Patty Smyth celebrates her marriage to John McEnroe on It's About Time, her first studio album in 28 years
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Patty Smyth and John McEnroe are opening up about sex, love and rock 'n' roll.

In the new issue of PEOPLE, Smyth lists off the things that make her nearly 30-year love story with the tennis pro thrive — friendship, compromise, privacy — when the tennis legend reminds his rockstar wife, "You're forgetting the most obvious one."

Smyth gives her husband a matter-of-fact nod. "Sex," she deadpans. "You've got to keep the sex going!"

Smyth, 63, and McEnroe, 61, have a 23-year marriage as proof that they haven't lost that spark. When they met at a Christmas party in 1993, both were in a moment of transition.

Smyth's rock act, Scandal, known for anthemic hits like "The Warrior," had disbanded, and she was a single mom raising her daughter Ruby (now 34, whom Smyth had with punk-rocker ex-husband Richard Hell.) Meanwhile, McEnroe was preparing to retire from tennis and separated from his then-wife Tatum O'Neal, with whom he has sons Kevin, 34, and Sean, 33, and daughter Emily, 29.

john mcenroe and patty smyth
Patty Smyth and John McEnroe
| Credit: Anders Overgaard

Eight months later Smyth and McEnroe went on their first date, "and the rest is history," says the singer, who later welcomed two more daughters, Anna, 24, and Ava, 21, with McEnroe.

patty smyth
John McEnroe & Patty Smyth
| Credit: Anders Overgaard

Smyth also attributes their long-lasting marriage to keeping a low profile.

"For me, it was a superstition thing. I didn't want to be like, 'Hey, look at us, we're this happy couple.' I just thought if I kept it on the down-low, I had this gut feeling that we would stay together — if I threw it out to the world, that we wouldn't — because I've seen that happen so many times," says Smyth, who reveals they were once even in preliminary talks for a reality show about 20 years ago: "That probably would have broken us up, I bet you."

Now an empty-nester, Smyth is finally ready to rock again. It's About Time, out Friday, Oct. 9, is her first full-length album in 28 years and features a sweet love song, as an ode to her rock-solid marriage to McEnroe.

its about time album art
Patty Smyth, It's About Time

"I always would be in a relationship for a few years and then I'd get bored and I'd leave or whatever. And I think a lot of people do that and a lot of people get with other people when they're married because they feel like they need something new or whatever," Smyth says. "If you get to know somebody and get really intimate, it can get more exciting and just more of a real journey. That's a gift."

The singer-songwriter adds that she "went with my instincts," and things moved "so fast but so easy" when she met McEnroe.

Now, she's grateful, if surprised, their bond has only strengthened over time.

"Twenty-something years later, I'm like 'Wow, I still have these feelings when I see him,'" Smyth says. "Never did I think that I would ever be with somebody for this long. ... I think we got very lucky."

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Patty Smyth and John McEnroe at the 1995 Oscars

Adds McEnroe: "One woman, 26 years."

Counters Smyth: "One man, 26 years. That's insane!"

Smyth and McEnroe have spent most of their time quarantining during the coronavirus pandemic in Malibu, where they read The New York Times together in the morning, play with their new puppy and work out.

Plus, with all their kids out of the house now, "it's nice that John can run around naked," Smyth quips.