Marrying Jacqueline Bouvier

After Jack settled into the Senate, he had time to renew a romance with Jacqueline Bouvier that had begun when they first met in 1951 at a dinner party. They immediately clicked. They had a lot in common, considering that Jackie, just like Jack, had an air of loneliness about her. She was the daughter of John Bouvier III and Janet Lee Bouvier. Her father's philandering had led to the eventual divorce of her parents when she was nine years old. As a child she was moved back and forth between her father's home and her mother's new home with her wealthy, socially prominent stepfather, Hugh Auchincloss. Although she enjoyed a privileged life, she found her greatest comfort and happiness in solo activities such as riding horses, reading, and listening to music.

THEY SAID…

“He saw her as a kindred spirit. I think he understood that the two of them were alike. They had both taken circumstances that weren't the best in the world when they were younger and learned to make themselves up as they went along…. Even the names — Jack and Jackie: two halves of a single whole.”

— Lem Billings, as quoted in An Unfinished Life

Introducing Jackie to the Family

Now that Jack was in the Senate, he needed a wife. Jackie's charming nature was appealing. Jackie was more intelligent than Jack's other girlfriends, and her social status was evident by her natural charm and class. Joe Kennedy admired her independence. That was a hard feat, especially when she visited the richly competitive environment of the Kennedys' Hyannis Port estate. This became evident during the family's touch football games where winning meant everything. On one occasion, Jackie succumbed to the pressure to play, but quickly became content to just watch after she broke her ankle. It was during this time, as Joe and Jackie watched the others play, that Joe grew to appreciate her outspoken and independent nature.

THEY SAID…

“Anticipate that each Kennedy will ask you what you think of another Kennedy's (a) dress, (b) hairdo, (c) backhand, (d) latest public achievement. Be sure to answer ‘terrific.’ This should get you through dinner. Now for the football field. It's ‘touch,’ but it's murder…. Run madly on every play, and make a lot of noise. Don't appear to be having too much fun, though. They'll accuse you of not taking the game seriously enough. Don't criticize the other team either. It's bound to be full of Kennedys too, and the Kennedys don't like that sort of thing.”

— David Hackett, Rules for Visiting the Kennedys

While Joe and Jack found Jackie's charm and independence appealing, Rose Kennedy cared little for such traits. For Rose, Jackie's independence was at odds with her own carefully structured life. Rose still required mandatory participation in meals, so when Jackie failed to appear for several meals while staying at the Kennedy home, Rose was irritated. She quickly informed Jackie that such behavior was intolerable.

Tying the Knot

Regardless of Rose's displeasure with Jackie, Jack decided that they were well matched. He asked her to marry him by telegram in the spring of 1953. They were married on September 12 at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Newport. The wedding was attended by family, friends, and nearly 3,000 people who were intent on getting a glimpse of the event that would put an end to Jack Kennedy's bachelorhood. Jackie, well aware of the rumors regarding Jack's promiscuity, had hoped that Jack would become a dedicated and faithful husband. She soon found out that Jack was intent on continuing his philandering despite the feelings of his lonely wife, who often waited patiently for him to come home. According to Lem Billings, as time went on, Jack became indiscreet with his extramarital affairs. It was most embarrassing to Jackie when the couple went to parties together. It was not uncommon for Jack to leave Jackie all alone as he disappeared into another room with his latest sexual partner.

A Rocky Start for the Newlyweds

Jackie soon found that for the most part, she was destined to live a life without her husband. His duties in the Senate and his travels throughout Massachusetts kept him away from home. It was especially difficult for her on the weekends when she was alone. Jack remained unconcerned about his absences and looked to his parents' long-standing marriage as evidence that his could survive. Jackie, on the other hand, was miserable. She soon found comfort in decorating and shopping. This got Jack's attention when he realized that her spending was quickly decreasing his net worth. Jack tried to rein her in with instructions that she restrict her spending to either traveling or eating well.

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