used this time apart to conduct affairs. She grew suspicious of him very early in their relationship, but he always denied her accusations.

“Any suggestion that he was playing around was fiercely denied by Elvis,” bodyguard Red West said. “Later on, when the gossip columnists started picking up stuff, a lot of which was true, he would just deny it outright and call it all publicity and lies. He was very convincing, because by the time the columnists got onto a story about a girl he was seeing, he would be back in Memphis, and he would turn it around that these columnists had him out with a girl while he was at Priscilla’s side.”

Red West could tell Priscilla did not believe Elvis’ excuses, particularly toward the end of their relationship. She admitted that she tried to look past it, but it became increasingly impossible.

The couple divorced in 1973

Eventually, Priscilla began an affair with karate expert Mike Stone. Through their relationship, she realized there was much more to life than what Elvis was giving her. She realized she had to end their marriage.

“‘This is probably the most difficult thing I’m ever going to have to say,’” she told Elvis, per her book Elvis and Me. “I took a long pause, hardly able to get the words out. ‘I’m leaving.’” 

A black and white picture of Priscilla and Elvis Presley walking together. They both wear coats.
Priscilla and Elvis Presley | Bettmann/Contributor via Getty

Elvis could hardly believe what he was hearing and told her she had “everything any woman can want.” Priscilla held strong, though, knowing she had to or she’d never leave the relationship. Finally, Elvis realized she was serious.

“‘Cilla,’ Elvis called. I stopped dead in my tracks. ‘Maybe another time, another place,’ he said slowly. ‘Maybe so,’ I replied, looking back. ‘This just isn’t the time.’ And I walked out the door.”

They finalized their divorce in 1973.