The couple will celebrate 36 years of marriage this year
connie chung and maury povich
Credit: Landon Nordeman

While Maury Povich and Connie Chung are on the brink of celebrating 36 years of marriage come December, the road to "I do" wasn't exactly smooth sailing.

In this week's issue of PEOPLE, the groundbreaking anchorwoman opens up about the "embarrassing" reason she finally agreed to marry Povich after years of multiple proposals — and it has everything to do with the wedding dress!

"We ping-ponged," Povich, 81, says of their six-year non-exclusive relationship. "When one wanted to get serious, the other one didn't. At one point I proposed to her, and she said, 'No, I'm not ready,' and then she asked me if I wanted to get married, and I said, 'No, I'm not ready.'"

"It was ridiculous," says Chung, 74.

"Finally, we went on a trip to Italy in 1984," Povich says. "I proposed again, and she said, 'No.' After getting home, I was living in D.C. and Connie in New York City at the time, and she called me and said, 'We can get married.' I said, 'Really?' She said, 'Yes, because I found a dress.'"

"That's so embarrassing and true," Chung says with a chuckle.

connie chung and maury povich
Maury Povich and Connie Chung in 1989
| Credit: Joe McNally/Getty
  • For more on Maury Povich and Connie Chung, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

As the couple celebrate their 42-year love story, they also share how humor has gotten them through the good and bad times.

"In 1969, I was a copygirl at a little TV station in Washington, D.C. and he was a big star and I was just a kid," Chung recalls of her first interaction with Povich. "I would rip the wire copy off the machine and give it to Mr. Povich. He was very gruff and very matter-of-fact. He never looked up. I kept thinking, 'Maybe someday he'll acknowledge that I'm a human being.' I worked there for two years and then I left to launch my career — and I left him in the dust."

"Several years later, after bouncing around the country from job to job, I ended up in Los Angeles by 1977, and at that time, I was the second banana to Connie," says Povich, whose daytime talk show Maury is currently in its 29th year. "Connie was the big anchor star at the CBS affiliate and I was her co-act before they cleaned house. Because Connie was the only person I actually knew in Los Angeles, I always said the way to get to Connie's heart is first, she pities you, and then she can love you. She pitied the fact that I was fired."

connie chung and maury povich
Maury Povich and Connie Chung in 1977
| Credit: Getty

The pair went on to date for the next six years before tying the knot in 1984 in front of 65 of their closest friends and family.

Today, the duo share son Matthew, 25, and Povich's two daughters Susan, 57, and Amy, 53, from his first marriage to Phyllis Minkoff, as well as four grandchildren. Their relationship is stronger than ever, and they credit their success to a lifetime of humor.

"Connie is never on time," says Povich with a mischievous smile.

"Well, what's so annoying about Maury is that he's so loud and interrupts all the time," retorts Chung as her husband sweeps in with a swift, "I do not!"

Playful banter like that has been a key to their romance in good times and bad for the couple, who have supported each other through career upheavals, infertility struggles and the adoption of their son Matthew in 1995.

connie chung and maury povich
Maury Povich and Connie Chung
| Credit: Landon Nordeman

So, what makes their marriage work?

"I have one answer, Connie has another," says Povich. "Whatever discussions or arguments go on during the day, once the head hits the pillow, it's over and not to be continued the next morning. It is not on my mind."

"That is truly admirable, but I hold grudges and I need to continue to argue it out, whatever it is," Chung says.

"But we've always respected each other's careers and we've always respected each other's space and values," Povich explains. "There's no need for any do-overs. Maybe that's the reason why we're still married."

"I would go back and relive every moment," adds Chung.