I found a picture with a quote on facebook today quoting Einstein.

The quote

The quote states:

When we first got married, we made a pact. It was this:In our life together, it was decided I would make all of the big decisions and my wife would make all of the little decisions. For fifty years, we have held true to that agreement. I believe that is the reason for the success in our marriage. However, the strange thing is that in fifty years, there hasn't been one big decision.

Is there any truth to that he actually said this? (Given that he did divorce once)

  • Probably irrelevant but.. it reminds me of a passage of The Brothers Karamazov: “- Alyosha, will you give in to me? We must decide that too.” “- I shall be delighted to, Lise, and certain to, only not in the most important things. Even if you don’t agree with me, I shall do my duty in the most important things.” standardebooks.org/ebooks/fyodor-dostoevsky/…
    – leonbloy
    Commented May 12, 2022 at 15:53

4 Answers 4


Very unlikely. This is sometimes attributed to Einstein on his 50th Wedding anniversary

Einstein was married twice:

  • The first marriage was to Mileva Marić, from January 1903 until their divorce on 14 February 1919 - i.e. 16 years of marriage.

  • The second marriage was to Elsa Löwenthal on 2 June 1919 until her death in December 1936 - i.e. 17 years of marriage.

[I used Wikipedia as a source, as I don't think these dates are in dispute.]

He never had a 50th wedding anniversary, and he never had an opportunity to say "in fifty years, there hasn't been one big decision."

This doesn't prove the quote isn't a distorted version of something he did say.

  • 40
    The earliest I have been able to date the joke is 1959: Hal Boyle ascribed it to a man called "Bendix" in a column that was syndicated into several newspapers.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 18:30
  • 178
    Just because Einstein was married for 16 years and 17 years in your frame of reference, does not mean Einstein was not married for 50 years in some other frame of reference.
    – emory
    Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 21:44
  • 25
    @emory Perhaps it felt like fifty years? Commented Jun 17, 2016 at 17:23
  • 11
    @dbanet "for fifty years we have held true to that agreement"
    – Spc_555
    Commented Jun 18, 2016 at 10:30
  • 20
    @dbanet The quote says the agreement was entered when they got married. Unless you believe they kept this agreement going for over 30 years after their marriage ended, there's no logical interpretation that supports what you're saying. If you are arguing just for the sake of arguing, please, do not. Commented Jun 18, 2016 at 19:45

The quote is really that of Garson Kanin as author of the 1974 book Hollywood: Stars and Starlets, Tycoons and Flesh-peddlers, Moviemakers and Moneymakers, Frauds and Geniuses, Hopefuls and Has-beens, Great Lovers and Sex Symbols, at page 181:

A successful film is one on which most of the decisions have been correct; an unsuccessful film is the opposite. It comes down to the question: Who makes the decisions?

Professor Albert Einstein and his wife were being interviewed by the world press on the occasion of their golden wedding anniversary. They were asked the routine question: “To what do you attribute the success of your marriage?” Professor Einstein took his wife's hand in his and replied, “Well, when we were first married fifty years ago-gott im Himmel!—fifty years—we made a pact. It was this. That in our life together I would make all the big decisions and she would make all the little decisions. And we have kept to it for fifty years. That, I think, is the reason for the success of our marriage.” Then he looked up and added, “The strange thing is that in fifty years there hasn't yet been one big decision.”

Things have changed, but in Hollywood until the 1950s, the final decisions, great and small, were made by the front offices...

Kanin was reattributing a pre-existing joke to Einstein.

For example in the 1956 National Wholesale Druggists Yearbook, volume 82, quoting entertainment by John Charles Daly

Harry said "Look there is nothing to it. When we got married, we made a pact. We agreed she would make the small decisions and I would make the big decisions. We never violated that agreement. As a result, we have never had a cross word with one another for twenty years and we are going to go along for twenty more on the same basis."

Joe said, "That is fine. What is the difference, where do you draw the line? You say Mary makes the small decisions. What does she decide?"

"Well," he said, "Mary decides, for instance, where I work; should we buy a house; where the kids go to school; you know that kind of thing." (Laughter)

Joe said, "If those are the small things, what do you do?"

He said, "Oh, I make the big decisions, should we recognize Red China? What are we going to do about Nasser?"

And from 1952, in Collier's, Volume 129:

"When Gwen and I got married," Donald says thoughtfully "we decided who was boss right away. We agreed that all big decisions were mine. All little decisions were hers. Of course," he adds, "we haven't made any really big decisions".

And from the 1951 book Christian Love:

One husband after a year of marriage reported to a masculine friend, "We decided that she would make the little decisions and I would make the big ones, and we are getting along fine; no big decisions have come up so far."

The oldest example, from 1947, in The Tax Structure of the State of Washington, seems to have the genders reversed:

Senator Jack Rogers speaking:

We have a similar agreement in the Rogers family. When Mrs. Rogers and I were married, she said, "Now Jack, I'm going to take care of the major decisions and you take care of the minor decisions.” So far there have been no major decisions to make. I see to that.


It's more or less impossible to prove the negative, but unless someone can find the actual quote, I'm going to say No.

Per Wikipedia, his first marriage ended in divorce after sixteen years, and his second marriage ended with him a widower after seventeen years. Neither one is a candidate for a successful marriage of anywhere near fifty years — even if he could have called his first marriage successful for the first fifteen years, and his second for the full seventeen, that's a total of thirty-two years, which I doubt he would have combined and rounded up to fifty, then attributed to that agreement.

On the other hand, he did make a few glib comments which were not intended to be taken literally (the thing about compound interest, the one about sitting on a hot stove, etc.).

  • 3
    I don't like that beating you by ten seconds seems to have been enough to get me an extra couple of hundred rep. :-(
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 2:43
  • 20
    What if he said "fifteen" and people understood "fifty"?
    – Gigala
    Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 10:39
  • 2
    @Gigala Then the quote would be incorrect, even if he said all the other words. All versions of the quote (that I could find), whether attributed to Einstein or not, say fifty; it seems likely if it were genuine that someone would have corrected it, knowing that he couldn't have been talking about fifty years of marriage. Of course, that part is more speculation than anything. Commented Jun 16, 2016 at 16:40
  • 6
    The "compound interest" and "sitting on a hot stove" comments could use some links. I'd add them if I'd heard of those before. Now I'm all interested.
    – Wildcard
    Commented Jun 17, 2016 at 0:15
  • 3
    @Wildcard "When you sit with a nice girl for two hours, you think it's only a minute, but when you sit on a hot stove for a minute, you think it's two hours. That's relativity." books.google.com/… maybe need another question to see if it is real
    – DavePhD
    Commented Jun 17, 2016 at 11:26

I don't think so.

For example, W. Isaacson's biography, which is very well documented and covers a lot of his personal life, doesn't cite anything like that at all.

Also, he had 2 marriages, each of less than 20 years of length (as cited by the other answers).

I seriously doubt he said something like that about his first wife. He did not have a great relationship with her, and this is documented in a famous list of "cruel duties" which he forced his wife to agree to:


A. You will make sure:

  1. that my clothes and laundry are kept in good order;
  2. that I will receive my three meals regularly in my room;
  3. that my bedroom and study are kept neat, and especially that my desk is left for my use only.

B. You will renounce all personal relations with me insofar as they are not completely necessary for social reasons. Specifically, You will forego:

  1. my sitting at home with you;
  2. my going out or travelling with you.

C. You will obey the following points in your relations with me:

  1. you will not expect any intimacy from me, nor will you reproach me in any way;
  2. you will stop talking to me if I request it;
  3. you will leave my bedroom or study immediately without protest if I request it.

D. You will undertake not to belittle me in front of our children, either through words or behavior.

source: his biography by W. Isaacson, mentioned here: Albert Einstein Imposes on His First Wife a Cruel List of Marital Demands

On the other hand, while his second marriage with his first cousin Elsa was much more happy, I don't think this quote is something that would be applied to it. Citing the another biography, as paraphrased by Wikipedia

Elsa spent most of her marriage with Albert acting as gatekeeper, protecting him from unwelcome visitors and charlatans. She also was the driving force behind building their summer house in 1929.

Note that this second biography seems much less reliable as it contains "shock claims" in its sleeve ("This controversial account of Albert Einstein's scandalous personal life challenges the image of this genius, painting a shocking portrait that exposes him as "an adulterous, egomaniacal misogynist who may have even beaten his first wife"").

  • 2
    If the latter wife acted as a gatekeeper, maybe she was already cool with the list of demands he placed on his first wife. Commented Jun 15, 2016 at 21:52
  • 4
    That list of conditions...is that already the subject of a question on this site? It seems quite dubious....
    – Wildcard
    Commented Jun 17, 2016 at 0:17
  • i'm kinda confused. arent these "cruel duties" kinda what every male expected in those years? i mean, wasn't this pre WW1?
    – Andy
    Commented Jun 17, 2016 at 8:48
  • 4
    @Andy The cleaning and the not belittling probably, the "don't expect me to spend time with you" probably not.
    – Schilcote
    Commented Jun 20, 2016 at 0:45
  • 1
    This reminds me of som... oh. Commented Jun 22, 2016 at 6:32

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .