But don’t laugh: This Dec. 16 will mark the couple’s 30th wedding anniversary – practically a record-breaker by Hollywood standards.
“It’s rare,” Midler, 68, tells PEOPLE.
“I think the secret is giving each other a lot of lead and a lot of room and not being in each other’s faces all the time,” the singer, actress and comedian – whose first album in eight years, It’s the Girls, debuts Nov. 4 – says in the “What I Know Now” section in the new issue of PEOPLE.
Midler, whose formidable career spans nearly five decades, says a happy, successful marriage also requires “listening. Listening is very hard. And compromise. Compromise is the hardest of all.”
Von Haselberg, 65, a German performance artist, commodities trader and actor, was there for the star as she conquered stage (Las Vegas and Broadway), screen (The First Wives Club, Beaches), and television (bidding farewell to Johnny Carson on his last show in May 1992) – not to mention when they had their daughter, Sophie von Haselberg, born Nov. 14, 1986.
Midler considers raising her daughter, now 27, “my greatest accomplishment. I didn’t do it by myself. My husband is probably the greatest father who ever lived. He’s fantastic. He picked up the slack when I was on the road. He taught her a foreign language. He taught her to cook.”
With Sophie now costarring in the off-Broadway play Billy & Ray, about the combustible relationship between director Billy Wilder and writer Raymond Chandler in bringing the 1944 film noir classic Double Indemnity to the screen, Midler says, she and her husband “both taught her responsibility and to have patience. And she is all of the things that you wish your child would be. She’s responsible. Hardworking. Fascinated by life and full of wonder. I love it.”
Patience is also something that needs to be put to use in a marriage.
Deciding to give in, says Midler, is “very hard, but sometimes you have to say, ‘It’s not worth it. The fight is not worth it. You have your way and maybe next Thursday I’ll have mine.’ Keep supporting each other. That’s hard, too.”
Equally important is learning to let some things go.
“It’s best to pick your fights wisely and just meditate. Stay calm. Don’t go from zero to 60 in two seconds. Just stay calm and try to breathe,” she says. “Breathing is really important.”
Most of all, “Don’t diminish each other. Don’t make each other less. Don’t try to make each other wrong all the time. Don’t blame. Stop assigning blame. The blaming, I think, is the worst part. It’s so [easy to do], because you don’t want to carry the burden yourself. You want to push it onto someone else,” she says.
“But honestly, you have to learn not to do that.”
For more on Bette Midler, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE magazine, on newsstands now