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Elon Musk’s ex-wife described ‘alpha’ behaviour ‘rendering her disposable’ in resurfaced essay

WriterJustine Musk, 49, met the South African-born billionaire while they were both university students in Canada

Sheila Flynn
Friday 20 May 2022 20:05 BST
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An essay written by Elon Musk’s first wife during their messy divorce proceedings has drawn renewed attention this week after a flight attendant accused the billionaire of exposing himself during a trip on a private jet.

Justine Musk, mother of the SpaceX executive’s five sons, wrote the essay in 2010 for Marie Claire magazine, describing how the couple’s love story eventually turned into a relationship in which she did not recognise herself.

She described “warning signs,” even on the night they were married.

“As we danced at our wedding reception, Elon told me, ‘I am the alpha in this relationship,’ Ms Musk wrote. “I shrugged it off, just as I would later shrug off signing the postnuptial agreement, but as time went on, I learned that he was serious. He had grown up in the male-dominated culture of South Africa, and the will to compete and dominate that made him so successful in business did not magically shut off when he came home.

“This, and the vast economic imbalance between us, meant that in the months following our wedding, a certain dynamic began to take hold. Elon’s judgment overruled mine, and he was constantly remarking on the ways he found me lacking. ‘I am your wife,” I told him repeatedly, ‘not your employee.’

“’If you were my employee,’ he said just as often, ‘I would fire you.’”

Billionaire Elon Musk vehemently denies allegations of sexual misconduct (AFP via Getty Images)

The essay began making the rounds again online this week after Insider reported that the Tesla exec had been accused in 2016 of exposing himself to a female flight attendant, rubbing her leg without consent, and offering to buy her a horse if she gave him an erotic massage.

The report alleged he paid $250,000 to settle the sexual misconduct claim.

He has denied the allegations, calling them “utterly untrue” and “politically motivated.”

The report, however, has resulted in attention being paid more closely to his personal life and attitude rather than his business ventures – after Twitter takeover headlines have dominated the news for weeks.

In her essay, his ex-wife described Mr Musk trying to convince her to dye her hair ever blonder as they globetrotted and hobnobbed with the rich and famous. The relationship was put under great strain after the loss of their first son, Nevada, to SIDS; the couple grieved differently, she explained. Ms Musk then gave birth to twins and triplets in quick succession.

“Nevada’s death sent me on a years-long inward spiral of depression and distraction that would be continuing today if one of our nannies hadn’t noticed me struggling,” she wrote in the essay, in which she also described her then-husband as “obsessed” with his work and distracted even when at home.

At the suggestion of the nanny, Ms Musk wrote, she started therapy and “began to get perspective on what had become my life.”

Ms Musk, who met her billionaire ex while the two were university students in Canada, has joint custody of five sons with the SpaceX founder (Twitter/Justine Musk)

She continued in the essay: “I barely recognized myself. I had turned into a trophy wife — and I sucked at it. I wasn’t detail-oriented enough to maintain a perfect house or be a perfect hostess. I could no longer hide my boredom when the men talked and the women smiled and listened. I wasn’t interested in Botox or makeup or reducing the appearance of the scars from my C-sections.”

In tweets just this month, Ms Musk addresses dysfunctional relationships in language that reflects her 12-year-old essay.

On 5 May, on the platform her ex-husband plans to overhaul, she wrote: “Abusive relationships are not defined by whether or not the abused is a ‘perfect victim’ -- or likeable -- but on a pre-existing + structural power imbalance that puts one partner in a superior position over the other. That point doesn’t get stressed enough.”

The following day, she tweeted: “An abusive relationship involves whatever system is in place that *enables* one partner to abuse the power they have over the other to systematically control that person over time. It’s not just two people yelling at each other.”

She soon followd that with: “A relationship can be toxic without being abusive.”

While Mr Musk follows exes Grimes and Talulah Riley on Twitter, he does not follow his first wife.

He filed for divorce from her after what Ms Musk described as just three counselling sessions, and proceedings dragged on for years.

Mr Musk has publicly taken issue with some of his ex-wife’s written claims, tackling them firsthand in 2010 in – funnily enough – Insider, the same outlet which published the recent sexual misconduct allegations.

In a piece titled “Correcting The Record About My Divorce,” he attempted to clarify details such as the timing of his relationship with his second wife, actor Talulah Riley, and financial aspects of the divorce settlement.

Justine Musk, 49, was the Tesla CEO’s first wife (TEDx)

“According to the marital agreement, Justine would receive approximately $20 million dollars after tax, half in the form of the house and half in support payments,” he wrote in July 2010. “Prior to the divorce trial that she lost in early May, I had offered her more than double that number as a settlement, which is roughly equivalent to a pre tax income of $80 million. I also said that if there was any worthy cause that she felt deserved attention, I would be happy to give to them in her name. Justine said no to this offer and continued to insist on receiving ownership in Tesla and SpaceX.”

He did, however, make it a point to say that Ms Musk told him she’d say yes to a marriage proposal “not long after the sale of my first company, Zip2, to Compaq, and the subsequent cofounding of PayPal,” writing that “ friends and family advised me to separate whether the marriage was for love or money.”

Regardless of the potshots the exes have taken at each other over the years, however, the couple continue to share custody. Ms Musk also wrote in her Marie Claire essay that she did not regret the marriage.

“I’ve worked through some anger, both at Elon for rendering me so disposable, and at myself for buying into a fairy tale when I should have known better,” she wrote. “But I will always respect the brilliant and visionary person that he is.”

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