Holding It Down! 15 Secrets of Celeb Couples Who’ve Stayed Together For Years

December 27, 2012  |  
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In a time when Hollywood marriages seem to last no more than 72 days, there are some celebrity couples that have stood the test of Tinseltown and time. While the words “Hollywood” and “marriage” can bring about laughs, snickers and cynical eye rolling when used in the same sentence, there are plenty of celebrity couples who have loved and lasted for years…even decades…in the midst of hot co-stars, tabloids, blogs, social media and paparazzi. Marriages CAN  last in the spotlight, and these couples share their secrets on how they’ve been able to maintain their relationship and go the distance…with their marriages lasting longer than a Hollywood minute.


1. Will Smith & Jada Pinkett Smith

The Ultimate Power Couple, who celebrate their 15th anniversary this month, say that one of the secrets to making their union work is making an effort to always put the family first.  Despite rumors of marital trouble, the couple maintains that they are as strong as ever. Jada has said that she and Will have a devotion to family, which means raising and guiding their super star children to be creative individuals with a strong sense of self. And Will says of Jada, “What’s helped us is being supportive, no matter what the situation is,” he says. “I’m so lucky to have someone like Jada. She’s really an incredible woman, wife and mother.”


2. Bill & Camille Cosby

When a couple has been together as long as these two have (married in 1964), it would be wise to listen to their words of wisdom as it pertains to love and marriage. Camille says: “The heart of marriage is memories; and if the two of you happen to have the same ones and can savor your reruns, then your marriage is a gift from the gods.”

While that is poetic, many couples don’t make it through the initial stages of marriage to build enough memories to savor. In an interview with O Magazine, Camille shared that you have to get over being selfish in the beginning  in order to get through – especially if infidelity could be involved. “You go through a transition, if you are committed to each other. You cleanse yourself of all of that baggage, and you look at each other and determine whether the relationship is worth salvaging, whether you really love each other and want to be together. Then you realize, “Wait a minute. I might have been doing this because I just didn’t want to think about how this would affect the other person or to allow myself to love someone with emotional intimacy. When we knew that we really wanted to be with each other, that we didn’t want to live without each other. That probably happened ten years after we were married, when we really spent time talking about what marriage means.” 


3. Ruby Dee & Ossie Davis

Along the same lines of Bill and Camille Cosby, when one thinks of iconic Black love, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee typically come to mind. In 1948, the late Ossie Davis married Ruby Dee, and their love story has blossomed for all of us to witness…both on and off screen. The couple, who at one time spoke of having an open marriage in their book With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together, say that freeing each other and themselves made their marriage stronger. Ossie says, “But looking back, I’d say no matter what did or did not happen, we freed each other. And in doing that, we also freed ourselves…Sex is fine, but love is better. That’s the most important part of being free. In light of what we learned, is extramarital sex something we recommend as a regular part of marriage? Not now…not anymore.”

Ruby continues, “But, we both came to realize that we were very fortunate that, in all of the deep profound, fundamental ways, we really, really only wanted each other. It was like a rediscovery of something from the beginning. It’s not something that you’d recommend to everybody. But often Ossie has said – and I’ve though too – the best way to have somebody is to let it go. If it doesn’t come back you are free in another kind of sense – in that you find the strength to let go and wish somebody well. So, we thought an open marriage was appropriate for us but it turned out not to be. But then that’s what we’re all about, we are moving from one position to another in the process of trying to unravel this thing call life.”

Source: With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together


4. Kelly Ripa & Mark Consuelos

When Consuelos joined the cast of All My Children in 1995 to play the on-screen lover of Kelly Ripa, their chemistry was strong and undeniable. So undeniable, in fact, that it led the couple to elope in Las Vegas a year later. And after 16 years of marriage and three children together, their bond is stronger now than it has ever been. Kelly revealed to Good Housekeeping, “I think about my husband in the middle of the day because I love him and I can’t wait to see him. He is my best friend. Nobody knows me the way he knows me.”  While a strong friendship is what keeps them united, Mark says that in order for them to keep their partnership alive and well, they have to make some time for themselves…especially when work and kids keep you busy. The takeaway: Make time for your best friend, and remain present with each other.


5. Denzel Washington & Pauletta Pearson

Denzel Washington married actress Pauletta Pearson in 1983 after meeting on the set of the TV film “Wilma.” Twenty-nine years and four children later, Denzel spoke with Reader’s Digest about the secret to a long marriage. “Do whatever your wife tells you. Yes, dear. And breathe,” the actor joked. “I think it hopefully ends where it starts, which is friendship. And obviously, respect. Understanding our — for lack of a better word — roles. And just getting on with it. Commitment.”


6. Angela Bassett & Courtney B. Vance

The love birds, who married in 1997, not only know how to make love last – they wrote a book about it. The couple, who met at the Yale School of Drama, discuss their relationship in Friends: A Love Story, which details how allowing themselves to be friends first set the foundation for their long lasting relationship. For Courtney, being a husband and having a peaceful marriage means keeping his wife happy at all times, wholeheartedly buying into the “happy wife, happy life” theory. “I want that smile everyday. What I had to realize was that she’s first, and when the queen is happy, the land is happy.” Angela says they have ground rules that they never break in order to keep the peace, including watching her tone and the words she chooses when they argue, and Courtney promising to never raise his voice. They also agree that divorce is not an option. Angela says, “He said that we would have to fight through it to get to the other end of it. It was really wonderful.”


7. John Travolta & Kelly Preston

John Travolta and Kelly Preston wed in 1991 after meeting on the set of “The Experts.” The two have three children together, daughter Ella Bleu and sons Benjamin and Jett, who died in 2009. While most couples crumble after tragedy strikes, these two have managed to weather the storm together. Preston said in an interview with Redbook, “One thing I’ve learned is that you really have to keep creating your marriage. You can’t let it sort of drift off to be however it will be… We never go to bed angry. We work it out before we go to sleep unless we’re too, too exhausted, then we put it on hold until first thing. We know what each other’s buttons are — so we don’t push them. Neither of us likes to yell, so we don’t. I think these rules are really what have been the basis for us, because we’ve had so much affection, love, respect, enjoyment, and fun.”


8. Melanie Griffith & Antonio Banderas

Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas have had their share of rough patches in their marriage, as every couple will inevitably face. But obstacles can bring the biggest rewards to your relationship as well. “Even in crisis, we have been patient enough to detect that at the end of the tunnel was a light. We have had as many problems as anybody. We’ve never hidden it. We’ve been open about addictions, in the case of Melanie,” says Antonio. “She has overcome her problems beautifully. I didn’t know she was so strong. It makes me love her even more, because she has been an unbelievable lion fighting, and she got it.” Banderas told People Magazine in 2010, “We believed, very much, in each other and we’ve been battling with everything that happens in our lives because at the end we knew there was a reward.”

The lesson: embrace obstacles and challenges as an invitation to grow as a couple, not as a reason to give up.


9. Rodney Peete & Holly Robinson Peete

Actress and TV personality Holly Robinson Peete and her husband, former NFL quarterback Rodney Peete, celebrated 17 years of marriage earlier this year by renewing their vows inside the Empire State Building. Holly and Rodney have 4 children, including a son with autism. The diagnosis almost drove the couple to the brink of divorce, but with therapy, they were able to save their marriage. Rodney says, “Therapy saved us. We went to counseling before we got married and laid some ground rules. That way of talking things out wasn’t part of my DNA; that was probably why we ended up getting married, because Holly knew I had the ability to change and do something different.”
Holly adds, “Rodney’s right — those therapy sessions before we got married were when I knew Rodney was the guy for me. I knew enough about marriage to know that with guys, especially the macho football-player types, if they won’t sit down and discuss their feelings, you’re in trouble ’cause you’re going to run into issues. We didn’t know our issue was going to be autism, but you’re going to run into something. The fact that Rodney was willing, that was humongous.”  The couple says that they still go to therapy once every few months as needed to help each other understand what the other is going through. There are always going to be those moments in a relationship where you need help, so keep therapy or marriage counseling open as an option. They are definitely proof that through it all, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

10. Spike Lee & Tonya Lewis Lee

This couple is pretty private when it comes to their relationship, but what is evident is that they share a passion for promoting African American causes, including health, and children’s development, having written three children’s books together. While they rarely speak about their marriage,  Tonya has said that in order to be a good wife and a good mom, “I had to be a good Tonya first.” Like most women, she wanted it all, and she found it was indeed possible to pursue her own passions without sacrificing herself to the pressures that come with being a wife and raising children. This successful and supportive couple shows us that when you have a common goal and purpose, your union will thrive as it sets the foundation for a solid partnership.


11. Barack & Michelle Obama

Okay, these two may not be “celebrities” per se, but to many, especially in our community, they’re super stars when it comes to Black love. I don’t know about you, but when I see President Obama gazing lovingly into his wife’s eyes, my heart melts and I can’t help but think, “Wow, he LOVES THAT WOMAN!” Every chance he gets, he professes his love, admiration and respect for our First Lady – even on Twitter, where he tweeted on their 20th wedding anniversary:

“Twenty years ago today, I married the love of my life and my best friend. Happy anniversary, Michelle. -bo”

Michelle is one lucky lady, and she offers this as one of the secrets to their amazing relationship: “I think a lot of laughing. I think in our house we don’t take ourselves too seriously, and laughter is the best form of unity, I think in a marriage. So we still find ways to have fun together, and a lot of it is private and personal.”

It doesn’t hurt that Pres. Obama is also very romantic. Michelle says he never forgets a birthday or an anniversary, so keeping the romance alive is definitely important to keeping the fire burning. Men: If the President of the United States has time for romance, then you have no excuse.


12. Earvin “Magic” Johnson & Earlitha “Cookie” Johnson

It’s been over 20 years since NBA legend Magic Johnson walked down the aisle with his college sweetheart Cookie, but their union is as strong as ever. When Magic announced that he was HIV positive  in 1991, many doubted that his new marriage would survive the devastating diagnosis. However, Cookie remained committed to their marriage, and the disease brought the couple even closer together. “I never even thought about leaving,” Cookie has said. “To stay by him was not a hard thing to do.”

Magic says, “I don’t know of many women who would have stayed in this situation,” and he credits having a strong faith as the foundation of their marriage. “God and Cookie give me the strength to carry on.” Since retiring from the NBA, Magic has started the Magic Johnson Foundation to help raise awareness about HIV and AIDS, and Cookie can be seen at every event proudly supporting her husband. Their love and marriage is an inspiration, showing that you can turn adversity into an opportunity to raise awareness and help others while being truly devoted to one another.



13. Samuel L. Jackson & LaTanya Richardson

Samuel L. Jackson married LaTanya Richardson in 1980 after meeting in class at Morehouse College. They have a daughter Zoe, and despite Sam’s huge success as an actor, the couple has endured several rough patches over the years, including Sam’s addiction to drugs.  But she stuck by him, and their love and faith in God has allowed their love to stand through all challenges thrown their way. “LaTanya has a great sense of humor, a great love of life and a great love of the people around her,” Jackson told Ebony Magazine in 2003. With Sam’s warmth and her love of life, they seem to exude a feeling of gratitude for all that their relationship has given them.



14. L.L. Cool J (James Todd Smith) & Simone Smith

The ladies love Cool James, but Simone is the lucky woman who has loved him as her husband since they wed in 1995. With the song, “I Need Love” as one of his signature hits, is it any surprise that the Hot rapper turned actor says that “maintaining the romance” is critical in keeping a marriage vital? I think not.

“The romantic aspects of the marriage need to take place during the day,” he says. “Too many men make the mistake of wanting to get romantic at the last second. It takes all day, and it’s an ongoing thing. It’s about support.”



15. Oprah Winfrey & Stedman Graham

These two have proven that long lasting happiness can come in the form of a “non-traditional” relationship…one that does not include marriage or children. While most men and women believe that having a marriage certificate makes your commitment “real”, Oprah and Stedman show us that marriage is not for everyone, yet their union is no less loving  and their commitment is just as strong, if not more so, than those who have chosen to walk down the aisle. They’ve been together for over 20 years, and in an interview with Piers Morgan, Oprah shared that the reason their relationship works so well is because “we each got to define ourselves in it and not in a traditional form.” She also maintains that keeping the details of their relationship private has definitely been the key to their success as a couple. Word to the wise – keep your relationship business to yourself!

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