Phil Donahue and Marlo Thomas are the authors of a book that delves into the intricacies of marriage. In their novel, titled “What Makes a Marriage Last: 40 Celebrated Couples Share with Us the Secrets,” this enduring couple offers insights into their own relationship.
Surprisingly, despite being married to Phil for more than four decades, Marlo once harbored a strong aversion to the institution of marriage. She humorously quipped in the book, “Marriage is like a vacuum cleaner: you stick it to your ear, and it sucks out all your energy and ambition.” Her candid remarks vividly conveyed her skepticism about marriage, portraying it as akin to living with a demanding taskmaster.
However, fate had different plans for Marlo when she crossed paths with Phil. Their love story began after Phil’s first marriage ended, and it blossomed into a bond that has endured a lifetime.
Phil Donahue achieved fame through his groundbreaking talk show, initially known as “The Phil Donahue Show,” which later became “Donahue.” This iconic show, notable for its audience participation format, ran for an astounding 29 years. Remarkably, it was a guest on his show who would change the course of his life forever – Marlo Thomas.
Their serendipitous encounter occurred in Chicago in 1977, with Phil bringing four sons from his previous marriage into the relationship. His daughter resided with his ex-wife and her mother. After three years of courtship, Marlo and Phil sealed their love with an intimate 35-person wedding ceremony in 1980.
Notably, Marlo’s friends and family were taken aback by her change of heart. An amusing anecdote in their book recounts friends at Marlo’s bridal shower playfully displaying quotes from her past, expressing her skeptical views on marriage. Even her mother expressed astonishment, repeatedly asking Phil, “How did you get her to do this?”
Reportedly, strangers on their honeymoon flight to Greece also voiced their surprise, with one woman openly disappointed by Marlo’s departure from her previously independent lifestyle.
In the book, Marlo grapples with a sense of hypocrisy for marrying after vocally criticizing marriage for much of her life. She questioned whether she had let down fans who saw her as a symbol of independence.
Despite the inevitable ups and downs of any lengthy marriage, Donahue and Thomas have persevered, viewing their challenges as opportunities for growth and bonding. Early in their marriage, they navigated physical separation as Phil taped his show in Chicago while Marlo pursued her acting career.
Marlo’s aunt’s observation that their arrangement didn’t fit the traditional definition of marriage prompted Marlo to rethink her perspective on matrimony. Despite the distance, they made their union work, and Marlo embraced her role as a friend to Phil’s children rather than a traditional mother.
In a 2012 interview, Marlo reflected on her experience helping to raise Phil’s children, emphasizing that she aimed to replicate her own mother’s parenting approach. She noted that her relationship with Phil’s sons had grown stronger over the years.
Phil emphasized in the book that Marlo devoted considerable effort to getting to know his sons, engaging in meaningful conversations and striving to understand them better.
Beyond their strong relationships with Phil’s children, the couple attributes the longevity of their marriage to the unwavering trust they have in each other. Marlo underscored the importance of trust by stating, “You build trust when you realize that this person always has your back.”
Even after more than 40 years of marriage, Phil and Marlo believe that there are still countless memories to create. They both emphasize the essential role of mutual desire in preserving a lasting marriage, with Phil noting that both partners must genuinely want it to endure. Marlo echoes his sentiment, expressing her gratitude for the unwavering support and unwavering presence of Donahue in her life.