The Pence Marriage Rule: When Common Sense is Shocking

By Anika Smith Published on March 30, 2017

It sounds like Vice President Mike Pence really loves his wife and really values his marriage.

Yesterday The Washington Post ran a sweet profile of second lady Karen Pence noting her meek, steady influence on her husband. Interviews with friends and colleagues revealed that Mrs. Pence is a prayer warrior. She’s also passionate about art therapy and works to help military families.

But Karen Pence’s quiet power was not what set off a million talking heads on Twitter. No, it was the matter-of-fact statement that Mike and Karen Pence abide by a version of the Billy Graham Rule. In a 2002 interview, then-congressman Pence said he doesn’t drink without his wife present, nor does he dine alone with other women.

This common-sense rule stands out in a town like DC, where many, many marriages have fallen apart because of affairs. Back in 2010, WORLD Magazine ran an in-depth look at the tragedy of Indiana Rep. Mark Souder’s affair as a cautionary tale for Christian politicians. Souder was advised by Dan Quayle to move his family to Washington for the sake of his marriage. He didn’t.

But Pence did. And Karen saw that physical proximity was a good thing, not only for the sake of their marriage, but to remind Pence who he is. “Not only do my kids need Mike, Mike needs the kids,” she told reporter Emily Belz.

Predictably, those who don’t see marriage as sacred or humanity as fallen are shocked that someone like Pence would take care to protect his marriage. Some call it anti-woman. They forget that Pence picked a female lieutenant governor with whom he worked closely while maintaining his boundaries.

Vice President Pence and his wife Karen seem to have a healthy marriage at a time and place where that’s strange. We shouldn’t be surprised that the rest of the world marvels. We should say a prayer for the marriages in our own communities to have the same integrity.

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