The Most Unexpected Secrets Behind the Longest Celebrity Marriages

From separate bathrooms to purposely making sure that some things get lost in translation, here's what makes enduring couples such as Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze Jr. tick

By Natalie Finn Apr 14, 2020 5:20 PMTags
The Most Unexpected Secrets Behind the Longest Celebrity Marriages Melissa Herwitt/E! Illustration

Celebrities have acquired a reputation for rapid relationship turnover, the fame game not always conducive to maintaining a stable love life.

Then again, if you've met Mr. or Ms. Right, it's going to take more than crazy schedules, dueling egos and temptation, everywhere, to break a couple up.

"People say, 'Jeez, it must be hard to stay married in show business.' I think it's hard to stay married anywhere, but if you marry the right person, it might work out," Tom Hanks, who's been married to second wife Rita Wilson for almost 32 years now, mused to The Spec in 2016.

But regardless of how meant to be any two people are, relationships take work and efforts have to be made to make sure that minor issues don't turn major and the spark that brought them together doesn't fizzle out entirely. If you look at some of the most enduring couples in Hollywood, you figure that they all must have certain things in common, yet of course the specifics of what those commonalities are—values, sense of humor, energy level, faith, etc.—are uniquely theirs. It's once those things are squared away that couples have to get creative.

"We were friends for two years before we ever went out on a date. She knew what kind of guy I was, what my morals were, what my priorities were, and vice versa," Freddie Prinze Jr. told E! News about falling for his wife of now more than 17 years, Sarah Michelle Gellar. "We already knew all the faults about the other person."

There are quite a few common ingredients when it comes to the secrets of the longest relationships in Hollywood—many of them having to do with how couples fight, actually. Listening is usually pretty key, as is making each other laugh. Oh, and liking each other! The simple act of still really liking each other comes up a lot.

"We were friends first," Beyoncé has said of her and Jay-Z, together for close to 18 years now and married for 12.

But there are also definitely some quirkier additions to the mix that you might not have expected to be so essential to lasting love. Because, as Barbra Streisand, who's been married to James Brolin for almost 22 years, put it when they hit their two-decade milestone: "Twenty years in Hollywood is like 50 years in Chicago."

Here's how these longtime couples have kept it together:

Freddie Prinze Jr. & Sarah Michelle Gellar

We know what they've been doing since they moved in together. 

"Separate bathrooms," Gellar revealed the importance of a little distance on Today. "I feel like there are certain things that should just be kept your own and they never need to know. Also, maybe, possibly, a separate shopping credit card or if you are a guy, maybe a separate gaming card so I don't have to see how much video games cost."

Rita Wilson & Tom Hanks

"We learned the secret of happiness with each other a long time ago and that's always telling the truth," Hanks, married to Wilson since 1988, said in March 2017

But of course everyone wants to pick the two-time Oscar winner's brain about marriage, the two of them considered a gold-standard couple in a business where romantic relationships tend to have a much shorter shelf life. 

"We give each other a natural sense of support for whatever the other wants to pursue," he said in 2016. "Our marriage doesn't require vast work. We have been married 28 years and dig each other a lot." That's their running theme. "We just like each other. You start there," Hanks also said in 2015. (And we'll bet various versions of that old chestnut have popped up many times over the years.)

The outpouring of concern when they became the most famous people in the world to test positive for COVID-19 in March 2020, ushering them into isolation in Australia while they recovered, further cemented their status as Mr. and Mrs. National Treasure.

Bono & Ali Hewson

The U2 frontman had his first date with his future wife in Dublin in 1976 when they were just a couple of teenagers and they ultimately tied the knot in 1982. Fully aware of how rock stardom has taken its toll on countless marriages over the years, Bono told Entertainment Tonight in 2016, "We feel the red carpet has kept us close. If things are going around, we say, 'Let's do the red carpet, certainly.'"

David & Victoria Beckham

The oft-serious-looking Victoria, married to the model and now retired soccer star since 1999, told Vogue Netherlands in 2017, "We have a lot of fun together. If I really was as miserable as I look in some of those paparazzi pictures, my children wouldn't be as happy as they are. And I certainly wouldn't be married any more."

Nick Offerman & Megan Mullally

Asked if they had any advice for other married couples, or for couples just starting out, Mullally told GQ, "'F--k' seems like it's key. We have a two-week rule. We're never apart for more two weeks. Just not being separated for Jurassic periods of time seems to help. And no children probably helps a lot."

"Well, we're two humans trying to get along, just like any relationship, so I'd say I get a lot of mileage out of shutting my trap and listening," Offerman, ever the philosopher, said on Today about making it work with his wife of 14 years. "Compromise always leads to more kissing much quicker than obstinacy does."

Ben Falcone & Melissa McCarthy

Eleven years married, maybe, and about 16-ish years that they'd been together when they sat down with Ellen DeGeneres in March 2017, McCarthy said, "I think what should not be making me laugh maybe makes me laugh—there are certain very weird things."

Such as Falcone's hypochondria! "We may have seven or eight blood-pressure cuffs in our home," McCarthy revealed.


Matthew Broderick & Sarah Jessica Parker

"Keep talking I guess, I know how cliché that is. Too much silence is definitely not a good idea," Broderick, who's been married to Parker since 1997,  offered in 2014.

Candace Cameron Bure & Valeri Bure

The Fuller House star doesn't mind if some of the things her Russian-born husband says get by her.

"It's probably good when your spouse speaks a language that you don't know," Cameron Bure told E! News exclusively in a recent interview. '"Cause when they get really mad, he'll just speak in Russian and I don't know what he's saying—so I can't ever be offended."

The actress and mother of three also told us that she and Bure, married in 1996, make a point of taking a vacation every year without the kids, "at least for a weekend, because the time alone together is far and few."

Catherine Zeta-Jones & Michael Douglas

"Being kind, being nice, having your listening ears," Zeta-Jones told Extra about the key to her marriage of 17 years having survived the usual ups and downs, plus health scares and a brief separation.

Faith Hill & Tim McGraw

"Just saying, 'yes, ma'am' a lot," McGraw joked in April 2017 about the key to their success. Married since October 1996, the first couple of country can't get enough of each other.

"Well, she tolerates a lot, I think that's probably the main reason," he added on Today in November. But getting down to brass tacks, he said, "First and foremost you should be able to argue and you should be able to have discussions or yelling matches or whatever."

"Yeah, those are fun sometimes," Hill admitted. "I know how to press this guy's buttons.

Jada Pinkett Smith & Will Smith

"I think the secret is just friendship," Pinkett Smith, poised to celebrate 20 years of admittedly unconventional matrimony with Smith on Dec. 31, 2017, said in July. "You have to go off and find your happiness. The hardest thing to do is being married."

Though Smith at first chalked it up to "just not quitting" at the end of the day in 2015, he offered similar insight about the importance of taking his own path. Rather than work expressly on their relationship, the actor said, "We only ever worked on ourselves individually, and then presented ourselves to one another better than we were previously."

Keith Urban & Nicole Kidman

It can't all just be the way he looks at her, right?

Well, almost. "Just love. Just love each other, lavish each other with love," Kidman, who married Urban in 2006, gushed in 2016. "Also we just happen to like each other too. That works."

But also, "We always consider the 'us.' We say, 'Is this going to be good for us?' It's the simplest phrase, but it works." Moreover, "I have an incredible husband who is so willing to get on planes and fly places, even if it's for a night."

They also never email and limit their texting to sexting. "Phone calls only," Urban said on Ellen in 2013. "Which I really love...Maybe one text. Maybe one cool kind of, you know...that kind of text."

Annette Bening & Warren Beatty

Of course what would seemingly be the most complicated-sounding mission—how did Bening get Hollywood's most infamous bachelor to settle down in 1992?—has one of the simplest answers.

In December 2016, Bening chalked what is now their 25-year marriage up to "respect."

"I like respect," she said on Today. "But also I think in some ways we're very different, some ways we're alike. But the differences, I think, help us and there's some fire there."

Kelly Ripa & Mark Consuelos

"The phrase 'this too shall pass' is such an important phrase when you're in your early wedding years. Every argument, every disagreement, seems like the end of the universe and it really isn't," Ripa, who's always sharing her funnier marital anecdotes on Live, told with utmost seriousness in 2015.

And, of course, as she told Andy Cohen in 2014, "We just like each other a lot. I love my husband. I think he's awesome. We've been together a really long time. We try to do spicy things together all the time."

Hugh Jackman & Deborra-Lee Furness

"Meditation!" the couple, married since 1996, simultaneously told People.

Goldie Hawn & Kurt Russell

Partners for going on 35 years, they're considered married in our starry eyes. 

"Love, gratitude, compassion, because sometimes every man or every woman will drive their partner crazy. Family. Fun. Laughs. Sex," Hawn provided her laundry list to People in March 2017. "If you don't nurture that, and remember, you're done."

Not getting married also helped, as far as Hawn is concerned.

Jamie Lee Curtis & Christopher Guest

"Don't get divorced," the actress, who's been married since 1984 to the mockumentary master, cracked on Today in 2015. "It's a fascinating thing. I could write a book on marriage called Don't Leave."

Kyra Sedgwick & Kevin Bacon

"I'm going to embarrass my kids—sex is important," Sedgwick, married to Bacon since 1988, told Redbook in 2012. "Sex is really important. That desire is there."

Bacon, talking to Entertainment Tonight in 2015, gets the last word on the subject, though.

"Whatever you do," the actor said, "don't listen to celebrities on advice on how to stay married. That's my secret." 

But not so fast, Kevin Bacon. You never know where you might pick up a wellness tip when it comes to marital longevity.

"We do not have separate bathrooms," Cameron Bure told E! News, having a chuckle over Sarah Michelle Gellar's revelation. "I like that."

(Originally published Dec. 5, 2017, at 6 a.m. PT)