A Look At Bob Marley’s Complex Relationship With His Wife

The late iconic reggae musician Bob Marley’s relationship with his wife Rita was not exactly traditional, but the pair’s connection seemed to go beyond what a typical husband and wife are to each other. Theirs was a partnership that encompassed struggle, creative drive, success, worldwide fame, infidelity, many children, music, love, and in the end, death, all within just 15 years of marriage. 

Bob Marley met Alpharita Constantia Anderson, or Rita, in Kingston in the mid 1960s. She was a singer, and he was a songwriter, singer, and musician. They fell in love and married on February 10, 1966, according to Jamaicans. Rita was only 19 but already had a daughter from a previous relationship, which Bob adopted. Together Bob and Rita had three more children as his musical career continued to flourish, with Rita remaining a backup singer in her husband’s bands. 

But where the Marleys stray from marital tradition is in the fact that both Rita and Bob had children with other people while they remained married to each other. It’s widely known that Bob had several other kids with other women — GQ reports that he had eight children by eight women who were not Rita. For Rita’s part, GQ says that she had two children by other men while she was married to Bob. 

Though Rita and Bob Marley both had affairs with other people, they had a shared history and family that kept them together. And they had love.

Rita Marley said 'God put us together'

According to The Voice, Rita spoke in a 2012 documentary, “Marley,” about Bob’s life and early death at 36 from cancer in 1981. “When we first met, it was in poverty and pain. There was no showmanship behind it or any superstardom. It was just two ghetto people falling in love naturally, out of God’s grace,” she said. “And we knew what true love felt like throughout the good and bad we shared.”

Rita told BBC Caribbean that though Bob’s infidelities hurt, “As they say you grunt and bear it. That’s what I had to do because I was so in love with this man and love grew stronger, it’s not that it grew weaker.”

However, she also admitted in her book, “No Woman, No Cry: My Life with Bob Marley,” that sometimes she would turn him down when he wanted sex because she knew he was having unsafe sex with other partners, per BBC Caribbean. Alternately, Rita said in “Marley” that Bob’s own jealousies about her and other men “gave me an assurance that he really did deeply, dearly love me,” The Voice reported. 

As time went on in the relationship, Rita evolved into new roles she felt Bob needed in his life. “So I reached a point where I became like his sister, his mother and his guardian angel. I felt I had a responsibility to him. That this was why God put us together,” she said in “Marley,” per The Voice. 

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