Celebrity Secrets for a Happy Marriage
These long-term couples are serving up some serious relationship wisdom
Samuel L. Jackson: Practice Empathy
The actor, who celebrated 40 years of marriage with his wife LaTanya Richardson Jackson in August 2020, said that he didn't buy the speculation that Hollywood marriages were more likely to face challenges than the average union.
"People say, Oh, the temptations are greater," he said, before pointing out that all marriages are about commitment: "Being mature enough at a certain point to say to yourself, How would that other person feel if I gave into this desire? Marriage changes the dynamic of how we perceive ourselves, because we have to start thinking of someone else. The selfishness of who you are has to be subjugated."
Ralph Macchio: Commitment Is Key
The actor credits wife of 33 years Phyllis Fierro for allowing him to find the right balance between acting and family time. And he says the secret to their decades-spanning union is very simple.
"It's the belief through the easy times, through the tough times, whatever we encounter, that we are meant to be together," he told PEOPLE. "We know that we will overcome all because we believe in that, the foundation of that."
Bob Newhart: Make Each Other Laugh
Angela Bassett: Marry the Right Person
The actress, who wed Courtney B. Vance in 1997, opened up about her marriage to PEOPLE (the TV Show!).
“Staying together so long, whether in the industry or not, I think the important thing is that you gotta marry the right person. Make sure you're both looking in the same direction, basically," she says. "You're not clones of each other, but you have similar belief systems and, you know, pleasant personalities. Because we all have strengths and weaknesses, and we want to support one another. But I think also recognizing that we have our individual dreams and desires and hopes and ways of doing things."
"Be easy, as easy as you can be on yourself," she continued. "And some of us that are hard on ourselves, be easy on yourself and be easy with others.”
Maury Povich & Connie Chung: It's All About Respect
The TV hosts — and power couple of 42 years — say they have differing approaches to conflict resolution (he goes to sleep happy, while she holds grudges) but they're aligned on what counts: "We’ve always respected each other’s careers and we’ve always respected each other’s space and values," Povich says. "There’s no need for any do-overs. Maybe that’s the reason why we’re still married."
Jeff Bridges: Celebrate Your Differences
Jeff Bridges tells PEOPLE it was "love at first sight" with his wife of 43 years, Susan, whom he met while filming The Rancho Deluxe in 1975.
The trick to keeping that spark going, nearly half a century later? Mutual respect. "We are quite different as people, and we celebrate that rather than making it drive us apart. I respect her wisdom, and I’m sure the girls do too," says Bridges. "I’ve really been blessed."
Ron Howard: Rely on Good Communication ... and a Little Luck
The couple has been together since their first date as juniors at John Burroughs High School in Burbank, California: "There was never anybody else" for him after they met, he told PEOPLE.
So what's the secret to their 50-year-love story? "People say, ‘How’d you do it?’ There’s no technique. There’s no tactic other than communication is really important. You have to learn to communicate and have difficult conversations in constructive ways," the director said.
Howard added, "Beyond that, there’s an element of luck because people either grow together or they don’t and I don’t think you can force that."
Sting: 'Be Married to Your Best Friend'
After 37 years together — 20 of them married! — you better bet that Sting and his wife Trudie Styler have some advice for us all.
The singer told PEOPLE, “I know something about marriage. I’ve been married to Trudie for 27 years now. People say to me, ‘How has it lasted this long?’ I say, ‘Well, it’s kind of a miracle, but we don’t take it for granted.’ ”
“We’re friends, too,” he continued. “We love each other, but we actually like each other — and that’s an important distinction there. Love is passion and all of that stuff, but actually liking somebody and enjoying someone’s company is something slightly different, and it lasts longer. So you can have both, and I think that’s important. Be married to your best friend.”
Rachael Ray: It's Okay to Yell It Out and Then 'Move On'
Ray and her husband John Cusimano have been married for nearly 15 years. How do they do it?
“We actually like each other, have a lot of the same interests, and find it sexy to share bad behavior, like staying up too late, eating the wrong foods, and listening to loud music — rap, opera and any of our 3,000 records — wherever we are,” Ray told PEOPLE.
She added, “We love being together and not acting our age! We don’t trust quiet people.”
There's one other good piece of advice from Ray: Fight it out and make up quickly.
“When we are mad at each other we scream,” Ray told PEOPLE. “If John is being an a–hole, I tell him, then I feel better. And John does the same thing. We share a great sense of humor which helps.”
At the end of the day, it's simple: “We yell to get it out, then move on."
Harrison Ford: Don't Talk, Just 'Nod Your Head'
ALEC BALDWIN: SPEND AS MUCH TIME TOGETHER AS POSSIBLE
Baldwin, who has been married to wife Hilaria since 2012, opened up about niece Hailey Baldwin's plans to wed Justin Bieber at a September 2018 Toronto International Film Festival event. "People who get married young — and they are very young — I want them to just spend time with each other. Obviously, him, in particular, has this crazy superstar career," Baldwin told etalk.
"I'm quite a bit older than both of them, but I got married recently, a few years ago. And my wife and I had four kids in four-and-a-half years. We have a lot of little kids," the father of five added of his family. "The thing is, all the work I do now is based on my family. There's movies I got offered where they say, 'Come leave town for five weeks. And no, we can't travel your family with you. We don't have that in the budget.' And I pass because I don't want to be away from my family. And I hope they realize that."
Denzel Washington: Know Who's the Boss
The actor's first professional role (on the 1977 TV drama Wilma) included one very big job perk: meeting his future wife Pauletta, who he married in 1983.
Now, 37 years and four children later, the Oscar-winning actor shared with PEOPLE his secret to wedded bliss: "Do what your wife tells you and keep your mouth shut."
TRACY POLLAN: BELIEVE YOUR PARTNER IS DOING THE BEST THEY CAN
Sitting down with PEOPLE for their cover story, Michael J. Fox and Tracy Pollan couple revealed how they’ve made their love last through sickness, health and three decades in the spotlight.
Asked about the key to a long marriage, Pollan says, "Just give each other the benefit of the doubt. He assumes I’m doing the best I can."
As for what Fox advises couples? "Find the best things about you and the best things about life and celebrate them."
MARY STEENBURGEN: CALL EACH OTHER BEAUTIFUL
The Book Club actress told PEOPLE that husband Ted Danson keeps the romance alive in their 24-year marriage after 27 years together by paying her sweet compliments every day.
“He does tell me every single day of my life I’m beautiful, and I do know a lot of women live without that,” Steenburgen said. “And it does matter, someone just telling you that.”
CANDACE CAMERON BURE: SHARE THE SAME FAITH
“The reality is the glue for us is Jesus,” the Fuller House star told PEOPLE of the secret to her and husband Valeri Bure's longstanding marriage, while attending the 2018 Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards. “It’s the Bible. You know, when there are arguments or we’re compromising and in ways, it’s always like, ‘Well, let’s just go back to the Bible.’ It’s the foundation for us. So it’s not about winning or losing. But doing this journey together.”
LISA RINNA: IT'S OKAY IF YOU HAVE NOTHING IN COMMON
Appearing on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen, the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star opened up about her relationship with Harry Hamlin — and how they've kept the spark alive over the course of their 22-year marriage.
"I don't really know. I really don’t know the answer," she admitted. "I think that we are complete opposites. And I mean, we have nothing in common!"
"You know what you have in common that wildly comes across?" chimed in host Andy Cohen. "You are crazy about each other." The reality star couldn't help but agree with Cohen. "We are," said Rinna. "We are crazy about each other, and you can’t create that, you can’t make it — it either is, or it isn’t."
ASHLEY GRAHAM: PLAY 'THE NICE GAME'
Following an argument, the supermodel and husband Justin Ervin say they always play "the nice game" to make up. The game consists of one person complimenting the other with the person on the receiving end of the good vibes following suit. "You know that feeling after you have a fight and you still have that tension? This is how we get rid of it," Graham told PEOPLE. "It calms you down from that fight and you just go right back into real life."
SAM ROCKWELL: YOU NEED TWO THINGS
The couple of more than 10 years hit the red carpet at the 2018 Screen Actors Guild Awards, where Rockwell shared the secret to his and longtime love Leslie Bibb's longstanding relationship. "Communication and great sex," he said.
HUGH JACKMAN: BE A TEAM
Despite being a high-profile, award-winning actor in Hollywood, The Greatest Showman star told PEOPLE he always makes wife Deborra-Lee Furness — who he's been married to for over two decades — his priority. "Even at the Oscars, I walk out, I put my hand on my heart and I always look to Deb in the audience," he said. "Straight afterward, I will not see anybody in my dressing room until Deb's been in. Because that is my foundation, that is the rock, that is the foundation of our family, and therefore my life."
FAITH HILL: 'WE DO ACTUALLY LIKE ONE ANOTHER'
During an appearance on Today to promote their new collaborative album The Rest Of Our Life, when asked what made their relationship work so well, McGraw immediately pointed at his wife of 23 years before saying, “Well, she tolerates a lot, I think that’s probably the main reason.”
“You tolerate a lot too. I’m not the easiest person,” Hill added, before admitting that one of the biggest secrets might just be that, “We do actually like one another.”
JAIME CAMIL: APPRECIATE EACH OTHER'S BEAUTY
Although yes, it's what's on the inside that really counts, the Jane the Virgin actor can't help but celebrate his wife, Heidi Balvanera's physical beauty. "It happens that I'm in love with my wife. I like my wife very much and I think she's super hot, the hottest girl in the world. So I think that's it," Camil told PEOPLE when asked of the couple's secret to a happy marriage, joking: "I should not say anymore because then I'm going to go a little triple X here."
He added: "I love her and she is a wonderful woman, she is a brilliant mother. She is the foundation of the family. I’m very lucky to have found that.”
SUZANNE SOMERS: DON'T STOP THE ROMANCE
The actress and husband Alan Hamel have been together for 50 years, so the couple knows a thing or two about the formula for a successful relationship. In her new book, Two’s Company: A Fifty-Year Romance with Lessons Learned in Love, Life & Business, Somers not only reveals she and Hamel have sex twice a day, but also shares her advice for couples who want to spice up their relationship. "Listen to one another, give each other a lot of attention, keep it exciting, date," she says. "My marriage is very romantic. … We might sit here and have a tequila. … We dance, I cook, we sit out and watch the moonlight on the ocean."
BLAKE LIVELY: 'WE DON'T WORK AT THE SAME TIME'
When it comes to their hectic work schedules, Lively and husband Ryan Reynolds make sure they don't let their projects get in the way of their relationship. "My husband and I don't work at the same time, so we all go together as a family," she told PEOPLE. "If we're away as a family, it's never more than for a day. We stay together."
CHRIS HEMSWORTH: DATE NIGHT IS A MUST — NO MATTER HOW TIRED YOU ARE
Sure, life gets in the way sometimes, but the Thor actor and wife Elsa Pataky, who share three kids together, always make time for date nights. "Once you have children, every instinct and every moment of your time is consumed by that. You’ve got nothing for each other," Hemsworth told GQ Australia. "So, make sure you have date night even if it's once in a blue moon, because most of the time you're just too tired and you'd actually prefer to sleep."
JUDITH LIGHT: CONSIDER A LONG-DISTANCE RELATIONSHIP
For years after tying the knot, Light — who currently lives in New York — and her husband of 35 years, Robert Desiderio — who resides in California — have navigated a long-distance marriage. "It's been the best," she told PEOPLE. "I highly recommend it. He loves California, and I would never ask him to leave there and he would never ask me to leave here."
“Now, mind you, I go back and I shoot Transparent and I’m there four or five months, so I’m there all the time, so then when I’m done there, I come back here and he’s flying here today, so we’re going to be together for a few days and then I’ll go back to California, so it really is this kind of supportive … we’re on each other’s team,” shared Light.
REE DRUMMOND: 'ALWAYS TOUCH FEET AT NIGHT'
“We always touch feet at night,” the Pioneer Woman told PEOPLE of how she and husband Ladd keep their 23-year marriage strong. “Even if one of us a little bit miffed, and or if someone’s not feeling it…if our feet touch, I always know, ‘Okay, it’s all good.'”
JESSIE JAMES DECKER: NEVER STOP FLIRTING WITH EACH OTHER
"Besides being super attracted to each other, I think there's a sense of flirting with each other and still keeping that spice alive," the country crooner shared of her relationship with husband Eric Decker. "I think women sometimes stop flirting with their husbands and you can't. Men want to want feel good — they want to feel like their women love them. When they come home from work, don't start nagging them with questions. Go up to them and give them a big kiss and ask them how their day was."
JESSICA BIEL: SHARE THE SAME VALUES
For the actress, bonding over shared beliefs and interests with husband Justin Timberlake is of utmost importance. "We have similar values; we believe in loyalty, honesty," she revealed to Marie Claire. "We like to have fun. We like a lot of the same things."
"Also, in the business, we're all very career-oriented, and you have to be a little selfish. I understand that about my peers — about being focused and driven — and if you can find that and someone who shares the same values as you, it’s like: Score!"
ALICIA KEYS: PLAN SURPRISE DATES FOR ONE ANOTHER
"One of us plans [a date] and the other has no idea where we are going," Keys told PEOPLE on how she and husband Swizz Beatz keep their union strong. "We've found some undiscovered gems and moments to take hikes or walks or just discover new things about life and each other. Those are my favorite times."
JOANNA GAINES: STICK TO WEEKLY RITUALS
Married since 2003, Fixer Upper stars Chip and Joanna Gaines swear by their weekly date nights, which take place each Tuesday and always include ice cream runs. "We tend to frequent our local holes-in-the-wall for street tacos and queso," Joanna told PEOPLE. "After dinner we get ice cream and drive around Waco to go down memory lane and visit our old stomping grounds."
They also start each day by sharing a cup of coffee on the porch together before the kids wake up. "Marriage requires effort and time and talking and connecting," shared Joanna. "You have to maintain it."
WILL SMITH: EXPECT THE HARD WORK
Marriage isn't easy — just ask the actor and his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, who've been married for more than a decade. "We've been asking ourselves [what's the secret to marriage] and really at the end of the day it's just not quitting," the Collateral Beauty star told Entertainment Tonight.
"If there is a secret I would say it is that we never went into working on our relationship," he explained. "We only ever worked on ourselves individually. And then presented ourselves to one another better than we were previously."
SALMA HAYEK: DITCH YOUR SOCIAL CALENDAR
For Hayek and husband François-Henri Pinault, foregoing extra social events is the key to a successful relationship. "I married the right guy," she told reporters at Harper’s BAZAAR's 150 Most Fashionable Women celebration. "That is probably the most important thing. We support each other in everything we do. We want the other one to strive. Makes you happy when the other one strives. And you know what, we don't have a very strong social life, because we really like to spend time together. So we do spend a lot of quality time together."
FREDDIE PRINZE JR.: ESTABLISH A SOLID FRIENDSHIP
"We were just friends. That's one of the reasons I think our relationship has always been so good," Prinze Jr. revealed to E! News of his pre-marriage dynamic with wife Sarah Michelle Gellar. "We were just friends for a good two years before we ever went on a date. She knew what kind of guy I was. She knew what my morals were, what my priorities were and vice versa. We already kind of knew all the faults in the other person."
He added: "We ended up being the perfect balance. But it didn't happen until years after and there was a solid foundation built, and that's probably the main reason why we've always been cool and groovy."
LEANN RIMES: SHOW SOME RESPECT
Rimes and husband Eddie Cibrian's key to a happy relationship may seem pretty straight-forward, but the performer stressed its importance during an interview with PEOPLE. "We respect each other; respect is a big deal, and once you lose that, you've kind of lost everything," the country crooner revealed. "He's a wonderful father and a really good man. He's kind to me, and I reciprocate."