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What JFK And Jackie's Relationship Was Actually Like

June 28, 2021 11k votes 1.4k voters 116.6k views15 items

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Young, glamorous, and attractive, John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy were America's First Couple between 1960 and 1963. But what was their seemingly charmed relationship really like?

John "Jack" Kennedy and Jacqueline "Jackie" Bouvier both came from privileged backgrounds, but they grew up in very different realities. Born in 1917, Kennedy was the heir of a large and increasingly powerful family that dabbled in business, film, and politics. Jackie Bouvier, by contrast, was born in 1929 and had only one sister. Her family may have been blue bloods, but Jackie grew up in a broken home: Her parents divorced in 1940. 

When they married on September 12, 1953, John and Jackie became an all-American couple. John was a US senator from Massachusetts at the time of the wedding, and his marriage to Jackie helped propel him to the highest office in the land just seven years later. Their decade-long marriage ended in tragedy, however: John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963.

Over their 10 years of marriage, their relationship was marked by joy and sorrow, new life and intense loss, a close partnership and frequent betrayal. If the Kennedy romance reveals anything, it's that even the brightest lives contain shadows.

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    Despite Everything, They Genuinely Loved Each Other

    The Kennedys weren't exactly a typical couple, thanks to pressures from their public life, their cool demeanors, and John's frequent affairs. Jackie even acknowledged this in a letter she wrote to her husband:

    You are an atypical husband - increasingly so in one way or another every year since we've been married - so you mustn't be surprised to have an atypical wife - Each of us would have been so lonely with the normal kind. I can't write down what I feel for you, but I will show you when I am with you - and I think you must know - 

    Indeed, John and Jackie's relationship was bound by mutual affection. Whatever their problems and despite the pragmatism of their union, John and Jackie Kennedy genuinely loved and valued one another. 

    According to Hugh Auchincloss, Jackie's stepbrother from her mother's second marriage:

    They had a very close, very romantic relationship. Technically they had separate bedrooms, but they slept together. There was a lot of laughter. They enjoyed each other. They had fun.

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    JFK Told The Secret Service To Keep Jackie Away From Aristotle Onassis - Whom She Later Married

    John F. Kennedy pursued extramarital affairs with women throughout his marriage, but he didn't think his wife should live by the same rules. He expected fidelity from Jackie, even though he didn't extend it to her.

    To that end, John didn't trust shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis's interest in his wife. He instructed his Secret Service agents to be sure that Jackie and Onassis didn't spend time together when the Kennedys were in Europe in 1961.

    John's instincts about Onassis's interest in Jackie were apparently well founded. Jackie married Onassis five years after her husband's passing.

  • Photo: Robert Knudsen / White House Collection / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    JFK Was Jackie's Second Fiancé

    When Jackie Bouvier accepted John F. Kennedy's marriage proposal in May 1953, it wasn't the first time she agreed to marry. 

    Sometime around December 1951, she began dating John Hulsted Jr. A month later, they were engaged. 

    Their engagement didn't last long, however. By April 1952, Bouvier's doubts about her future with Hulsted led her to break off the engagement. Biographer Edward Klein claims that Bouvier didn't believed they were well matched.

  • Photo: Cecil Stoughton / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Jackie Was Fluent In Several Languages And Used This Skill To Campaign For JFK

    As a French literature major in college, Jackie Bouvier loved exploring other languages. She even spent time in Paris learning at the Sorbonne. French wasn't the only language she spoke - she also mastered Spanish and Italian.

    After she married John Kennedy in 1953, she lent her language skills to her husband's political career. She spoke in Spanish to voters during the 1960 general election.

    Jackie Kennedy wasn't just useful on the campaign trail. Her language skills, gracefulness, and diplomacy easily won her admirers during a European tour in 1961. John Kennedy, fully aware of his wife's appeal, self-deprecatingly referred to himself as "the man who accompanied Jackie Kennedy to Paris."