Kellyanne Conway Fears Her Marriage to Anti-Trump Husband Won't Survive: 'Love Comes with Respect'

Donald Trump’s former campaign manager and White House advisor tells PEOPLE how her husband George’s public criticism of the president she served “violated our marriage vows”

President-elect Donald Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, center, accompanied by her husband, George, speaks with members of the media as they arrive for a dinner at Union Station in Washington, the day before Trump's inauguration Trump Inauguration, Washington, USA - 19 Jan 2017
Kellyanne Conway (left), George Conway. Photo: Matt Rourke/AP/Shutterstock

"I'm very excited to finally tell my story," Kellyanne Conway said Monday during an interview with PEOPLE before the release of her memoir, Here's the Deal, out now.

That story begins in a small town in southern New Jersey and follows Conway to Washington D.C., where a hard-earned career as a pollster and political consultant led to historic achievement as the first woman to run a successful presidential campaign when she helped elect Donald Trump in 2016 and served in his White House as senior counselor to the president.

"I'm just one example of an American dream," Conway, 55, says of her success, which includes a marriage to attorney George Conway since 2001 and raising four children, twins Claudia and George, and daughters Charlotte and Vanessa, whom she calls "the four chambers of my heart."

Conway attributes her achievements to "always recognizing that I wanted to do what my grandmothers and my own mother had done, which is put family first, and if you have those priorities in the right order, the rest somehow succeeds."

But by the end of the book — which chronicles her husband's transformation from a supporter of President Trump to an outspoken critic and Twitter adversary while she served in his administration and remained a steadfast and high-profile advocate — Conway writes that "George and I may not survive."

"George is the one who encouraged me, almost insisted that I take my shot in 2016," Conway says of accepting Trump's job offer to lead his efforts to win the White House. Her husband, she adds, "made good on his commitment to help more around the house with the kids that allowed me to be the campaign manager at that level."

Here's The Deal, Kellyanne Conway's Memoir
Courtesy of Threshold Books

"Look, many people say without Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump will not have been elected president. That's debatable," she continues, "but what is never in doubt is that without George Conway encouraging — if not insisting — that I take my shot in 2016, I could not have been this successful campaign manager at the level of which I was."

As the country remained divided throughout the Trump presidency, the Conways landed on opposite sides of the political rift, which became clear as George publicly expressed disdain for his wife's boss.

In 2016, Conway points out that her husband sent "zero tweets."

"He's now sent over 100,000," she says of her husband's social media habit, which she calls in her book "cheating by tweeting."

"His daily deluge of insults," she writes, "violated our marriage vows to 'love, honor, and cherish' each other."

Asked about the state of her marriage now, Conway says, "I worry about our future. I worry about the harm that's been visited upon this. And for what reason? For politics."

Republican president-elect Donald Trump along with his campaign manager Kellyanne Conway acknowledge the crowd during his election night event at the New York Hilton Midtown in the early morning hours of November 9, 2016 in New York City. Donald Trump defeated Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to become the 45th president of the United States.
Mark Wilson/Getty

"Our vows were not to Donald Trump," she continues. "George does not need to support or vote for or want Donald Trump to be the president. That is never the case. Let me make that explicitly clear."

She adds that the vows "to honor, love and cherish" could have been kept in other ways, such as coming to an understanding through "private conversation" as a couple to sort out "the best thing for our family," which she adds might have included finding a "way for me to transition out of the White House."

"But that didn't happen," Conway says, though she eventually resigned months before the end of Trump's term. "I found it increasingly hard for me to compete with George's Twitter fling. She's not even hot. She doesn't even have a personality. How can I compete with that?"

In the afterword of Here's the Deal, Conway writes of her husband, "I will be ever grateful to have built a life and a family together. Nothing can change or touch that. George has been kind and generous to my family, who is his family, too. Come what may, the ugliness of differing politics is no match for the beauty of shared parenthood. Take it from me."

She then adds a contemplation about how the bitterness of politics can affect relationships.

"If you are on the outs with a loved one because of politics, reassess. And if you must, express regret and remorse," she writes. "At least reflect: Is politics that important? Will your gain outweigh your loss? Do you want to be right or to be loved?"

Conway tells PEOPLE she wrote those lines when tasked to "dig a little deeper and think about how we can unify the country" while finishing her book.

Asked in her interview with PEOPLE to answer those questions, she says, "I'll pick love anytime, but love must come with respect, and it must come with privacy. And it must come with a modicum of class and dignity."

Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, center, and her husband George Conway, right, greet guests on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington during a Halloween event welcoming children from the Washington area and children of military families to trick-or-treat, Monday, Oct. 30, 2017.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP Photo

When the topic of loyalty comes up, Conway adds, "My marriage has always been important to me. I've always been loyal to my marriage, faithful in my marriage."

"There wasn't competing loyalty," she continues. "I had two tweeting men in my life … my husband and my boss. But one is my job. The other is my marriage. I don't conflate them because I don't relate to them the same way. That job is term limited. Presidencies are term limited. Marriage and the vows I took are not supposed to be."

As for the divisions within the country, Conway says she's an "eternal optimist" about the future and democracy despite the "cultural cleavages" she sees in politics as well as "in my own marriage."

Relationships, she adds, are "always more important than any job or any presidency or any position or any profit, if you will. It doesn't even come close. And if you have your priorities set, the rest somehow succeeds, not always smoothly, not always swiftly, but eventually."

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