The Truth About Ronald Reagan's Relationship With His Wife, Nancy

Ronald Reagan was known for his fascinating career — from starting out as an actor to becoming the governor of California and, eventually, the president of the United States. But Ronald's love for his wife, Nancy, also enamored an entire nation. When Reagan entered the White House, his friend Charlton Heston called the love that the Reagans had for each other (via Biography) "the greatest love affair in the history of the American Presidency."

The two endured a very eventful life together as well. Meeting each other while Ronald was the president of the Screen Actors Guild and Nancy was an aspiring actress looking to find work, the two found love from the moment they met, according to Biography. They would then go on to endure the challenges of being in the public eye for all of their lives, the complications that come with being president and first lady, an assassination attempt, and eventually Ronald's Alzheimer's in the later years of his life. Through it all, the two never lost their unbridled passion for one another.

Ronald Reagan's First Marriage

Before Nancy Davis, Ronald Reagan had found love with another actress who he shared the screen with, Jane Wyman. Reagan and Wyman both met when they were cast for the movie "Brother Rat and a Baby" and eventually started dating. Wyman had already been divorced two times before she was with Reagan, according to Wide Open Country. During their marriage, Reagan and Wyman had three children together: Christine Reagan (who died after birth), Maureen Reagan, and their adopted son Michael Reagan. 

The two had some serious marital issues from the start, with Wyman even attempting suicide due to Reagan not wanting to propose to her because of fears that things were moving too fast, according to "Reagan: An American Journey," a biography written about the former president. As their marriage continued, Wyman believed that Reagan was absent from their relationship and also found him extremely irritating, so by 1948, she filed for divorce (via "Reagan: An American Journey").

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Love At First Sight

It was after Ronald Reagan's first divorce that he found love for a young Nancy Davis. In 1951, Reagan was the president of the Screen Actors Guild, which was also at the time of peak McCarthyism. During this era, Hollywood was blacklisting actors and workers who were thought to be communist sympathizers, and an actress named Nancy Davis was on that list (via History). And no, not the future first lady Nancy Davis — this Nancy was completely unrelated to Reagan's future wife, but the name did cause the second Nancy trouble when looking for work.

Frustrated, Davis contacted the president of the Screen Actors Guild, who happened to be Ronald Reagan, in an effort to get the name ordeal settled and help get her gigs. The two then fell in love, and Reagan claimed that Nancy saved him from his loneliness (via The Washington Post). The two were married in March 1952, and seven months later, Nancy gave birth to their daughter Patricia "Patti" Reagan (via Biography). In 1958, the couple welcomed their newborn son Ronald "Ron" Reagan.

Lovers in Politics

Ronald and Nancy Reagan starred in "Hellcats of the Navy" together, but after Ron Reagan was born in 1958, Nancy decided to be a full-time mother and housewife (via Biography). Ronald, on the other hand, was continuing his career by working on a show called "General Electric Theater" until he decided to turn to politics in the mid-1960s. In 1966, Ronald Reagan ran for California governor and won the election; he ran again in 1970 and was reelected. In the 1976 presidential election, Reagan attempted to become the Republican nominee by challenging the incumbent President Gerald Ford but lost the nomination. In 1980, however, Reagan secured the Republican nomination and beat then-President Jimmy Carter; in 1981, Ronald Reagan was inaugurated into office. 

Nancy and Ronald Reagan still kept their love alive even when Ronald was busy governing an entire nation, and the two were known to leave love notes everywhere throughout the White House (via Biography). But Nancy Reagan's world was nearly torn apart when her husband survived an assassination attempt. After this, Nancy tried her hardest to make sure that Ronald remained healthy.

Behind the Scenes of the Perfect Family

Even though Ronald and Nancy Reagan had an unbridled love for one another, the rest of the family often felt alienated and dysfunctional, according to the Los Angeles Times. For starters, Nancy and Ronald's children had no idea that they had half-siblings from Ronald's first marriage until Michael came to live with the Reagans. On top of that, at first, Nancy and Ronald's children didn't know their relation to Maureen Reagan until she introduced herself to Patti Reagan as her sister.

Regardless of that family drama, the children often viewed Ronald Reagan as a distant father. On one occasion, Ronald didn't even recognize his own son, Michael, at his graduation after he gave a commencement speech. Patti Reagan also accused her mother of being abusive and believed that her parents' relationship was all about them — they allegedly didn't pay much attention to their own children (via "The Way I See It").

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A Life of Love and Passion

After Ronald Reagan finished his presidency, the Reagans moved back to California, the couple began constructing the Ronald Reagan Presidential Museum, and Nancy Reagan wrote an autobiography (via Biography). Tragically, in 1994, Ronald Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, and for the remaining 10 years of his life, Nancy took care of him. He wrote in a letter to the American people (via Biography), "I wish there was some way I could spare Nancy from this painful experience."

During former President Ronald Reagan's retirement, he tried his best to mend the relationships with his children and sadly had to deal with the death of his own daughter, Maureen Reagan, after she battled cancer for five years and died in 2001 (per ABC News). When Ronald died on June 5, 2004, he was surrounded by his children and Nancy Reagan, according to the Los Angeles Times. Nancy would go on to live for another 12 years before dying on March 6, 2016. Though Ronald and Nancy Reagan's life together might've not been perfect, it was filled with love and passion until the very end.