It was love at first sight when Marlo Thomas and Phil Donahue met on the set of his eponymous talk show in 1977 — and they still find each other just as fascinating today.  Marlo tells the magazine how they keep the magic alive after 35 years. “The secret to our relationship is we do a lot of stuff by ourselves. We look forward to being together just the two of us, and having our alone time.” And “we like to travel together,” she notes.

Thomas frequently shares her views on marriage, likening it to being a prisoner needing appeasement—until she met Donahue, that is.

After Phil Donahue’s first marriage ended in divorce, he met Marlo Thomas, and they became lifelong friends.

Donahue was first married to his college sweetheart, Margaret Cooney, for 17 years and had five children with her, per the Washington Post. When Thomas and Donahue married, the actress became a stepparent overnight.

In 2011, Thomas told AARP the Magazine she took a relaxed approach to being a stepmom.

“From the very first day, I decided that I was not going to try to be a ‘mother’ to Phil’s children in the traditional sense — they already had a mom — but, instead, to be their friend,” she said. “I’m proud to say that the friendships I established with them are as strong today as they were 30 years ago — even stronger.”

Phil Donahue became a household name with his groundbreaking talk show, initially titled “The Phil Donahue Show” and later shortened to “Donahue.” The show, which introduced audience participation, ran for 29 years. Marlo Thomas, a guest on his show, had a profound impact on him, significantly altering the course of his life.

“For many, love really is better the second time around, but for me, the first time has been just fine,” Marlo adds.

In the past few years, Thomas and Donahue have spent much of their time speaking to famous couples about their marriages during the writing and promotion of their book, What Makes a Marriage Last: 40 Celebrated Couples Share with Us the Secrets to a Happy Life. They’ve also done some thinking about their own relationship.

In 2020, Thomas said in a YouTube video for AARP, “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.’ “

“The secret of good communication? Screaming helps,” Donahue 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 10.”

He also shared, “A little humor certainly in a marriage goes a long way.”


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