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

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 amidst the noisy exits and vicious power struggles that characterize the Trump White House.

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

Karen Pence has even been a focus in some recent controversies, like the couple's expensive decision to walk out of a NFL game over flag protests.

The Washington Post reports Karen Pence has often asserted that she never attempts to sway policy. However, her 32 year marriage to the former Indiana governor has been a major influence on him throughout his political career. Karen — who Mike Pence refers to as "Mother," according to the Rolling Stone's extensive profile — is a major player behind the scenes.

A look inside the marriage of Mike and Karen Pence
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A look inside the marriage of Mike and Karen Pence

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.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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.

 (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

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.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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.

 (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

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.

(REUTERS/Jim Young)

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.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

But, for Mike and Karen, the budding relationship took a backseat to one thing. The Second Lady has told CBN that her then-boyfriend encouraged her to always put God before him.

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

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.

(Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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.

(White House/Myles Cullen/Handout via REUTERS)

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


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.

(Colombian Presidency/Handout via REUTERS)

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."

(REUTERS/Yuri Gripas)

However, the couple did go 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.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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

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

(SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

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."

(Eddie Seal/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

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.

(MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

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."

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

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

(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

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

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

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."



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