"We love each other, but we actually like each other — and that's an important distinction there," Sting tells PEOPLE of wife Trudie Styler
In this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, the legendary rocker and former Police frontman, 68, shares the key to his and Styler’s lasting love.
“I know something about marriage,” Sting says. “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 continues. “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.”
Sting (born Gordon Sumner) also knows a thing or two about fatherhood as he and Styler, 66 — who wed in Wiltshire, England in 1992 — share four children together: daughters Mickey, 36, and Eliot, 29, and sons Jake, 34, and Giacomo, 24. (In addition, Sting shares daughter Fuchsia Kate, 37, and son Joe, 43, with ex-wife Frances Tomelty.)
“I never intended to be a dad,” Sting says. “I became a dad by accident six times — that’s how smart I am. Yet they were the happiest accidents of my life because they’re remarkable human beings. I can’t really take much credit for that, but they are, and they too have produced seven grandchildren at this point, who are also wonderful. So all of this has happened by accident. I didn’t intend to be the patriarch of a tribe, but I am.”
“No parent is perfect, and I’m sure that there were times when it was great to be my child, and also times it was just a pain in the ass,” he adds. “I’d go pick the kids up from school and other parents are asking for my autograph. That’s embarrassing for me and the kids.”
While raising his kids, Sting says he instilled in them the importance of making their own living.
“My kids are fiercely independent,” he says. “They’re not sitting there waiting for a handout at all, and I wouldn’t want to rob them of that adventure in life: to make your own living. It’s a wonderful and difficult thing to do. So I haven’t promised them anything. I’ll obviously help them if they’re in trouble, but they’re not waiting for a handout. They’re too independent.”
It’s a page from Sting’s own book, after all. Growing up in Wallsend, a shipyard town in northeastern England, in the ’50s and ’60s, Sting says the thought of making a living out of music was absurd to his parents.
“You leave school and you get a job, so there was no idea of making a living out of playing music,” he says. “It would be absurd. Absurd. And of course it was. I just got through the gate by the skin of my teeth.”
It wasn’t until Sting’s mid-20s that his career took off with the Police, and he couldn’t be more thankful for the way things played out.
“That allowed me to have a real job [as an English teacher], vote, pay taxes,” he says. “I was a father, and I was a husband, so I had a real life to compare this rather rarefied life that I was given: the life of success and fame. I could compare the two, and it kept my feet on the ground. I’m glad I didn’t have success at 16 or something, out of school. People don’t survive that.”
Now, Sting is taking fans back to the shipyard town where he grew up in his newly revived Tony-nominated musical The Last Ship. He stars in and wrote music for the show, which recently wrapped its Los Angeles run and is now playing in San Francisco through March 22 before setting sail for stops in Washington, D.C., St. Paul and Detroit.
“I’m very passionate about this project,” Sting says. “There’s more of me in this play than I had intended … Memories of my family and of their dramas are all in this play in a metaphorical way.”
“I’m going to do all my hits, and my hits are my own emotional landscapes,” he says. “I’m going to take people through my rather unlikely story from the beginning, and it’s told through songs and sets.”