Dr Phil's 1st Wife Felt 'Trapped' as He Controlled Her Every Action & Brought Women to Their Home

Oyin Balogun
Jun 09, 2022
02:30 P.M.

Philip Calvin McGraw's first wife was supposed to be the only woman he would ever marry; however, the good doctor had control issues and was not loyal to her. They eventually went their separate ways, and they both had different stories to tell about their relationship.


Love is beautiful, but sometimes it drives us to bitter extremes that ruin the bond. When Philip Calvin McGraw started to woo Debbie Higgins, he had nothing but love to give.

He gave her a promise ring when they graduated high school, and to keep the fire of romance burning, they both shuttled back and forth between Springfield and Tulsa. Sometime later, Higgins got cash strapped, so she moved to Kansas, where she got registered in a junior college and hairdressing school.

Television personality Dr. Phil McGraw during an appearance on the "Today" show Season 66 on October 26, 2017 | Source: Getty Images

Television personality Dr. Phil McGraw during an appearance on the "Today" show Season 66 on October 26, 2017 | Source: Getty Images

The distance became too much for McGraw to bear, so he started trying to get her to move closer; eventually, she joined him at Lubbock, Texas, where he had a job at a health club, and on the same day she got there, there was a tornado.


Higgins never forgot that day, and neither did others who had to endure the experience. She would later admit that the natural disaster, which killed up to 26 people, was a portent of things to come in their relationship.


Higgins and McGraw got married six months after she moved in with him. The ceremony was very intimate, and it had many family members from both sides stand up to fill the most critical roles, like a bridesmaid and best man.

Higgins was a sight for sore eyes; She was dressed in an A-line gown complete with a long train, and she carried a beautiful deluge of white rosebud and small mums.


The honeymoon happened in Vail, Colorado, and when it ended, they returned to Lubbock. Meanwhile, in Kansas, Higgin's mother was stewing that her daughter had moved so far away from her.

It was a sensational time, but the message the McGraws were passing was clear; write the truth or don't write at all.

Two years later, Higgins and McGraw moved back to Kansas when McGraw returned to the state to launch a Grecian Health Spa in Topeka. It did not take long for things to go sideways.


During their courtship days, Higgins enjoyed McGraw's attentive and romantic side; however, he changed and became emotionally unavailable after they got married. He found it difficult to utter the words "I love you," but that's not all.

He also developed a controlling attitude that quickly started threatening to overwhelm her because he wanted to control her in every way. For example, he forbade her from working and demanded that she always look good for him.

Her love for him was strong, so Higgins tried her best to obey his rules; however, nothing she did was good enough, and soon, McGraw started freezing her out. One of his favorite statements was telling her that her IQ was too low to maintain an intelligent conversation with him.


One day, they took a plane ride, and she decided to test him to see how far he would take his silent treatment. The ride lasted four hours, and McGraw said nothing to break the silence for the whole duration.

Higgins felt trapped in the marriage, but thankfully she was able to confide in a few people who helped her vent. Unfortunately, McGraw kept doing the wrong things. At some point, Higgins discovered that he was cheating on her, but when she confronted him, he told her not to take it personally.


When the union finally ended, the pair gave different accounts of what happened, with McGraw stating that they had both taken a look at each other one day and decided to end things.



After her divorce from McGraw, Higgins spent time healing her scars, but she never forgot the pain she had to endure while with him. Her time with him changed her in more ways than one, and she admitted it thirty years later.

After falling in love with herself all over again, Higgins decided to write a book about their wedding, but rather than a detailed account of all that went down behind closed doors, she chose to present it as a humorous book designed to help women retain their sense of humor after a breakup or divorce.


While she lived, Debbie worked as an editor and was best known for her contributions to "Demon Hunters: Fear the Silence," which featured Mary Bonczek, Brian Gildea, and Rob Dimension.

She passed away in 2014 from an undisclosed form of cancer and was survived by her brother, who had a lot to say about her relationship with McGraw and how it changed her.



When McGraw found Robin McGraw, the second woman he married, it was reportedly love at first sight. It happened shortly after his divorce from Higgins, and on their first meeting, the woman knew that he was her Mr. Right.

They started dating in the 70s, and by August 1976, the two got married. Three years down the line, they expanded their family by welcoming their first boy, Jay McGraw, on September 12, 1979.


A couple of years passed before their family grew once again with the birth of their second son, Jordan McGraw. He was born on October 21, 1986.

Given his last marriage, many may have expected this one to be short-lived, but it has survived the odds, and the pair has been going strong for decades now. Speaking about the longevity of their relationship, McGraw has credited how much they enjoy being together and his willingness to say "yes, dear" to her.

On the other hand, Robin has always claimed that their shared values and openness with one another have helped them surmount all the obstacles their marriage has faced so far.


One of those obstacles was rumors that the National Enquirer was constantly spreading about them. When the pair decided to address it, they sued the media outlet's parent company for about $250 million in damages for libel and malicious defamation.

The defamation reportedly affected them financially and careerwise since they had made a name for themselves counseling troubled couples. The National Enquirer responded violently with an article titled "Verbal Abuse, Brainwashing & Worse! The TRUTH About 'Quack' Dr. Phil."


It was a sensational time, but the message the McGraws were passing was clear; write the truth or don't write at all. Fans are happy that the pair has remained strong through everything, and proof of this is available.

A good example was the camaraderie fans of Steve Harvey witnessed when the couple made an appearance. That day, Robin made a joke about how her husband had a "mistress" that turned out to be his dog. The love between them was clear as ice that day, and it was proof that they would remain together for decades more.

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