09/04/2012 10:53 am ET

When Bill Met Hillary

When Bill Clinton arrived at Yale in the fall of 1970, one thing was clear: Politics would be the singular focus of his life. Far less clear were his other priorities. He continued to exude charm and affability, drawing to himself potential political allies, personal friends, and devoted acolytes. But what about his intellectual life? Did academics matter? Should he prepare for a professional career if politics did not work out? More important, would he be able to reconcile his parallel lives? In particular, how would he resolve his persistent inability to sustain a long-term relationship with a woman? Repeatedly, he had commented on his lack of commitment to others. His relationship with Ann Markusen—whom he first started to date at Georgetown—had broken off, even though he said he loved her, because he could not bring himself to say yes to a long-term relationship. It was a story repeated again and again, throughout his stay in England and now on his return. Instead of sustained commitments, he had begun a chronic pattern of carrying on multiple relationships marked by no honest communication with the various women involved. Where would all that lead?

At Yale, Clinton found an answer—another person, equally bright, just as driven to break barriers and change the world. She was almost as complicated as he was—perhaps even more so—with a family history that came close to his in its crazy dynamics. Hillary Rodham would change his life. He would change hers. And from the moment of their meeting, they created a partnership, both political and personal, that helped shape the course of the country.

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