October 12, 2018 08:00 AM

Jeff Bridges is opening up about one of the greatest achievements of his life — his marriage of 41 years to Susan Bridges.

The Bad Times at El Royale actor, 68, reveals in a PEOPLE exclusive clip from this week’s upcoming episode of Sunday TODAY with Willie Geist that getting a first date with Susan (née Geston), 64, wasn’t easy.

The two met while Bridges was making his 1975 film Rancho Deluxe in Paradise Valley, Montana, where Susan worked as a waitress.

“I’m doing this scene with Sam Waterston and Harry Dean Stanton and I cannot take my eyes off this gorgeous, I didn’t know what she was, a maid, a waitress, I couldn’t take my eyes off of her,” Bridges tells Willie Geist.

“Gorgeous girl with two black eyes and a broken nose. That juxtaposition of that disfigurement and the beauty, it had me!” he says.

Jeff Bridges and his wife Susan
Matt Baron/REX/Shutterstock

Bridges admits asking Susan out wasn’t the easiest thing and that once he “finally got the courage to ask her out” she “said no.”

“I said, ‘really?'” Bridges recalls. “She says no.” Despite the rejection, the actor knew it was a small town and it was likely he’d see her again — which is exactly what happened.

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“She came to the wrap party and we danced and we fell in love and boom that was it,” Bridges says. “I actually have a photograph of that moment, when we met and my wife saying no. Somebody just took a picture of that. I have that.”

Jeff and Susan Bridges
Ron Galella/WireImage

When asked by Geist what the secret to a strong relationship in Hollywood is, the Oscar-winning actor says, “The easy answer about how to keep a marriage going is you don’t get a divorce.”

“Its when those big challenges, those upsets come up in your relationship, those are real opportunities to get to know each other more and become more intimate with each other, try to see what makes each other tick,” he says.

The couple married in June 1977 and have three children together: Isabelle, 37; Jessica, 35; Haley, 32.

Bridges’ full interview on Sunday TODAY with Willie Geist airs Sunday at 8 a.m. ET on NBC.

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