Mike Pence’s Marriage

Emma Green at the Atlantic sums up a Wash Post article on Mike Pence. (I’ve used up my free articles at the WaPo for the week.)

The Washington Post ran a profile of Karen Pence, the wife of Vice President Mike Pence, on Wednesday. The piece talks about the closeness of the Pences’ relationship, and cites something Pence told The Hill in 2002: Unless his wife is there, he never eats alone with another woman or attends an event where alcohol is being served. (It’s unclear whether, 15 years later, this remains Pence’s practice.) It’s not in the Post piece, but here’s the original quote from 2002: “‘If there’s alcohol being served and people are being loose, I want to have the best-looking brunette in the room standing next to me,’ Pence said.”

Steve and I never ever considered such a move. Not going anywhere were alcohol is served without my spouse would SEVERELY impact my social life.

But I’m not feeling that judgy today. I spent some time over the weekend with friends who were divorced, and if that kind of craziness keeps the Pence marriage strong, then whatever.

I suspect that Pence isn’t that unusual. I’ve been to parties where it was assumed that the men would socialize in one room, the women in the other. I was given the eyeball, if I talked to the guys for too long. I doubt anybody thought I was trying to snatch up their man, but socializing with the other gender was considered weird. Typically, we try to avoid those sorts of affairs, but they do exist.

28 thoughts on “Mike Pence’s Marriage

  1. At college I had a bunch of male friends. I met my husband through that group of friends, so as a couple we frequently socialize with them. We were in Joisey for a bar mitzvah a few years ago with this group of friends and I found myself sort of segregated into a group talking to the wives. WTF? I barely knew these women. I wanted to talk to the guys because they were the ones I shared a history with. So I drank a lot wine and ignored the unspoken rules and attached myself to my husband. 🙂


  2. If you never drink without your spouse how can you drink at work?

    Anyway, my wife won’t even go into my usual bar. Something about the air being unbreathable.


  3. The big problem, of course, isn’t whether or not Mrs. Pence needs to be drunk to be in the same room as her husband. It’s how women are supposed to work if that kind of a rule becomes broadly used. I don’t even travel that much for work, but I’ve had to take solo trips with a female boss when I was younger and with a female supervisee now that I’m older.


    1. I don’t live by the Pence rule, but I have also known many young female professionals who felt very uneasy at “business social” events where (i) the attendees are 90% male and (ii) alcohol is served. (That would be most “business social” gatherings, of course.) It’s hard to strike an appropriate tone in such gatherings. Many young women in that position would just as soon be upstairs in their hotel room, watching TV, but feel pressured to mingle. To the extent that Pence spared his staffers that kind of discomfort, good for him.


    1. With someone like Pence, if he eats alone with two women who aren’t his wife, you never know if he’s trying to avoid temptation or if he’s trying to enact a really big temptation.


  4. The problem with this is how it excludes women from the casual mentoring/banter/socializing where a lot of connections happen.

    Pence sounds like he’s of the generation/ilk where he doesn’t know how to “be” around a women who is neither his wife nor his daughter/mom/love interest. A woman who is a professional peer/subordinate or a colleague or a friend? Doesn’t know how to act.


    1. One problem is that a lot of casual banter/socializing is sexually-themed. That’s the way boys are. (Girls too, actually.) Unfortunately, while law and custom mostly leave single-sex banter unregulated, professional relationships are not so free.

      Another problem is that I don’t know many people whom I would trust to habitually drink and flirt without their spouse and be confident that no physical relationship would develop. I don’t live by the Pence rule, but I certainly wouldn’t put myself in that position regularly. I’m not aware that men and women of the modern ilk have somehow mastered this trick. Most young people I know drink and flirt–and they also have hook-ups.


      1. There’s a lot of room between “going up to your room to watch tv” and “habitually drink & flirt without your spouse—->physical relationship develops”. Don’t most of us hang out with coworkers without anything untoward happening?

        I know that when I articled (CPA) way back in the ancient late 1980’s (cue crotchety old lady voice), it was a much different time. Still very Mad Men-esque old school at the partner level even though it was already 50%+ gender split at the student level. So many afternoon drinks and dinners. Liquid lunches that carried on into dinners. Lots of partying. Lots of golf afternoons. You knew the partners that you avoided after lunch because they’d had more than a few martinis at the club.

        The recession killed a lot of that – it just didn’t make business sense. Fewer people golf. And of course more awareness/policies around sexual harassment have reined in the few bad eggs. It still happens of course but to a lesser extent.

        Another generational difference is that once people are married/have families, there’s much less interest in partying with coworkers – they want to get home to their families (men & women).

        From my friends who are still in the profession (partners now), it’s quite different. There’s still a lot of socializing (Friday drinks will always happen) and the students do their thing but there are more varied firm-sponsored events – cooking classes, hiking, skiing, etc. The diehard partiers are still around but they’re around in any workplace.


      2. I think the main difference isn’t lack of confidence about nobody having the physical relationships, but that the social status of the sexes in the workplace is more equal. Men weren’t so worried about being alone with their secretaries back when they couldn’t get into trouble for even Donald Trumping them.


  5. I am in a fairly bro-y sliver of academia,* and there’s a strong boozy masculine subculture that’s not sexual at all. It has its own problems, but women being sexually harassed and/or required to participate in flirtatious banter isn’t one of them.** Maybe it’s because we have lots of other interesting things to talk about? If I couldn’t drink at work events with my male colleagues without my partner around, it would really damage my career prospects.

    In general though, I have and have always had lots of close male friends (as well as female friends too–I’m not one of those women-haters who just seeks out male attention), and my partner has close female friends. I hang out with my friends one-on-one and in groups, and never once have I been tempted to cheat or felt like my male friends were hitting on me. My partner lived with a female roommate for a year while I was in China. I strongly believe that people are people, and that we can be friends regardless of gender.

    *A subset of a subset of my field.

    **Ironically, I’ve seen far more cases of sexual harassment or general sexual misbehaving in a less overtly masculine and alcohol-centered part of my discipline.


    1. And if you can’t banter without it being sexualized? You need some conversational tutoring! It’s similar to witty retorts vs. “you’re stupid”.


  6. An earlier comment disappeared.

    Politicians can be set up. I bet Peter Blute wishes he had followed Pence’s rules. http://commonwealthmagazine.org/politics/002-exposed/

    “The story was tailor-made for a tabloid: A booze cruise on Boston Harbor skippered by the head of Massport; a fun-loving crew of hangers-on, including lobbyists and a woman named Gidget, who struck a “Girls Gone Wild” pose for a photographer as the boat pulled into dock.

    The Boston Herald story on that sunny day in August 1999 is legend. The article, and especially the Herald’s accompanying picture of a bare-breasted woman—a black strip inserted by the newspaper across her chest—were so devastating that Massport Director Peter Blute stepped down the very next day. Only now, nearly 13 years later, is Blute making a tentative return to politics serving as the deputy chairman of the state Republican Party.

    Over the years, rumors have persisted that there was more to the story than what the Herald reported. Blute in­sists he was set up. There was talk of a second non-Herald photographer, a grand jury investigation, and rumors of a conspiracy by Blute’s enemies to bring him down.

    A CommonWealth investigation suggests Blute was, in­deed, targeted.”

    If a governor were to have a private dinner with anyone, male or female, people would assert that he or she was making deals in private. Governors have staff; it’s always best, to have a witness on any such occasion. It really would not be a big deal to have a staff person join a dinner.


  7. For some reason my comments are disappearing. Perhaps because some word set off the filters.

    Search for “Peter Blute,” and “Boston Harbor cruise,” and you will see why it’s a good rule for a politician not to attend events serving alcohol without his wife.


    1. How would having his wife around protect him from that if it was a set-up? Unless she stuck like glue to him.

      (Never going to a party you can’t get out because you’re trapped on a boat seems like a very good rule for a variety of reasons.)


    2. If it was just a random woman deciding to show her chest to the whole bar, I can assure that is a very rare occurrence excepting if you seek out a bar in that line of business.


  8. Alternate theory–Pence doesn’t actually like the events he’s talking about, and bringing his wife provides an easy way to bail whenever he feels like it. “Uh oh, Karen’s feeling a little tired. We’d better head home. You kids have fun!”

    My husband’s department has rules about faculty, students and alcohol. I’m not sure about the exact rules or whether it applies to grad students, but those three elements are not supposed to be combined.

    We’ve heard stories about a department on MH’s turf back in the 1970s, and a lot of stuff went on that just would not past muster today.


  9. My mother reminisced last night about the days of all-male clubs. There were “ladies’ entrances.” Women were not members. This was in the liberal Northeast, back in the day.

    By not attending events where alcohol is served without his wife, he does not attend events at all-male clubs. Networking happens at social events. It seems to me the governor attending all-male poker nights, or men’s golf tournaments, held at all-male clubs, should be greater concerns for female empowerment than a governor holding to the norm of attending social events as a couple.

    And again, a governor is not a normal person. He or she has aides, people to arrange travel, make reservations at restaurants, and manage access. It is much easier for such a person to have a witness/secretary at private dinners than for the normal businessperson.


    1. I think the “not eating alone with a women who isn’t his wife” is the problem for women who are working. I think the “not attending events where alcohol is served without his wife” is just completely incomprehensible.


  10. I’m not sure whether Pence’s refusal to attend “events where alcohol is served without his wife” applies to all-male events. He may not move in circles where that issue arises, i.e., (i) there are certainly all-male evangelical events, but they typically don’t serve liquor, (ii) political events these days usually aren’t all-male, because it’s politically controversial, and (iii) he may not belong to the sort of upper crust organizations that have remained all-male (e.g., the Bohemian Club, Tastevin).


    1. McMegan read that article, too: https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-04-03/the-pences-prophylactic-approach-to-infidelity
      She blows right past the question of whether someone might fraudulently claim that Mr. Pence had acted badly one on one even though he had not, and I think that’s a prudential thing for him take precautions against, too. See the story about Billy Graham and the naked woman who was trying to destroy his ministry – whether it’s true or not, it’s out there (some stories are true, some just ought to be true…) My dermatologist solves this problem by having a staffer in the room when a patient is naked – it’s expensive, but it’s insurance.


  11. Has anyone been following the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s current problems? https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/02/arts/design/met-museum-campbell-resignation-brodsky-coburn.html?_r=0

    It is alleged that the director (who has announced his resignation) had a “close personal relationship” with a staff member.

    It’s interesting to discuss this with my college-aged children. Could he have had “a close personal relationship?” Yes. Was that the only reason he’s leaving? In my opinion, probably not. Nevertheless, the allegation is very damaging to both parties.


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