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The Sad Truth About Karen Carpenter’s Marriage
By SANDRA MARDENFELD
History - Science
Content Warning
This story contains discussions of domestic abuse and eating disorders.
Despite being one half of the hit-making Carpenters duo in the ‘70s and ‘80s, drummer and singer Karen Carpenter experienced significant heartbreak and struggle in her life. In June 1980, she became engaged to the handsome, then-39-year-old real estate developer Tom Burris after only dating for two months — something which made her friends wary.
Days before their wedding rehearsal dinner, Burris revealed to Carpenter that he had undergone a vasectomy — knowing full well that starting a family was among her top priorities. Once they were married, he verbally abused Carpenter and took money from her to live beyond his means, causing her to file for divorce after only 14 months.
The trauma of the disastrous marriage worsened Carpenter’s anorexia, and she started to rely on laxatives to control her weight; she eventually died from complications related to the eating disorder on February 4, 1983. After her death, her family started the Carpenter Family Foundation to help raise awareness about eating disorders and help those struggling with them.