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Inside Ina Garten's Decision to Not Have Kids with Husband of 53 Years Whom She Met at 15

Gracious Egedegbe
Mar 20, 2022
02:00 P.M.
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Jeffrey Garten met Ina when she was 15, and five years later they married. A match made in heaven - Ina had found someone who supported her decisions while maintaining his individuality.

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Ina and Jeffrey Garten give off an unmistakable air of romance when they are seen together, and to the most cynical people, it may even look too good to be true, like some act they put on for the cameras.

However, they have grown to become a cultural phenomenon. In the past couple of years, Ina has sold more than 10 million copies of ten different cookbooks, all of which were inspired by her life with Jeffrey, to some degree.

[Left] Picture of Ina Garten; [Right] Picture of Ina Garten and her husband, Jeffrey | Source: instagram.com/inagarten

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All of the books give fans a glimpse into their marriage, but even the couple were shocked when they realized some people were writing "You're the Jeffrey to my Ina" on letterpress Valentine's Day cards.

The lovebirds decided not to have kids, and have opened up about the decision in the past – here are details on the couple's decision.

HOW JEFFREY WON THE HEART OF INA GARTEN 

Jeffrey and Ina Garten attends the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Opening Night Gala on November 28, 2012, in New York City | Source: Getty Images.

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Jeffrey first caught a glimpse of Ina during his first year at Dartmouth. She had been visiting her brother on campus in the fall of 1964, and a bored Jeffrey had been looking out the library window when he saw her.

He had been with his roommate at the time and with his full attention now directed at Ina, he had directed his attention to the girl by asking him if he thought she was beautiful.

But unfortunately, the roommate knew too well who she was – her name was Ina Rosenberg, the younger sister of a friend, and he reportedly had dinner plans with her later that night.

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The date didn't go further than that dinner, so Jeffrey started courting her. His first letter to her contained a photograph of himself, and his looks had excited Ina. She said:

"I just remember running through the house and going, 'Mom, Mom, you've got to see this picture of this guy. He's so cute!'"

More letters that expressed his desire to meet her one day followed that one because Jeffrey had also been excited with the little he had seen that day from the library. "She looked really smart and she looked nurturing," he once revealed. "She looked like she would take care of me."

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When they finally met some months later, she was still in high school and was 15, so Jeffrey had to pick her up from her parent's home in Stamford, CT. "I met Jeffrey when I was 15, and I have to say, I just knew he was the one," she said.

Believing that a college boy would think a date at a bar was cool, she had him drive them to Portchester, NY, but they were busted by the man at the door who asked for her license. "It was a disaster," she said

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They eventually went to get their fun somewhere else, and according to her, they had a great time. The talented cook would later tell TODAY Food that she knew they would be together after their meeting.

Jeffrey also seemed to have shared that belief because after their first date, the letters did not stop, and Ina was blissfully overwhelmed. She revealed:

"He wrote to me, like, every day. I couldn't keep up with it!"

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In time, she started visiting him at Dartmouth, where she became everyone's favorite person. In other words, Ina had stolen the hearts of a class that now includes several Rhodes scholars, a former cabinet secretary.

"It was very fashionable at the time for guys to date women who were going off to medical school or law school," Jeffrey said, "but Ina was sending me shoeboxes of brownies and making me sweaters. And all these guys who were after those other women — they were in my room all the time, asking, 'What did Ina send you this time?'"

INA WAS A MILITARY WIFE WHO PURSUED HER DREAMS

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Ina and Jeffrey tied the knot at her parents' house on December 22, 1968, becoming a military wife in the process as Jeffrey had enlisted as an officer in the Army. She recalled:

"It was a perfect day for a wedding. Right in the middle of the ceremony, it started to snow. It was beautiful and romantic, but by the end of the party, the poor guys parking cars had to dig everyone out!"

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His penchant for writing letters came into good use at the time because he did not stop writing to her while he was halfway around the world." I wrote to Ina every single day," he once revealed.

Ina was happy she had ended up with the man of her dreams and was content with being a sit-at-home wife – it was the perfect life that meant she had plenty of time to cook for him. However, one day, Jeffrey came home and found Ina watching a sitcom at 11 am. He told her:

"I just said to her, 'You have to do something. You won't be happy if you don't.'"

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Those words changed things, and Ina shrugged off her complacency, returned to college, and got serious about focusing on the things she loves (business and cooking.)

Later on, she and Jeffrey went on a road trip to Paris in 1972, which is when they both discovered how talented she really was as a cook. They were surviving on five dollars per day as they moved, so Ina had to make every dish on a gas camping stove.

The couple believes that their decision has afforded them more time for one another.

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Years later, the pair moved to Washington, where Ina was able to showcase her cooking skills through the parties they threw.

In 1978, Jeffrey once again urged Ina to buy the tiny Barefoot Contessa specialty food store in Westhampton Beach, NY, after which she started her food business. Ina ran the business for more than two decades before she released the first "The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook." 

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The book was a huge gamble, but Jeffrey's belief in her never wavered, so it did not really shock him when the initial 5,000 copies sold out and more were requested.

Jeffrey, an educated man who was a Dean, said, "She has natural talent, but it's backed by so much effort and so much focus," which is why he knew she could pull it off.

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His support is genuine proof of his love for Ina. The cookbook author is also confident in her relationship with him, which is to be expected given how secure she is even when they are apart. 

Ina once revealed the secret behind that security; she said: "No matter where he is, I always know that there's nothing more important than me in his life. We give each other enormous freedom to do what we want to do, but we're still the anchor."

COUPLE'S SECRET FOR A HAPPY MARRIAGE

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Ina and Jeffrey's love story has inspired many and is still doing it so because, despite all the things happening around them, the couple has remained side by side happily. In the past, Jeffrey once talked about the best moment in his life with her.

It was May 2002, and he had taken a cab to an apartment Ina had purchased in his name and renovated without showing him a single photo. "The secret to a happy marriage is that he trusted me," Ina said. "I wanted it to be a surprise." 

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Their apartment was situated on the fifth floor, and when he finally arrived, his heart found rest. "She had made everything so warm and so beautiful. Within five minutes, I felt like I'd lived there forever," he said.

Fortunately for their fans, Ina and Jeffrey have not been stingy with the secrets of their long-lasting union. One is to give attention rather than demand it. She once quipped:

"Rather than demanding attention, by giving attention, you get attention back. It's actually simpler than you think."

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Ina believes cooking is a great way to show love. Here's what she said about it, "I think the best way you can express love by cooking for someone is to figure out what they like — not what you like, what they like — and make it for them. And they'll feel really good."

Of course, the little gestures also go a long way; "Jeffrey doesn't actually cook for me, but he makes coffee every morning, he gets me the newspaper, and I'm so grateful," Ina has said. His thoughtful gestures melt her heart, but they are not the last reason this couple has lasted as long as they have.

INA'S REACTION TO JEFFREY ACCIDENTALLY SENDING FLIRTY TEXT TO ANOTHER WOMAN

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Ina and Jeffrey have experienced unbelievable moments in their relationship, and she once shared one with her fans when she joined Katie Couric on Instagram Live to share tips and answer questions about her favorite dishes and happy marriage. 

When asked how she and Jeffrey stay joined at the hip even when they can't be in the same place sometime, Ina revealed that the answer is "surprisingly simple." They feel connected and are always tuned in to each other.

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She revealed that they stayed in contact by texting and told one time, he accidentally sent a text that mistakenly went to someone he knew in California. It had been just shy of a sext, and when Jeffrey realized his mistake, he apologized quickly, but things didn't end there.

They later found out the woman showed her husband the text, most likely out of envy, and Ina told Couric what the man said:

"So she, a little jealous I think, showed it to her husband and said, 'Look at the text that Jeffrey sends to his wife.' And he goes, 'Oh nobody sends those texts to their wives. That was for his girlfriend but he was embarrassed to tell you that.'"

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Ina thought it was all fun, but Couric was more thankful it did not reach the tabloids.

WHAT ABOUT KIDS?

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The most unusual thing about Ina's marriage to Jeffrey is that they both decided that they would not have kids earlier on. She opened up about it in a new episode of the Katie Couric Podcast where she said:

"We decided not to have children. I really appreciate that other people do and we will always have friends that have children that we are close to but it was a choice I made very early."

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She also added, "I really felt, I feel, that I would have never been able to have the life I've had. So it's a choice and that was the choice I made."

When Couric mentioned the stigma attached to couples who decide not to have kids, Ina revealed that she has never felt judged because of it. She said:

"I think the one thing that we miss is a lot of people's friends are the parents of their kids' friends. So we never had that connection with other people that I see, that network. But no I never felt judged by it—maybe people did but I didn't notice."

The couple believes that their decision has afforded them more time for one another, which has done wonders for their relationship. So perhaps they are on to something here.

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