Wife of 'Boy Meets World' 's William Daniels on How Hollywood Was Their 'Saving Grace' amid Mutual Infidelity

"The marriage could have broken apart at any time those first 10 years," Bonnie Bartlett Daniels tells PEOPLE of the challenges she and husband William Daniels faced after tying the knot

Bonnie Bartlett (L) and husband actor William Daniels visit Hallmark's "Home & Family" at Universal Studios Hollywood on October 25, 2017 in Universal City, California
Photo: David Livingston/Getty

Bonnie Bartlett Daniels owes her marital success to an unexpected life event: a move to Hollywood.

In an exclusive interview with PEOPLE, the actress opens up about her 72-year marriage to William Daniels, the challenges they both faced with mutual infidelity, and how Hollywood ultimately saved their relationship.

"You have to realize that we live in a very puritanical nation still," Barlett Daniels, 93, tells PEOPLE while promoting her new memoir Middle of the Rainbow. "[When we got married], people were just loose about things. The only thing is that it harms you, does some damage to your self-esteem. It hurts really badly."

"You have to have lived during that time as an adult to see what that was like. The culture is simply different," she continues.

"Hollywood was really the saving grace for our marriage because once we got to Hollywood and we were here and living like a normal family and having weekends at home with our kids and doing things, it was totally different story," she added. "Nobody wanted anything more than that."

Actress Bonnie Bartlett and Actor William
Bonnie Bartlett and William Daniels. Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty

In her memoir, the St. Elsewhere star revealed how she and the Boy Meets World actor, 95, struggled as a couple after tying the knot in 1951, in part due to their respective extramarital affairs.

"I never felt tied to fidelity, and neither did Bill," she wrote in her book.

She admitted to having "an affair that lasted a few months" with another actor in 1959 but her husband's affair with a New York-based producer in the early 1970s ultimately left her "devastated" and changed her outlook on their relationship. At that point, she said she "could no longer tolerate any kind of open marriage."

"I was always the one that would say to Bill, 'I don't think I want to be married to you anymore,'" Barlett Daniels recalls to PEOPLE. "And he'd say, 'Oh, come on. you're smitten with me. You've always been crazy about me.' Every time I've questioned the relationship, he doesn't take it seriously. He makes me laugh."

"The marriage could have broken apart at any time those first 10 years, if one of us had, say, fallen in love with somebody, but we never did," she continues. "That was never part of it. Both of us really wanted to be together. The love has never stopped."

Bill Daniels and Bonnie Bartlett
William Daniels and Bonnie Bartlett Daniels. Bill Daniels Instagram

Reflecting on those early difficulties in her marriage, Bartlett Daniels previously told Fox News Digital that she felt those challenges were necessary for them to experience as a couple.

"It was something we had to go through because we never went through it," she said. "When we got together, I was 18. Bill was my first boyfriend… We just had to go through all that and still, we loved each other very much and always have."

"[We] have always been there for each other," she added. "That's what matters - if you're there for the person and help [them] along in a relationship, [have] respect for them and what they're doing and being there for them… [You have to] be together on the other side."

RELATED VIDEO: Wife of Boy Meets World's William Daniels Was 'Devastated' by Open Relationship Early into 72-Year Marriage

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The two eventually overcame their relationship difficulties after their move to Hollywood, and have enjoyed the simplicities of life together ever since.

Today, Bartlett Daniels says her and her husband are "very happy."

"We sit in this house and we do things," she says. "He reads his New York Times, and he does cameos mostly. And we do conventions and things like that. We just like to be with each other. And we would do anything for each other."

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