Inside the love story of Marlo Thomas & Phil Donahue

Phil Donahue and Marlo Thomas literally wrote the book on marriage. In their novel, What Makes a Marriage Las: 40 Celebrated Couples Share with Us the Secrets, the long-married couple opens up about their relationship.

Despite being married to Phil for over 40 years, Marlo most interestingly reveals that she grew up wanting nothing to do with marriage...

Wikipedia Commons / Alan Light

In the book, the star expressed her previously grim outlook on the institution: “Marriage is like a vacuum cleaner: you stick it to your ear, and it sucks out all your energy and ambition.”

Thomas likens marriage to living with a jailer that one has to please, making her feelings very clear at various times. That is, until she met Donahue.

Marlo Thomas and Phil Donahue both found each other after Phil’s first marriage failed and now they have created a bond that has lasted a lifetime.

Phil Donahue rose to fame in the public eye with his show, “The Phil Donahue Show,” which was later rebranded as just “Donahue.” The show ran for 29 years and was the first of its kind to feature audience participation. And there was one guest on his show that totally changed the trajectory of his life; Marlo Thomas.

The couple met in Chicago in 1977, according to the book, and Phil came with four boys attached to him. His fifth child, a daughter, lived with his ex-wife and her mother elsewhere.

Marlo and Phil dated for three years before tying the knot in 1980 in an intimate 35-person ceremony.

Unsurprisingly, Marlo’s friends and family were shocked by the actress’s change of heart. The couple’s book recounts a hilarious anecdote about friends at Marlo’s bridal shower hanging quotes up from the soon-to-be-bride that expressed her previous views on marriage.

According to the novel, Marlo’s mom was more surprised than anyone, asking Donahue “How did you get her to do this?” throughout the couple’s wedding.

Reportedly, even strangers expressed shock, among other emotions, about the star and social activist’s decision to settle down. A woman on the plane the couple took to their honeymoon in Greece expressed disappointment to Marlo while Phil was in the bathroom, clearly bothered that she abandoned her previous independent streak.

Thomas is honest in the book, explaining that a seed of doubt crept in at this interaction. If she spent so much of her life expressing criticism about marriage, was she now a hypocrite for getting married? Had she let down fans that saw her as a pinnacle of independence?

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