Nancy Reagan, who died this past weekend at age 94, and her husband, President Ronald Reagan, were often praised for their dynamic relationship. Some called it “a classic love story.” The two met in 1949 through the Screen Actors Guild, for which Ronald served as president and Nancy had recently joined after signing a movie deal with MGM studios.
The two got married in 1952 and had two children, Patti and Ron. The couple’s close relationship helped propel Ronald’s political career, sending him as far as the White House, when he was elected in 1980, CBS reported.
“It’s impossible to imagine Ronald Reagan being elected president without Nancy,” said Kati Marton, who authored “Hidden Power: Presidential Marriages that Shaped Our Recent History,” according to CBS. “She was everything that he was not and he relied on her for pretty much everything.”
Despite the criticisms the couple often faced – about the president’s economic policies, the clothes Nancy wore or the country’s well-being – Ronald and Nancy Reagan stood by each other, The Washington Post reported.
“For all the years we’ve been married, it’s been we, not you and I. It would be inconceivable to me to go my own way without her,” President Reagan said, CBS reported.
The president eventually left the White House and soon after was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Nancy, though, took care of him despite the hardships she faced. She told “60 Minutes” in 2002 that she struggled with her husband’s illness because she could no longer share memories with him.
The president died in 2004 after more than 50 years of marriage. Had he still been alive, the two would have celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary on Friday – two days before Nancy’s death.
You don’t get through that many years of marriage without a strong relationship. It’s even more compelling when your realize that the couple had to handle the most demanding job in the world. Luckily for all couples, there are lessons from the Reagans that can be applied to all marriages. Here are seven of those lessons.
Nancy supported her spouse through everything
Caring for your spouse is a large part of making a relationship last.
As NPR reported, Nancy and Ronald were always in constant contact with each other, helping each other with their toughest marital scenarios. Nancy did this so much for her husband that she’s often been called his “fiercest protector.”
“Reagan’s major role in life was to be the supportive, adoring wife of the nation’s 40th president. Admirers and detractors alike marveled at their close relationship and how it sustained them during the sometimes grueling journey of public life. She was President Reagan’s fiercest protector – and eventually his caregiver, as he was ravaged by Alzheimer’s,” NPR reported.
Recent research has shown that having a supportive and good-natured spouse can make your demanding job less stressful and make you happier with work and life overall.
Nancy stayed with her spouse until the end of his life
NPR also reported that Nancy stood by her husband even at the end of his life. She cared for him when he suffered from Alzheimer’s, and watched him “as her once powerful husband deteriorated, both physically and mentally. It was a long, sad goodbye for a woman who said her life truly began when she married Ronald Reagan,” NPR explained.
She took a step forward once her husband died by becoming an advocate for Alzheimer’s patients, hoping to end the stigma against them, according to The Washington Post. She also championed for more stem-cell research to help the cause, using her husband’s death as motivation.
Nancy helped her husband’s memories live on
In 2002, Nancy published a book titled “I Love You, Ronnie,” which was a compilation of love letters shared between the couple, The Washington Post reported. The book included Nancy Reagan’s thoughts and reactions to her husband’s letters, which only further promoted the president’s love for her and spread the memory of their relationship even further.
Ronald always told Nancy how much he loved her
As Nancy Reagan said in her 2002 book “I Love You, Ronnie,” the president often sent his wife love letters and heart-felt notes. If he wasn’t writing something, he would speak about it. This is something couples can apply to their own relationships because love letters can help keep love alive.
“I more than love you, I’m not whole without you. You are life itself to me. When you are gone, I’m waiting for you to return so I can start living again,” he wrote once, according to CBS.
Ronald owed his success to Nancy
At the time they met, Nancy and Ronald Reagan were well on their way to establishing their own careers. Nancy had just signed a studio deal to act, while Ronald was the president of the Screen Actor’s Guild.
But it was later in life that the Reagans showed how much influence a spouse can have on another. As Daily Mail reported, Nancy helped guide Ronald to the White House by becoming his “most trusted adviser” and defending him every time he was criticized. She also raised their two children during the president’s run to the White House, which gave the future president a chance to campaign across the country.
“Without Nancy, there would have been no Governor Reagan, no President Reagan,” Michael K. Deaver, longtime close friend of the Reagan family, told The New York Times.
Nancy took the burden for Ronald
As The New York Times wrote in its obituary for Nancy Reagan, the former first lady “was the worrier” in the relationship. Ronald was often optimistic about the world, whereas his wife was a little more cautious.
“In truth, she was the worrier. Mrs. Reagan wrote in her memoirs that she sometimes became angry with her husband because of his relentless optimism. He didn’t worry at all, she wrote, ‘and I seem to do the worrying for both of us,'” the Times reported.
This is an instance where a spouse took the brunt of the burden for his or her partner.
Ronald was better with Nancy than without
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who used to work with the Reagan administration, told NBC News that he could see when the president hadn’t been around his wife for a few days. He appeared visibly upset, and often wouldn’t make as hard-nosed decisions as he would when his wife was nearby.
He told NBC News that the president would get “fidgety” when his wife flew away to New York, and it would only get worse as the days wore on. Powell said that Ronald “was not really complete without Mrs. Reagan nearby. They were inseparable, both in body and in spirit.”