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What JFK And Jackie's Relationship Was Actually Like

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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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    The Passing Of Their Infant Son Brought Them Closer Together

    The Kennedys may have been an attractive power couple, but they generally were reserved with one another in public. Jackie once noted:

    He never would hold hands in public or put his arm around me - that was naturally just distasteful to him. He wouldn't be fake in any way. People just don't understand him.

    On August 9, 1963, however, a tragedy brought the couple closer together. Their infant son Patrick Bouvier Kennedy passed from hyaline membrane disease only 39 hours after he had come into the world.

    The couple united in their grief and seemed to re-commit to their marriage. For his part, JFK appeared to refocus his energy and attention on Jackie and their surviving children. Friends and aides noticed that the couple seemed to be sweeter to one another and more open in their affection. Envisioning a new future for their marriage, Jackie even mused, "Maybe now I'm getting through to him."

    John's assassination a few months later ended whatever hopeful future Jackie had envisioned.

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  • Photo: Walt Cisco / Dallas Morning News / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
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    JFK's Final Words To Her Were, 'Take Off The Glasses, Jackie'

    Jackie Kennedy was in the presidential limo with her husband as it ambled through Dallas, TX, on November 22, 1963. 

    The sun was apparently too bright for her and she put on sunglasses. But John Kennedy didn't want any part of her face covered for the crowds who had lined the street to see them. "Take off the glasses, Jackie," he instructed. 

    They were John's final words to Jackie before an assassin shot him.

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

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    JFK's Father Picked Out Jackie's Engagement Ring

    When John Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier started dating, John's father Joseph "Joe" Kennedy couldn't have been happier. As a businessman who fought tooth and nail to bring legitimacy and prestige to his family, Joe Kennedy saw Bouvier as a way to align his family with blue bloods.

    Joe also had political ambitions for his son and thought Jackie would be the perfect wife to enable, legitimize, and support John's career.

    John proposed to Jackie in May 1953. He did so with the engagement ring that Joe Kennedy had personally selected for the occasion.

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