MARRIAGE. Through more than four decades, Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt* remained together in an unconventional marriage that vastly enriched both partners, even though it failed to provide either of them with steady emotional support or intimate companionship. From the outset, with President Theodore Roosevelt* on hand to give the bride away on 17 March 1905, it was a marriage of opposite temperaments played out on a public stage.
“You couldn’t find two such different people as Mother and Father,” FDR and ER’s daughter, Anna Roosevelt Halsted,* mused. Whereas FDR, Halsted thought, had “too much security and too much love” (Goodwin, 373), with parents, relatives, and servants all doting on him, ER seemed forever starved for love. During their courtship, it seemed that each had found in the other a complementary aspect of something lacking in his or her self. For ER, FDR’s confidence, charm, and sociability stood in welcome contrast to her own insecurity and shyness. For FDR, ER’s sincerity, honesty, and high principles stood in contrast to his guileful manner and all-too-easy charm. Over the years, however, the very qualities that had first attracted FDR and ER to one another became sources of conflict as ER came to see FDR’s sociability as shallow and duplicitous, while he redefined her honesty as stiffness and inflexibility. “It is very hard to live with someone who is almost a saint,” Roosevelt’s labor adviser Anna Rosenberg observed. “He had his tricks and evasions. Sometimes he had to ridicule her in order not to be troubled by her” (Goodwin, 373).
The springs of ER’s insecurity disrupted the marriage from the very beginning. Though there were many good days, ER’s fear of failure prompted her again and again to give up too soon on a variety of activities that would have allowed an easy companionship with her husband.