In an administration seemingly plagued with marital disharmony, what with Donald and Melania’s strained relationship and the combative Conways setting the tone, Mike and Karen Pence stand out as a refreshing example of a couple who actually seem to get along pretty well with one another. The twosome, described by Town & Country as sharing the ability to fly below the radar, have been married since 1985, and together they share three grown kids, a dog, a cat, and the famous literary hero Marlon Bundo.
While they present to the world the image of an ideal Christian couple, is it all for show? Are they actually hiding a seething cauldron of unspeakable secrets? While words can be scripted (and, in the case of politicians, usually are), body language doesn’t lie. In order to determine what’s really going on with Mike and Karen Pence, we asked body language expert Dr. Reneé Carr, a psychologist who works as a political and corporate advisor, to analyze some video footage of the Pences interacting and give us her take on their relationship.
Mike Pence has a great deal of respect for his wife
In an ABC News video from August 2016 of Pence getting his hair cut, Carr sees the fact that he tells the barber his wife’s preference for how his hair should look as “denot[ing] that he cares about her view of him” and values her opinion. An appearance on the Today show, also in August 2016, shows Pence allowing his wife to initiate contact with the female host, demonstrating that he respects his wife in front of other women. Pence also allows Karen to speak for herself, which Carr interprets as a demonstration that he has respect for “not only her voice, but also her strength” and an indication that “he likely sees her as a viable partner in life and politics with a mutual understanding and appreciation for his role as head of the household.”
In addition to the respect Pence feels for his wife, he also seems to be genuinely fond of her, as she is of him. Carr notes that throughout the interview Pence “fondly looks at [Karen] while she speaks and she does the same,” which speaks to the emotional connection they share.
Karen Pence doesn't mind being the woman behind the man
Although in the Today show video Carr notes that Karen Pence will, at times, walk or stand slightly in front of her husband or otherwise appear to be taking somewhat of a lead, thus showing her “comfort with her strength, comfort in leadership roles, and appreciation of being respected and listened to by her husband,” she nevertheless views her role as that of a traditional Christian helpmate and believes that her husband is the Biblically-ordained head of the household. A CBS News video from August 2017 shows her preference for walking behind or beside him instead of going on ahead. Carr interprets this as a sign of Karen’s respect for Mike’s authority and says that it’s obvious she’s “comfortable being ‘second-in-command'”.
Mike, however, does not see Karen as a subordinate, but rather a support. Carr remarks upon how he “automatically reach[es] for his wife when he senses she has moved away and… rest[ing his arms on her shoulders while Karen easily bears his weight and embrace.” This shows how he leans on her in a figurative, as well as a literal, way and views her as his “source of comfort, peace, and marital strength.”
Mike and Karen Pence are very proud parents
One final video analyzed by Carr shows a Fox News Fox and Friends episode where Pence speaks on the topic of family (his, specifically, not families in general). The segment incorporates footage of both Pences interacting with their kids. Carr says it seems that Mike and Karen Pence, traditionalists that they are, expect their kids to be hard-working and responsible, as shown by the fact that ‘both smile, Mike says, ‘yeah,’ and Karen pumps her fists in approval and relief” when one of the Pence daughters announces that she’s landed a job. She says that the Pences’ show of relief and encouragement means that they probably discourage their children from feeling elite or entitled and would prefer, instead, that they put in the necessary hard work to achieve their goals.
In addition to being proud of their kids, Carr also sees both Pences as being pleased with the job they’ve done with their parenting. She says that the “proud hug and looks Mike gives his daughter and the approving smile of Karen” indicate that they feel their child-rearing has been very successful and has resulted in exemplary young adults.
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