The actress opens up to PEOPLE about the secret to her long-lasting relationship

By Mia McNiece
Updated January 15, 2019 01:05 PM

When it comes to Hollywood relationships, Lily Tomlin and her wife, Jane Wagner, seem to have outlasted them all.

Tomlin says the secret to their 45-year relationship is simply a mutual “admiration and respect.”

Tomlin and Wagner — who is also the actress’ writing partner — tied the knot on Dec. 31, 2013. A few days before their wedding ceremony, they tried to go incognito to get their marriage license.

“We went in Van Nuys because if anyone should see us, we didn’t want them to write about us,” Tomlin tells PEOPLE. “There were all kinds of young kids there getting married.”

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A few days later, they wed in an intimate ceremony at a friend’s house.

“It was sweet,” says Tomlin. “We didn’t have any rings, so I went into our jewelry and was digging out rings. I said, ‘We have to have some kind of rings!’ ”

Courtesy Lily Tomlin

For more on Lily Tomlin, check out this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

The two have often worked together professionally, and their projects include Tomlin’s Tony-winning one-woman show The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe (which played on Broadway, toured and was filmed for the screen), as well as the movie The Incredible Shrinking Woman.

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Tomlin, 77, who currently stars opposite Jane Fonda in her Emmy-nominated role on the Netflix series Grace and Frankie, will be honored with a Life Achievement Award at this year’s Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Melissa Moseley for Netflix

So what would the Emmy, Tony and Grammy winner tell her younger self?

“A lot of good things happen for you,” says Tomlin.

The 23rd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards will be simulcast live on TNT and TBS on Sunday, Jan. 29, at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.