Separate Lives

Gossip columns speculated endlessly about the Onassis relationship, but by all accounts of friends and family, the newlyweds appeared happy.

The Honeymoon

Jackie was so immersed in her new husband that Caroline and John Jr. were regularly left with Janet and the children's new governess, Marta Sgubin. In 1969, the Christina was based in Puerto Rico so Jackie would fly the children and Marta down on weekends to spend time with them or they would vacation in Palm Beach. But Jackie's favorite place was Skorpios. She rhapsodized about the color of the water and the fragrant flowers that grew everywhere. It was a sanctuary where she could fully relax and not worry about who might be watching her.

Even so, Jackie and Aristo, as she called him, never really lived under the same roof for any length of time. When he came to New York for business, he stayed at her 1040 apartment. Otherwise, he stayed at his Pierre Hotel suite for tax reasons. When she went to Skorpios for the summer, Onassis would be there for only a few days at a time before leaving on yet another business trip. And when he was on the island, he all but lived on the Christina. Jackie, who thought the yacht was pretentious, lived in one of the houses that she had redecorated with Onassis's blessing.

THEY SAID …

“Jackie loves traveling, sightseeing, long walks, mountain climbing, skiing, and literally hundreds of things that are just not to my liking…. I know Jackie would eventually give up her activities to please me and just stay with me, but then, that wouldn't really be Jackie. I didn't want that to happen.”

— Aristotle Onassis

The Turning Point

In February 1970, it was reported that four letters Jackie had written to Ros Gilpatrick would be put up for auction by a Washington, D.C., gallery. Gilpatrick, who had been President Kennedy's Deputy Secretary of Defense, had been Jackie's constant companion in the summer of 1968. Their trip together to the Yucatan peninsula had been widely reported in the press. But whether their relationship had been platonic or romantic was a matter of conjecture among her friends.

How the gallery came by the letters was not revealed, although the same day the announcement was made, Gilpatrick's wife filed for divorce and insinuated in an interview with the Chicago Daily News that her husband's relationship with Jackie had been more than simple friendship. The inference sent shockwaves through Jackie's inner circle. Nancy Tuckerman issued a statement denying that Jackie had in any way been involved in the breakup of the Gilpatricks' marriage.

Onassis knew that Jackie and Gilpatrick had been close, so that did not concern him. However, the fact that one of the letters had been written while Jackie and Onassis were on their honeymoon infuriated Onassis. Not only was he insulted that Jackie was writing warm, flirty notes to another man on her honeymoon, the fact that it was now public made Onassis feel like a fool.

THEY SAID …

“He was not in love with Jackie. And in his own opinion, he never protested that he was — she was an acquisition. She was a trophy wife. Jackie was the biggest trophy in the world and he was going to have her.”

— Peter Evans, Entertainment Tonight

A few months later, Onassis spent four days with Callas, and photographs of them together appeared in the press. It was the first public indication that Onassis had resumed his relationship with the opera singer. Although it did not have an immediate impact on their marriage, it was clear the honeymoon was definitely over.

Soul Mate

For all the affection and attraction Onassis had for Jackie, Callas remained his soul mate. They shared the same heritage and, in many ways, the same volatile temperament. Their arguments were epic, but Callas always stayed and fought it out until the anger was depleted. Jackie's style was to say nothing and leave the room, leaving Onassis frustrated. As the marriage wore on, Onassis became increasingly restless. Their long-distance marriage quickly evolved into a marriage of separate lives.

Jackie spent more and more time in New York with her children. She also spent more time shopping. She and Onassis argued over her prodigious spending, prompting him to once ask if there was a twelve-step program for shopaholics. Because Onassis knew most people assumed she had simply married him for his money, he felt her prolific spending made him look like a patsy. But Jackie was not cowed by Onassis's rages. He told friends that inside her demure white gloves were fists of rock. Despite the strain, there was no public indication that either of them wanted out of the marriage.

SHE SAID …

“I am a very shy person. Some people take this for arrogance, and my withdrawal from publicity as a sign of my supposedly looking down at the rest of mankind.”

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