A Lesson on Love from Ronald Reagan

(photo: Image Credit: White House Photo Office)

President Ronald Reagan was in love with several women at the same time, and he was completely unabashed about it. In fact, he wrote about them in a Christmas letter to his wife, Nancy.

That’s because Nancy was all of those women.

The letter, dated December 25, 1981, was read at Mrs. Reagan’s funeral service in the White House by Former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. That was the Reagans’ first Christmas in the White House.

In the letter, President Reagan described his admiration for all of the women he’d come to love so deeply—mother of his children, First Lady of his presidency, the sentimental and fun woman, the “peewee powerhouse” that worked beside him on their ranch, and finally, the little girl who always took a banana to bed with her in case she got hungry during the night.

“Fortunately, all these women in my life are you—fortunately for me that is, for there could be no life for me without you,” he wrote.

I think most people will agree that Ronald Reagan was a remarkable statesman. I think the 1981 Christmas letter shows that he also was a remarkable husband, and it’s evident in his Christmas letter to his wife.

He recognized about Nancy what all husbands should recognize about their wives and all wives should recognize about their husbands.

They are several people all at once.

In fact, that’s true of all human beings and in all relationships. The folks we love are not one-dimensional characters, but rather multi-faceted persons with a variety of selves to be loved and appreciated.

Early on in our marriage, I caught my husband in a sullen knot of resentment. I could tell he was upset, but for the longest time, he wouldn’t tell me why.

Finally, he outed with it.

“You don’t joke around with me the way you joke around with your friends,” he admitted.

“That’s simple,” I responded. “You don’t think I’m funny.”

What I meant was, I was different when it was just the two of us because I felt at home with him. I felt as though I could be myself, whatever the mood, and that I didn’t need to joke or try to keep the conversation going out of politeness.

He still doesn’t think I’m funny. On the other hand, my husband has come to appreciate the fact that I can be a different person around different people because there are many sides to my personality. I’ve come to appreciate the same about him as well.

Unlike the Reagans, I think many married couples get stuck on a single facet of the other, and focus on that one for better or worse. They forget that there are many sides to their spouses and that it takes observation, interaction, and dedication to discover and appreciate all of them.

That’s true of most of our relationships.

We tend to lock our loved ones into the image we’ve manufactured for them instead of allowing ourselves to become acquainted with all of the images that actually belong to them.

Every human being has, not only the right, but the obligation, to pray the Psalm:

“You formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, because I am wonderfully made;
wonderful are your works!
My very self you know.” (Psalm 139:14)

We also have the right and obligation to pray the same psalm about others in our lives. Each person God has placed into our circle of loved ones has been wonderfully made by him, with many facets to love and appreciate. We should be able to pray the psalm by replacing the “I” with the name of our loved ones.

Ronald Reagan knew this about Nancy and so could say with honesty and pure intent that he loved several women.

And they were all his wife.