While Donald Trump and his family have been at the center of controversy since the start of his term in 2016, many have been focusing on the reality star turned POTUS for his lengthy list of relationships and divorces.
While presidential marriages have been pretty stable throughout American history, it should be noted that the U.S. had only one divorcee president, two widower presidents who later moved on to second wives while in office, and one president never got married at all.
President Trump is only the second president in U.S. history to have gotten a divorce. The first was President Ronald Reagan, who split from his first wife, actress Jane Wyman, many decades before he ran for office. Still, to many that seems quite tame compared to Trump, who was married twice before he tied the knot with First Lady Melania Trump, and has faced many accusations of infidelity in between.
The President of the United States is typically held to a higher standard of family values, and American voters are very picky about choosing leaders with lifestyles that vary in any way from the perceived norms. America has never elected a female, and only one president has ever been non-white. Most presidents have also belonged to some sort of Christian church, even if they had varying levels of piety.
President Trump and his family conform at least superficially with most of the norms expected of a president, even if they do so in an unprecedented brash style. However, a closer look reveals the family's tendency for dysfunction, and a sordid history of instability.
President Trump married his first wife, Ivana, in the spring of 1977 at the age of 30. Ivana Trump is the mother of Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump.
The couple wasn't committed to a warm and fuzzy lifestyle, however. According to a report by Cosmopolitan, Ivana spent a lot of time living apart from her husband in Atlantic City. She ran the Trump Palace casino, and President Trump had to make an ultimatum in order to get her home.
"Either you act like my wife and come back to New York and take care of your children or you run the casino in Atlantic City and we get divorced," he demanded, according to a source that spoke to Vanity Fair.
Sources close to the couple told Vanity Fair that Trump became extremely cold and critical of his wife as their marriage progressed. He was heard to say things like, "That dress is terrible,” and “You’re showing too much cleavage,” and "Who would touch those plastic breasts?”
Ivana's friends told the outlet that she had confided in them toward the end of the marriage, saying that Trump had stopped sleeping with her. The former Czech model reportedly blamed herself for their marital troubles.
A #fbf #supersoulconversation with @Oprah in my 20s. Just a few years older than Tiffany is now! I was on to promote "The Will Rogers Follies" Broadway show I was performing in. ?? pic.twitter.com/oUt8m1dklC— marla maples (@itsmarlamaples) February 9, 2018
Towards the end of his marriage to Ivana, Trump was often seen out with Marla Maples, the actress who went on to become his second wife.
Trump was reportedly blackmailed by a photographer in Atlantic City, who threatened to publish photos of him out with Maples, unmistakable carrying out an affair.
By the time Trump finished divorcing his first wife, "Marla Maples was in a suite at the Trump Regency."
In 1990, the New York Post quoted Maples as saying that Trump was "the best sex she'd ever had," which was the first major public acknowledgement of their affair.
As the divorce proceedings began in 1990, Ivana accused her husband of sexual assault. She described an episode where Trump became sexually violent in Trump Tower, while he was enraged about a botched scalp surgery.
Later, Ivana would partially take back this allegation, saying that she hadn't meant rape in a "literal or criminal" sense.
Ivana reportedly sued for half of her husband's assets during the divorce. The two had renegotiated their prenuptial agreement many times, with the now-president reportedly handing his wife a revised pre-nup on Christmas day one year.
"What is this?" she asked.
“It is our new nuptial agreement. You get $10 million. Sign it!” he told her, according to Vanity Fair.
“But I can’t look at this now, it’s Christmas,” she said, before signing the papers anyway.
However, when the divorce finally came, the Czech Republic native tried to claim half of her husbands assets.
At the time, entertainment news outlets and the public generally sided with Ivana. The president griped about this to Vanity Fair.
“When a man leaves a woman, especially when it was perceived that he has left for a piece of a— — a good one! — there are 50 percent of the population who will love the woman who was left,” he said.
Ivana was awarded $25 million in the divorce, which was finalized in 1992 after 15 tumultuous years of marriage.
A New Years trip about 20yrs ago with Tiffany … So proud of who she is today, but what I would give for one more moment like this one.— marla maples (@itsmarlamaples) January 12, 2018
And why is it only me with cookie dough on nose? ? #TBT pic.twitter.com/R4u1PFhOC4
The very next year, in 1993, Trump married Maples. The two made their romance public during a ski trip in Aspen. In her book, Raising Trump, Ivana wrote about confronting Maples on that same trip.
"This young blonde woman approached me out of the blue and said 'I’m Marla and I love your husband. Do you?'" Ivana recalled.
Ivana wrote that she responded by saying, "Get lost," although another report by Cosmopolitan claims that she actually said “You b—, leave my husband alone."
Many people sensed problems with Trump and Maples' relationship from the beginning, as they reportedly had very different personalities.
“I’m, like, of the soil, of the country, of a solid, firm belief in God," Maples told Vanity Fair in 1990. "I would be happier living out on a farm away from everyone and not being in this concrete world, and here he is representing everything that some people think is very materialistic."
Maples' friends said that the relationship appeared very one-sided.
“He basically didn’t want to get married. It was lust, not really love. She loved him very much. But Donald is somebody who’s in love mostly with himself,” one said.
In 1999, just seven years after their wedding, Trump and Maples formally got divorced. Maples told The New York Post that her marriage was "built on illusion."
"I thought that I could change him. But he won’t change," she said. "I finally found the courage to walk away and stay away... After I became a mother I was less willing to put up with his behavior."
Maples and Trump had one daughter together, Tiffany Trump, who now attends Georgetown Law School in Washington, D.C.
Trump Jr. married Vanessa in 2005 at the age of 28. The two of them have five children — Donald Trump III, Kai Trump, Chloe Trump, Tristan Trump and Spencer Trump.
At the beginning of this year, rumors first began developing that the couple was having marital problems. According to a report by Page Six, they had separated in every way except legally, as the two lived completely different lives on a day-to-day basis.
“The problems have been there for a long time, the couple had hoped to stay together during the president’s time in office, but it is getting harder to resolve their issues. He’s never there," a source told the outlet.
Another insider told People "even before all this Trump presidency stuff started they weren’t good and their marriage was strained.”
Vanessa officially filed for divorce on Thursday, March 15, 2018. She requested an "uncontested proceeding," meaning that she didn't anticipate any legal battle for custody of her five children.
People close to the situation told Page Six that the couple was strained over Trump Jr.'s increasingly malicious behavior toward his father's political opponents. In particular, Trump Jr.'s use of Twitter reportedly took a toll on his relationship with his wife.
Vanessa was reportedly very disturbed by Trump Jr.'s views on the Parkland, Florida school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High. The president's son took a lot of heat for "liking" a story suggesting that some of the students were "crisis actors" put in place to facilitate an anti-gun agenda. He also liked a tweet linking antidepressant use to mass murder.0comments
The couple reportedly hoped to keep it together for the duration of Trump's presidency, so as to not draw unwanted press coverage. However, things finally went too far, and Vanessa resolved to go through with the divorce and do her best to keep it private. The family's plea for privacy has been predictably ignored, however, and many pundits on Twitter think it's ironic that the man who mocks mass shooting victims is requesting respect and privacy.
"There are a lot of intricate things that go on in a marriage," a source told Page Six. "Don and Vanessa are focused on their family, they are trying to do this quietly and privately, and when they have something to say on the record, they will do so. This has nothing to do with politics, this is a personal matter between two people.”