Mar 31, 2020
Iconic Entertainment Power Couple Marlo Thomas and Phil Donahue Share the Secret to Success of Famous Marriages in AARP The Magazine
The Duo Give an Inside Look at Six Famous Marriages and Why They’ve Lasted So Long

LOS ANGELES—As a happily married couple of 40 years, award-winning actress Marlo Thomas and media pioneer Phil Donahue give an intimate and exclusive look into six famous marriages and the secret to their success in the April/May issue of AARP The Magazine (ATM).

After receiving the shocking news of a close friend’s divorce, Thomas and Donahue were prompted to delve deeper into their own relationship and explore the idea behind a ‘secret sauce’ to a successful marriage. Over the span of nine months, the duo traveled cross-country to interview dozens of famous couples with 15-plus years of marriage under their belt and document their success stories – all of which will appear in the upcoming book “What Makes a Marriage Last” written by Thomas and Donahue.

From Joanna and Chip Gaines managing two different money styles to Michael J. Fox and Tracy Pollan dealing with a devastating diagnosis, these couples have endured the full range of marital struggles that each of us often face in our long-term relationships. But unlike so many marriages today, they’ve figured out how to overcome challenges and make their marriages even stronger.

Thomas and Donahue point out that although every couples’ story is different, they all share a common plotline –  two people coming together to take on one of the most challenging and rewarding jobs on earth: making a marriage last.

On facing the unforeseen difficulties of marriage, Thomas states, “When we marry, we promise love and devotion, but no wedding vow can prepare us for the unexpected.”

The following are excerpts from “What Makes a Marriage Last” for ATM’s April/May 2020 cover story featuring Marlo Thomas and Phil Donahue available in homes starting in April and available online now at

Thomas and Donahue on discovering the secret to a successful marriage:

“We started to wonder if there really is a secret sauce to a successful marriage. And that’s when we decided to break an ironclad rule of our marriage – for the first time, ever – and decided to work on a project together.”  

Thomas on when we’re at our best:

“We often forget we’re at our best when we’re holding the hand – and having the back – of someone we care about.”

Chip Gaines (married to Joanna Gaines) on finding your match:

“Pursue the person you love like a hornet.”

Kevin Bacon (married to Kyra Sedgwick) on the key to a successful marriage:

“Whenever people ask us how we’ve stayed married, I’ve started staying, ‘Keep the fights clean and the sex dirty.’ I felt like that would just end the conversation.”

Viola Davis (married to Julius Tennon) on when marriage really begins:

“My big thing about marriage – and it’s advice I give to all of my friends – is that it doesn’t start when you walk down the aisle. Your marriage starts when you look over at a person whom you love more than anything and there’s that one character trait that makes you say to yourself, Oh, man, that’s going to drive me crazy. And then the next minute you say, But you know what? I love him. That’s when your marriage starts.”

Neil Patrick Harris (married to David Burtka) on communication in marriage:

“If you don’t communicate, assumptions can turn into resentments.”

Tracy Pollan (married to Michael J. Fox) on the reality of marriage:

“In marriage, you have to take it all – the good with the bad. If you love somebody, you deal with whatever it is they’re dealing with. Their issues become your issues.”

John Leguizamo (married to Justine Maurer) on happiness in marriage:

“Don’t chase what you think will bring you happiness. Focus on the important moments.”

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About AARP

AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation's largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media.

For further information: Paola Torres, AARP, 202-434-2555,