Inside the ‘storybook’ marriage of Barbara and George H.W. Bush — who were married longer than any first couple, said ‘I love you’ every night, and reportedly weathered a decades-long affair

Former US President George H.W. Bush tosses the coin for the Super Bowl as former first lady Barbara Bush looks on in Houston, Texas on February 5, 2017.

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Former US President George H.W. Bush tosses the coin for the Super Bowl as former first lady Barbara Bush looks on in Houston, Texas on February 5, 2017.
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REUTERS/Adrees Latif

  • Former President George H.W. Bush died November 30, just 6 months after his wife, former first lady Barbara Bush.
  • They were married for 73 years, and still said “I love you” every night.
  • A new book on Barbara details allegations that George had a decade-long affair with a personal aide.
  • “I have climbed perhaps the highest mountain in the world, but even that cannot hold a candle to being Barbara’s husband,” George once wrote.

Former President George H.W. Bush died on November 30 at age 94. His wife, the former First Lady Barbara Bush, died in April 2018 at age 92.

They were married for 73 years and are survived by their five children, 17 grandchildren, and eight great grandchildren.

Described as a true love story, here is an inside look at the longest marriage in US presidential history.


Barbara Pierce and George Bush met at a dance over Christmas vacation in 1942. She was 16 and he was 17, and Barbara claimed that George was the first boy she ever kissed.

Source: Associated Press


After dating for a year and a half, the two became engaged and planned to get married before George went off to serve in World War II as a Navy pilot. He famously named three of his Navy planes after her, and the two shared love letters while he was away.

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George H. W. Bush flying a TBM Avenger off the light aircraft carrier USS San Jacinto in 1944.
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US Navy

On January 6, 1945, the couple married at the First Presbyterian Church in Rye, New York while George was on leave from war. He was 20 and she was 19.

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George and Barbara Bush on their wedding day in Rye, New York on January 6, 1945.
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George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

In the first year of their marriage, they moved around to Michigan, Maryland, and Virginia because of George’s naval base assignments. “You have given me joy that few men know,” he once wrote to her in a letter.

Source: The National First Ladies Library


Over the next 13 years, the couple had six children: George, Robin, Jeb, Neil, Marvin, and Dorothy. Robin died of leukemia at the age of three.

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Wikimedia Commons

Source: The National First Ladies Library


After the war was over, George and Barbara moved the family to Texas, where he entered the oil business. The couple has moved over two dozen times during their marriage.

Source: The National First Ladies Library


George was elected as a congressman from Texas in 1966, and Barbara took care of the children as he campaigned. She would sometimes join him on the trail, and would be there every step of the way as he moved up in the political world.

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George and Barbara Bush in Houston, Texas on the night he was elected to Congress on November 1, 1966.
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NARA

Source: The National First Ladies Library


When former President Richard Nixon appointed Bush as Chairman of the RNC during Watergate, Barbara urged her husband not take the job because of the political climate in DC. Nevertheless, he accepted the offer.

Source: The National First Ladies Library


When the Bush family lived in China while George served as head of the US Liaison Office under President Gerald Ford, the couple would regularly take bike rides and explore their new home.


George ran for the presidency in 1980, but fell short in the GOP primary to Ronald Reagan. Bush joined Reagan’s winning ticket as his vice presidential candidate and helped the Republicans take back the White House.

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MediaPunch

When George ran for the presidency in 1988, Barbara again campaigned actively for him and became the second candidate’s wife to speak on their behalf at the party convention. George became the 41st president of the United States.

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MediaPunch

Source: The National First Ladies Library


After they left the White House in 1993, George and Barbara helped campaign for their children’s quests for public office. The most notable were George W., who served as governor of Texas and the 43rd US president, and Jeb, who served as governor of Florida and ran for president. George W. credits his gubernatorial win to his parents.


Barbara has described her and her husband as “the two luckiest people in the world, and when all the dust is settled and all the crowds are gone, the things that matter are faith, family and friends. We have been inordinately blessed, and we know that.”

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MediaPunch

Source: Associated Press


“I have climbed perhaps the highest mountain in the world, but even that cannot hold a candle to being Barbara’s husband,” George once wrote.

Source: Associated Press


He gives Barbara all the credit when it came to raising their children. George described her as “the mainstay, of course, the parent who was always there to help solve the daily problems and emergencies of teen and preteen life.”

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Barbara Bush, former first lady of the US, greets her son George Walker Bush with a kiss and a hug on October 26, 1994.
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REUTERS

When their daughter Robin had cancer, George was too upset to visit her. Barbara refused to let anyone cry in front of Robin and remained with her at the hospital. George reportedly “marveled” at his wife’s strength.

Source: “What It Takes”


The couple has also weathered some hardships. When allegations surfaced in October 2017 of George inappropriately touching women, their office released a statement saying he “patted women’s rears in what he intended to be a good-natured manner” and apologized to “anyone he has offended.”

Source: Business Insider


When George served as CIA director in the 1970s, he had to keep details of his job classified, and Barbara went through a bout of depression. But George took care of her.

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George is sworn in as new director of the Central Intelligence Agency by US Supreme Court Associate Justice Potter Stewart as Barbara and President Gerald R. Ford look on at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia on January 30, 1976.
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Barry Soorenko / CNP /MediaPunch/IPX

Source: Associated Press


“Night after night, George held me weeping in his arms while I tried to explain my feelings,” she said. “I almost wonder why he didn’t leave me.”

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George and Barbara Bush attend the christening ceremony for the USS George H.W. Bush, October 2006.
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Eric Draper

Source: Associated Press


But a biography on the former first lady published in April 2019 revealed that Barbara was plagued by depression and suicidal thoughts sparked by George’s decade-long affair with one of his personal aides, Jennifer Fitzgerald in the 1970s.

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President-elect Bush’s transition teammates Chase Untermeyer and Jennifer Fitzgerald seated during a press conference.
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Cynthia Johnson/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

Sources: Business Insider, “The Matriarch: Barbara Bush and the Making of an American Dynasty


“Barbara Bush found herself falling into the worst personal crisis she had faced since daughter Robin had died more than two decades earlier,” wrote Susan Page, author of “The Matriarch: Barbara Bush and the Making of an American Dynasty.”

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Dirck Halstead/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

Sources: Business Insider, “The Matriarch: Barbara Bush and the Making of an American Dynasty


Despite their ups and downs, George described their love as a “storybook.” Every night before the couple went to sleep, to the end, he still said “I love you, Barbie.”

Sources: Jenna Bush, Associated Press


Barbara said having a good husband is key to living a long life. “George Bush has given me the world. He is the best — thoughtful and loving,” she said in 2018. “I am still old and still in love with the man I married 72 years ago.”

Source: Smith Alumnae Quarterly


She told C-SPAN in 2013 that she and George pray aloud each night and sometimes “fight over whose turn it is.”

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George and Barbara Bush in 2000
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Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Source: Associated Press


Barbara said she didn’t fear death for herself or “my precious George.””I know there is a great God, and I’m not worried.”

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Former first lady Mrs. Barbara Bush listens to her son, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, at a campaign event February 19, 2016 in Greenville, South Carolina.
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Sean Rayford/Getty Images

George H.W. Bush expressed a similar spiritual devotion: “There is a God and He is good, and his love, while free, has a self imposed cost: We must be good to one another.”

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Michael Loccisano/Getty Images