Who did you have a crush on in sixth grade? Maybe it was a back-row kid from homeroom or a spelling bee champ. When’s the last time that person crossed your mind—or even your newsfeed? For Sunday Today Show host Willie Geist, and his wife, New York Times bestselling children’s book author, Christina, it was, oh, four seconds ago.
The pair met in the middle school and while life took them in different directions, the universe nudged them back together. The Geists have now been married since 2003 and have two children, George, 10, and Lucie, 12. Between them, the duo also has two demanding careers. Christina, 44, is the author of Sorry Grown-Ups, You Can’t Go To School!, which drew on a clever hack she invented to get her daughter excited to start school, framing it as a special thing only she gets to do.
And Willie, 44, who’s been a longtime co-host on Morning Joe, is settling into is groove on Sunday Today—where he trades high-drama politics for actual dramatists. So far, he’s interviewed the likes of Bill Murray, Jerry Seinfeld, David Letterman, and Tiffany Haddish.
While their schedules require a lot of coordination, and their lives have countless moving parts, their partnership is stronger than ever. Here, the Geists fill us in on how they’ve been making it work from middle school to (per their own characterization!) middle age.
Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover
WILLIE GEIST: We both went to George Washington Middle School in Ridgewood, New Jersey. On the first day, Christina had a bunch of friends from elementary school, whereas I was the new kid from the other side of town, standing alone and scanning the room. And I know it sounds like revisionist history, but this is true. I really remember thinking in my little 11-year-old brain, “Oh, she seems cute and cool.” And it turns out I was right—because that was 33 years ago, and we’re married with kids.
CHRISTINA GEIST: I remember it, too. It’s crazy but I feel like Willie always stood out. He’s a presence in any room he walks in, both because he tends to be taller than 95% of the people, but also because he’s just the type of person that the attention naturally shifts towards him.
Trust your gut
WG: We dated briefly during freshman year of high school. I played on the football team and I had a little towel that hung out of my pants and I wanted to write Christina’s name on it—but I made the first letters too big, so it basically said “Christ” and then had a little “ina” in the corner, because I ran out of space. It ended up looking like a tribute to Jesus rather than my 14-year-old girlfriend. So she was the one who broke up with me, because once you see guys with cars, you’re like, “Oh, you’re just a pimply 14-year-old with ‘Christ’ on his towel.”
We got back together junior year, then went to Vanderbilt together. But after college I got a job in Atlanta and she went to Boston. We felt like, “If we’re going to break up and see what the world’s like outside of this, it seems like this is the time to do it.” So we did for a couple of years and I remember hearing things through the grapevine that she was dating someone else. And I had to be ok with that, because that was the point of the whole thing. But after a certain period of time I thought, “I know in my heart that this is the person I want to be with. If we just went through this exercise of breaking up for the sake of breaking up, and I’m going to lose her over that, that doesn’t make any sense.” I found myself trying to reel her back in and make sure she didn’t slip away.