Celebrity couple Marlo Thomas and Phil Donahue share the secrets to their long-lasting marriage

In 2020, celebrated couple Marlo Thomas, 84, and Phil Donahue, 86, shared the secret to their 40-year marriage in the book “What Makes a Marriage Last: 40 Celebrated Couples Share with Us the Secrets to a Happy Life”.

They reflected on their marital success, and they shared the advice of other couples who have been in long-lasting relationships. The couple is proud of their joint project and are experts in the field. 

The actress and talk show host spent nine years interviewing celebrity couples who had been married for a long time to get their insights.


They said, “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.”

The book contains stories and tips from celebrity couples like Chip and Joanna Gaines and Kyra and Kevin Bacon.

Thomas and Donahue added, “As different as these couples’ stories are, they share a common plotline: that of two people joining hands and stepping up to the most challenging, invigorating, inspiring, infuriating, thrilling, terrifying, delightful and heavenly job on earth — making a marriage last.”

Phil and Marlo vacationing, an old photo

Thomas and Donahue also shared secrets to a lasting partnership: communication. They shared the simple idea that they could not be separated.

Thomas said, “Through the years you learn that everything is not that big a deal, and this isn’t going to break us up no matter what, so you get used to saying, Ok, let’s just talk it out.”


Donahue believes humor is crucial for a happy marriage. “The secret of good communication? Screaming helps,” he joked. “At least then you know if whether the person you’re screaming at is listening. Then go in the other room and count to ten.”

Phil and Marlo riding a bike in one of their old vacation photos

The couple first met when Thomas guested on Donahue’s talk show in 1977. On the show, Thomas actually told Donahue that she found him “loving” and “generous” and stated, “You are very lucky to have a woman in your life.

They were in love at first sight and they got married in 1980. It was the first marriage for Thomas, then 40, and she became the stepmother to Donahue’s five children from his first marriage.

During their research for the book, Donahue found that, “If there’s any common theme to the [interviews] we had, it’s that you have to want to have a long marriage.”

Phil and Marlo celebrating their anniversary in 2016

Thomas stated that long-lasting marriages also demonstrated their strength in handling difficult situations, such death of loved ones, infidelity and loss of money.

She said, “What makes a marriage last is what you do when you’re confronted with the really big stuff.”

The advice they shared was to ensure your partner’s trust, support, and understanding. It sounds simple, but it’s not simple to do in practice.

You need to know that your spouse is there for you. This is the safest place I can be, he is going to be my everything — my cushion of life,” said Thomas.

A photo taken during their wedding day.

Long-lasting success in marriage can be difficult, but Thomas Donahue and Donahue succeeded. It’s important to remember though that long-lasting marriages require sacrifices and plenty of hard work.

Thomas and Donahue would be more than happy to share the secrets to lasting happiness. Their best advice is: Be with someone who’ll help you overcome things you can’t by yourself. You can also be that person for them.

Get the book HERE.