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Inside the 34-year marriage of Mike Pence, who calls his wife 'mother' and refuses to dine with other women

Mike Karen Pence

  • Mike and Karen Pence have been married for 33 years.
  • They met in 1983, and ultimately became evangelical Christians together.
  • They exercise and pray together — and the vice president forgoes eating alone with women other than his wife.
  • Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.

There's a quiet but powerful force at work in the White House.

Her name is Karen Pence.

The second lady's influence often goes unnoticed amid the noisy exits and vicious power struggles that characterize the Trump White House.

But she is in fact the closest adviser to her husband, US Vice President Mike Pence — President Donald Trump's second-in-command.

Karen has sometimes been a focus in some recent controversies, like the couple's expensive decision to walk out of a NFL game over flag protests, and more recently, defending the vice president's decision not to wear a protective face covering when visiting COVID-19 patients at the Mayo Clinic.

The Washington Post once reported that Karen has asserted that she never attempts to sway policy. But her 33-year marriage to the former Indiana governor has been a major influence on him throughout his political career. Karen — whom Mike refers to as "Mother," according to the Rolling Stone's extensive profile in 2017 — is a major player behind the scenes.

Here's a look inside the marriage of Mike and Karen Pence.

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Before she met Mike, the future second lady was married to her high school sweetheart, Dr. John Steven Whitaker. The Washington Post reported Karen's first marriage ended in divorce, partly due to the couple's youth and Whitaker's intense medical school schedule.

Source: The Washington Post



Mike and Karen first met in 1983, in the parking lot outside of Indianapolis' St. Thomas Aquinas Church. Karen played the guitar there during Mass, according to the Republic.

Source: The Republic, Indianapolis Monthly



At the time, Karen was teaching shop at a local school, while Mike was studying law at Indiana University, along with one of Karen's sisters. According to the IndyStar, after their first meet-up at church, Mike begged the school's registrar for Karen's sister's number.

Source: IndyStar



The registrar eventually gave Mike the digits, but the first date almost didn't happen. Karen was at her sister's house, babysitting her niece and nephew. When she answered the phone, Mike panicked and hung up.

Source: IndyStar



Mike did end up calling again. Karen told him to come over for a taco salad dinner and asked him to go ice-skating. The IndyStar reported Mike, Karen, and her niece and nephew went skating at the Pepsi Coliseum a few days later. Afterwards, Karen's niece made a $1 bet that Mike would marry her aunt.

Source: IndyStar



Karen said she thought the first date went well, too. "When I first met Mike Pence, it was love at first sight," she later said, in a 2012 gubernatorial campaign ad.

Source: CNN



But, for Mike and Karen, the budding relationship took a backseat to one thing. She told CBN that Mike encouraged her to always put God before him.

Source: Business Insider, CBN



After eight months of dating, Karen had the word "yes" engraved on a gold cross. She carried it around in her purse, in anticipation of Mike's marriage proposal, according to the Washington Post.

Source: The Washington Post



Karen was able to give Mike her golden cross about a month later, along a canal in Indianapolis where the couple often strolled and fed ducks. Mike had hollowed out two loaves of bread, stowing a bottle of champagne into one and the ring in the other. The Washington Post reported the Pences later shellacked the bread to save as a keepsake.

Source: The Washington Post



On June 8, 1985, the couple was married at St. Christopher's Roman Catholic Church in Speedway, Indiana. The Indiana University registrar who had given Mike Karen's sister's phone number was in attendance, too.

Source: Death and Taxes Magazine



The Catholic Church does not recognize civil divorces, so Karen's first marriage may have been annulled. Either way, the newlyweds' reception was held at the Midway Motor Lodge, and they planned to travel to Nassau for their honeymoon, according to The Columbus Herald.

Source: Death and Taxes Magazine, Newspapers.com



During the first six years of their marriage, the Pences dealt with infertility. "We didn’t tell anybody we were struggling," Karen told The Federalist. "... It's hard because people who don't go through infertility, I really don't think they can really feel what it feels like when you just want that baby more than anything, and it just isn't happening."

Source: The Federalist



But the couple went on to have three children. The eldest, Michael Pence Jr., is a Marine. Middle child Charlotte is training to be an agent at United Talent Agency. Audrey, the youngest of the Pence siblings, is studying law at Yale.

Source: USA Today, SMH, The DePaulia, Us Magazine, The Bellingen Shire Courier-Sun

 



The couple frequently exercises together, even going on lengthy cycling trips.

Source: Washington Post



Pence does not attend events with alcohol without Karen. He also does not dine alone with other women. Some have criticized this rule as sexist.

Source: Washington Post



At some point during their marriage, the Pences left the Catholic Church and became evangelical Christians. Mike's former colleague Mark Bailey told The New York Times Karen was a huge part of her husband's "faith journey" and that he often referred to her as the family's "prayer warrior."

Source: The New York Times



Now that they've moved to DC, the Pences have been spotted attending service at Sanibel Community Church in Florida and the Anglican Falls Church in Virginia.

Source: Religion NewsFree Republic



Karen previously told The Republic that she's had a major say in some of her husband's biggest career decisions: "We've always approached it that way. It would be difficult to do this separately."

Source: The Republic



Because Karen is one of Mike's most formidable advisers, the Washington Post reported that Trump personally apologized to her after the bombshell "Access Hollywood" scandal in 2016.

Source: Washington Post



Trump has since praised the Pences' relationship, saying they have "one hell of a good marriage going."

Source: Business Insider



Karen is also one of Mike's biggest defenders. After the vice president was criticized for not wearing a protective face covering on a visit to the Mayo Clinic amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, his wife claimed he didn't know he was supposed to.

Sources: Business Insider, Fox News



She said Mike didn't know about Mayo Clinic's policy until he left the facility, a claim that contradicted what Mayo and pool reporters said. "Someone who's worked on this whole task force for over two months is not someone who would have done anything to offend anyone or hurt anyone or scare anyone," Karen told Fox News.

Sources: Business Insider, Fox News



Given the nature of their relationship, The Washington Post describes Karen as her husband's "gut check and shield." The vice president has said she is "the best part of my life," telling the IndyStar, "Everything we do in public life, we do together. I can't imagine it any other way."

Source: Washington Post, Mic, IndyStar



Karen told CNN she's still learning about being a spouse through watching her son Michael's wife, Sarah. "She insists that [Michael] has his responsibilities in the house and she has hers. And I tend to say, 'Oh, you know, the vice president is really busy, I'll do this for him,' and — really — it's better if you don't."

Source: CNN





* This article was originally published herePress Release Distribution

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