Reading the tributes that hit the internet over the weekend after the passing of former President George H.W. Bush, I have a renewed admiration for him. But it has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with his marriage.
I want my own marriage to resemble the one our 41st president had with his late bride, Barbara. Of note, they were the longest married couple in presidential history.
The Bushes, who married in 1945 and had six children, seventeen grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren together, have a remarkable story. They are true #relationshipgoals.
They showed up for each other.
I want my husband and I to support one another the way George and Barbara showed up for one another.
Looking back on their life together, it’s undeniable that he was her biggest fan and she was his. She often praised him in public and even spoke at the national party convention on his behalf, something only two other presidential candidates’ wives (Eleanor Roosevelt and Pat Nixon) had done up until that point. In another instance, Barbara is quoted as saying she believed her husband to be “the wisest, smartest, most decent, caring person I know, and I think he’s the handsomest thing I ever laid my eyes on.” Talk about building one another up in love!
In an age where it’s tempting to put our spouse down in front of others, the Bushes showed the value of doing otherwise.
They valued the written word.
George was equally enthusiastic about Barbara, whom he met at a Christmas party in 1941 when they were teens. While serving as a navy pilot, he named three of his planes after his beloved: Barbara, Barbara II, and Barbara III. A collection of the former president’s letters was published in 1999 that included plentiful words of adoration for her as well. In a December 1943 letter penned during his deployment, he wrote, “I love you precious with all my heart, and to know that you love me, means my life.” That letter was addressed to his “Darling Bar.” Swoon!
In another letter, written 49 years into their 73-year marriage, he wrote, “I was happy on [our wedding day], but I’m even happier today. You have given me joy that few men know.” Their love was authentic.
They drew close during challenges.
As sweet and rich as their relationship was, the Bushes’ life together wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, which makes their lasting love even more inspiring. The couple faced significant challenges and worked through intense grief together. They were engaged and could only communicate via letters while he was deployed as a combat pilot during World War II. George completed 58 combat missions, one of which ended with his aircraft being shot down.
Then, of course, he and Barbara persevered through multiple high-stress local and national elections, most notably his 1992 loss to Bill Clinton for U.S. presidency. They also suffered with poor health in their later years. However, what I imagine grieved the couple most was losing their three-year-old daughter Robin to leukemia in 1953. “It had a profound effect on me, and I think that horrible incident drew us even closer together,” Bush said of Robin’s passing.
Isn’t that what all married couples hope to be able to say after climbing out of a valley together? George and Barbara processed together and then healed together, as much as it’s possible to heal after such a devastating loss.
I admire George H.W. Bush and Barbara’s commitment to serving one another in love and the example they set for future generations. Their son Jeb said it best: “Our family has had a front-row seat for the most amazing love story.”
I pray that my children will be able to say the same. And I pray America will take to heart this marital commitment for the history books.
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Photo Credit: George H.W. Bush Presidential Library & Museum