Sitting down with PEOPLE for this week’s cover story, the couple reveals how they’ve made their love last through sickness, health and three decades in the spotlight.
Though they come from different worlds — Fox, 57, is an Episcopalian-raised Army brat and high school dropout from Canada who earned his GED in his 30s, while Pollan, 58, comes from a prominent Jewish New York family and studied at the Lee Strasberg Institute — both agree that there were key similarities in their upbringings.
“Big families, middle children,” Fox says. “Sense of humor. Both our families had that.”
“It was us against the world,” says Pollan of her own upbringing. “That’s exactly what we’ve created.”
They met in the summer of 1985, when Pollan auditioned for Family Ties. Though she departed the show after one season, they reunited for the film Bright Lights, Big City in 1987. He asked her to lunch, they started dating, and they married a year later.
In 1991, Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative disorder causing tremors, stillness and, ultimately, the loss of motor skills. Pollan has stood by him as he slowly came to grips with the diagnosis, struggled with alcoholism and became a powerful activist.
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Together they’ve raised a close-knit family and share son Sam, 29, twin daughters Schuyler and Aquinnah, 23, and daughter Esmé, 16.
Asked about the key to a long marriage, Pollan says, “Just give each other the benefit of the doubt. He assumes I’m doing the best I can.”
Adds Fox, “Find the best things about you and the best things about life and celebrate them.”
- For more on Michael J. Fox and Tracy Pollan, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on stands Friday
As for what he’s added to her life, Pollan answers, “So much, obviously. His optimistic worldview about everything is just so powerful. Michael doesn’t worry about the future. I’m completely the opposite.”
“It leaves a lot of work for other people sometimes,” Fox admits, “because I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, don’t worry about it. It’ll be great!’ I can do that because I know she’s got it handled.”