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The Happiness Lab will be back on April 5th for a special five part mini season in which we'll be bringing you more happiness lessons of the ancients, but as a special treat to tide you over. Until then, I wanted to bring you some happiness lessons from a couple that I respect a lot. Phil Donahue and Marlo Thomas. Now, I've been a fan of Phil Donahue since I was a kid watching his talk show after school with my mom. So I was thrilled to hear that Phil was teaming up with his wife, the actress and author Marlo Thomas, to host Pushkin's newest podcast, Double Date on the show.


Marlo and Phil sit down with some of the most famous power couples today for some tough conversations about lasting love. Think former president and first lady Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter, Sting and Trudie Styler, Neil Patrick Harris and David Birka, rapper L.L. Cool J. And his wife, Simon Smith. What I was really struck by is how closely all these insights on marriage fit with what the latest happiness science now recommends. So I thought it might be fun to turn the tables on Marlo and Phil and to interview them about what they've learned.


I wound up being a bit more nervous than I expected. I mean, this is Phil Donahue, remember? But I also had a blast. I hope you enjoy my chat with Marlo and Phil and be sure to stay tuned until the end so you can hear one of my favorite episodes of Double Date, which features couple Viola Davis and Julius Tennen. Well, thanks so much for agreeing to be on the podcast, I have to say, Phil, especially this is like, you know, when I first started my podcast career thinking I would be interviewing these fun folks, I was modeling my interview style after watching Donahue as a kid, you know, on sick days with my mom.


So great.


So I wanted to go to the beginning and talk about how all this started, the sort of short version of how you both met on live television, an auspicious start to a 40 year marriage.


Well, yes, she was my guest on my television program. You know, I walked into the green room and she looked. Well, I don't know if you have to be Catholic, but she was a bad thought, he had not yet aired in Los Angeles in nineteen seventy seven. So I was kind of stunned when he walked into the green room with those killer blue eyes and and that shock of white hair. I thought, oh, wow, what a good looking guy.


And then we got into the studio and he was just so confident and fun and I was really impressed. It was like watching a magic act. I'd never seen anything like it.


But it wasn't just that you were impressed with the interview. It seems like the impression went a little bit beyond just a live interview that you did.


Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. That was definitely a chemical reaction. But I think had he been adult on his show, I would think I'd have the same chemical reaction. I mean, confidence is sexy. I mean, let's face it. And to have a guy have that kind of confidence and then focus his big blue eyes on you. What does Malcolm Gladwell book that you talked about?


His book was titled Blink. Yeah, right. Right, right. The most important impression is the first one that is really true. The first time you see someone somehow creates a lasting impression in your brain.


And a lot of the couples that we met for our podcast were like us. It was the first look. Billy Crystal was 18 years old and saw Janis walk across the beach in a pink bikini and thought that girls for me, Judge Judy and Jerry Sheindlin, she walked into a bar where he was being interviewed and she walked right up to him and said, Who is this? People have that reaction with each other. I don't know that it always lasts.


You know, one of the things I love is that, you know, you're putting together a podcast where you try to figure out the secrets of what leads to a happy marriage. Right. Tell me a little bit more about the podcast.


Well, you know, a lot of people have asked us through the years, what's the secret sauce of your marriage? What do you do that's different?


And I think as we traveled around the country and interviewed all these couples, Viola Davis and her husband, Julius Tennen and and Rob and Michele Reiner and John McEnroe and Patti Smith and Michael J. Fox and Tracey pollen's Sting and Trudie. So many fabulous couples. And one of the things we discovered was you're the one who said at first that that all of them had the desire. Right.


Half of our marriages end in divorce. We are imperfect pair bonders. The marriages that last are unions between two people who really want the marriage. Well, that's an important both people. We're left to wonder really how many relationships out there are passionate from only one side or pulling it.


You can see it that one person is really working the relationship, making it work, dragging it along, trying to keep up the sex and the happiness and the interest in the social life to keep it thriving. And those don't last. Like they say, it takes two to tango. You can't do something that's a two step with one foot something Kyra Sedgwick said. She said you can't go into marriage with a plan B, you got to go all in.


We're not going to look for the exit sign. And I think when the going gets tough, there are people who do run for the escape route. So if somebody gets very sick, like a Michael J. Fox found out that he had Parkinson's and Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon, they lost all their money to Bernie Madoff. Right.


We certainly were reminded of something we probably already knew, and that is that there is no such thing as a smooth sailing marriage from beginning to end the beautiful white dress, everybody is fawning over the bride with a beautiful bride. Oh, I've never seen such a beautiful bride.


And that is going to be June Moon Spoon and all that. And the is flying the organ music. It almost seems like from then on it's downhill.


Well, it's life, you know. I mean, this is what the science really suggests. You know, one of the things we talk a lot about is this idea of hedonic adaptation. We just get used to stuff. And one of the biggest domains in which we see Dornoch adaptation is in the domain of marriage and relationships. You can literally plot people's happiness, you know, the day they get married. And it's really high up here. But then a month later it goes down and a couple of weeks later it goes down.


And then you're back to baseline in a couple of years. And I think, you know, the Disney story that we're all sold tells people, hey, something must be wrong. Like I shouldn't have to be putting work in two years on. But I think what you're seeing in all your couples that you've talked to is like, no, that's just normative to be trying to work where both parts of the couple have to be working really hard to make this work and to keep a marriage happy.


Viola Davis said this great thing. She said, your marriage doesn't start when you walk down the aisle. Your marriage starts when you're sitting across from your spouse. And they do something that you think I cannot bear, that I will not be able to live with that. And then in the next moment you say, yeah, I will. You know what? I love that person. And. I'm just going to have to, you know, suck that up and what we realized is there's a very big word is accommodation's that you accommodate the other person's differences.


You know, no matter how hard I try, Phil is never going to be me. And no matter how hard he tries, I'm never going to be him. And so, OK, that's a given. Now, how do you live together with those differences and God willing that you get married with enough information about the other person that we can get along and that we do have paths back to each other?


Yeah, we picked up a lot of interesting advice on how to make a marriage last minute. Maybe Harvard might sneer at this, but no, it won't go.


James Carville said when you get into an argument that doesn't seem to have any end, just say, oh, let's kick the can down the road. That sounds pretty simple. It's hard to do that. You're going to find a lot of cans down the road.


Well, I think this is, you know, I mean, you joke about Harvard, Phil, but I think, you know, what we see from the science is that some of the ancient grandmother wisdom seems to be what the latest science is suggesting about how you keep marriages together. And so that's what I wanted to talk to you about today, is, you know, if we look at what the biggest findings are in this in the field of relationship research and happiness, you know, does that really jive with what you're hearing?


And so one of the biggest findings, again, sounds like grandmotherly advice, but I think it's quite powerful is the importance of gratitude in a relationship. So on the podcast, we talk a lot about gratitude. We've seen that it improves well-being, it helps sleep. But the research also shows it can be really powerful for improving relationships and work by Sarah Algo at the University of North Carolina shows that experiencing gratitude in the context of a marriage can be one of the easiest, quickest things you can do to improve your marriage.


Now, is this something you saw in the couples?


Yes, it's something that we've seen in ourselves. When we write a note to each other, it's often starts with because of you. Because of you, I feel healthier. Because of you, I feel stronger. And so we've given each other credit because of you.


I used to smoke.


Yeah, but another thing that we found with ourselves and with other couples, it's to stop, to not just be grateful, but to appreciate the wonderful moments. We have a little thing that we've always done.


Why don't you describe the letters o the letter the letters p l o those letters Malil will say, oh I'm having a a moment.


What she means is perfectly happy moment p h m. You know, I was raised in the 40s and 50s. The word then was don't spoil your children, they'll grow up to be serial killers. And so when my kids pleased me I didn't tell them.


But I think that that taught you something. It did because you brought it to our marriage, but you did learn to be more verbal about it. That's really what you're saying, Laurie, is that you acknowledge the moment when it's happening. I don't know how many times we've sat in our apartment and Phil will look out the window and say, isn't this lovely that we have this lovely apartment and that we're here together?


That's just great that you can appreciate the moment rather than, you know, run past it. To another thing. We have a ritual that on every anniversary and there have been 40 of them, we've gone on a trip instead of buying each other expensive presents. And what you're really giving each other is time. And what's more precious than that, and especially in our early years when I was working like a maniac and he was working like a maniac to find a week in May to go to an island or go to China and so many places think of them all.


But the time was for us. Without the children, without work. They were really concentrated on the two of us. You know, people talk about date night, which is great, but also a chunk of time where you really just have the two of you sitting on a beach or climbing a mountain and it's just the two of you there. There's nothing like that nourishment. I think.


I love that example. And it totally fits with the science. You know, there's lots of evidence for this phenomena that's called time affluence, just the subjective sense that you have some free time. And if you're feeling the opposite, if you're feeling time, Fiumicino, if a date night needs to get squeezed into one hour, because that's all you have, right. You don't have time to connect. In fact, research shows that when you're not feeling time affluent, you can't feel connected.


So I love this idea. But it also fits with the second thing we know from the science, which is which I think is a misconception about marriages. We think marriages go bad because something awful happens, like somebody cheats on someone or there's some disaster. But if you look at the science, really, marriages go bad when they're. Not enough good stuff, it's not the bad things, it's kind of the absence of the good things we need to make special efforts to like really pump up the good things, pump up the many celebrations.


Is that something you've seen in the couples you've talked to?


I think so. We are. We all talked about how we celebrate life. Ali Wentworth, who's married to George Stephanopoulos for their anniversaries, they don't buy gifts, but they each write a really long letter about how they feel about the year that just passed. And again, it's not just gratitude, it's the acknowledgement, the appreciation of each other. Do you know when one of us says this was really a great day you made for us? It's really great that you that you thought of this, you know, that one of us thought of going to the theater or going to the circus or having somebody over for lunch.


And afterward will say to the other one, I'm glad you did that. You know, I wouldn't have thought of that. I'm glad you did that.


And on the other side of that, my mother never validated a complaint that I might have had, as most people do. You know, I mean, if I said I'm tired, she'd say we're all tired.


And you got to put that in your book, Laura. Yeah. You grow up with that. You know, it doesn't leave you with I don't know whether it works to shut you up or never complain or feel guilty about whatever it is that bothers you.


But now you have the freedom to complain to me. Well, I do. And I feel for my kids because I got this enlightenment very late. Too late for them. Yeah, but thank God they all still talk to me.


Well, I think you're you're tapping into something else that the research really shows. This is some work by Gottman, who's a professor at the University of Washington. He thinks that marriage is a lot about paying attention to what he calls people's bids. Right. These bids are these you think think of these bids as the most fundamental unit of our emotional connection, which could be a quick complaint. I'm feeling tired today. And you want some validation. It could be like I saw some silly comic on the web and I want to show it to you.


It seems like simple moments where we reach out to our partner for some sort of emotional connection back. And what he finds is that you can predict who has a happy marriage simply by whether or not a partner responds to the bit. I'm tired. We're all tired. That's not a good response. Right. But I'm tired of like, oh, you know, I'll give you a foot massage, like, oh, I'm so sorry, honey. You're like, what can I do?


Right. That simple reaction to the bed. He finds that 80 percent of bids in happy marriages are returned positively. Whereas if you look at not so happy marriage is, only 30 percent are. And he thinks that that's a big thing. Just the simple ways we react to this stuff. Is this the kind of thing it sounds like you've seen this in your own marriage and something you've kind of built in to have these more positive responses to one another?


All the couples talked about listening and how important listening is. That takes a couple of years to get to know you're so busy when you're first married because you marry either the beginning of the middle of your careers. So there's so much work going on that whether or not you're really listening properly, you're not listening enough. It took me about ten years to figure out how to listen. I remember one time Phil had something on his mind, didn't have to do with me, but it was something that was bothering him.


And he said to me, I want you to just listen to me. Please don't do anything and don't say anything and don't give me any advice because I'm the kind of person that's very impulsive to fix things. And I said, OK, and then he told me this thing. But it is true.


You you normally would charge forward. Yeah, I'm a fixer.


I had to do something that Rob Reiner pointed out when we talked to them, because he is too. You have to go against your own intuitiveness. Your intuition is to make something better. But this person does not feel that makes it better. So you have to take your own intuition and say this doesn't make him happy. So why should I come up with a solution if he doesn't want me to do that? And that was difficult. That was completely against my personality.


And I'm I'm I'm a slow learner. You know, I think it was probably during the reception of our wedding that I realized suddenly that I had married a hospital, a children's research hospital.


And, you know, that's pretty important to know because I have to be certainly deferential to Marlo and understanding of her often preoccupation with this very important issue in her life, St. Jude Children's Research.


But, you know, not only was it something for him to learn that that passion was not going to fade, so it was going to be a big part of our lives. And I had to learn that he didn't have to go with me to every one of these things, because at first I said, you have to come. And after a while, I realize he doesn't have to come. This is my commitment that somehow you're not a real couple if you don't do everything the other one needs to do or has to do, that takes a certain maturity and common.


It is, but I had to grow up and say this is not his to have to do. It's beautiful that you've both like you learned something and grown from that experience, which could have been a conflict at the start of your relationship, but it actually brought you brought you both together and allowed you both to learn new things that seem like they've been really important to you, correct?


That's correct. So my last question for you is really just, you know, one amazing thing about the podcast and about the book that goes along with the podcast is you've learned so many different things from so many amazing people. You know, you mentioned Judge Judy and L.L. Cool J. Neil Patrick Harris and Viola Davis. So I think we're going to my happiness lab listeners are going to hear about after after this conversation. But I'm wondering if there was anything that surprised you about the secrets to a happy marriage.


I was a little bit surprised by how vulnerable the men allowed themselves to be. I was very touched by that. Bob Woodward, who is a you know, you go break him in half kind of journalist. I certainly wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of his investigations. He is the most vulnerable guy when it comes to his marriage. He loves his wife, Elsa Walsh, so much as she does him. But he had two marriages before her.


His first wife left him. His second wife left him. And he learned at that moment that I guess I'm alone. So to have the courage to have a third marriage, he found the right woman. They've been married over 30 years. But that he told us, you know, how vulnerable he was to making a commitment to a woman after having been burned so many times. And Ted Danson, he's on his third marriage. And I said, how did you have the optimism to get married a third time?


He said, well, I had to stop the lying. I said, Really? What did you lie about? He said, I lied about who I was as a person because I wanted to be better. I wanted to come through the door at night like a Silver Knight on a white horse and just have it all together. Even though I felt lousy, even though I've been rejected, even though I had a terrible day, I'd come through the door like I was in great shape, he said.


So the person that was with me never saw me. They didn't have any idea who I was. I had to shed all that and just be able to say, Hey, I feel lousy today. I was rejected. I was hurt. When you can say that to each other, which we have said, and the other person gets to say, oh, God, that's awful. Tell me you don't want somebody to say, oh, that's silly.


Don't worry about that. He's there to support me.


And it's again, it's the two sides. It's the vulnerability part which you have to have in a marriage. But then it's the trust that that when you're that vulnerability express that someone will be there to listen, to answer, to hold your hand and say, you know, you're not awful for you to know that you that even though you are this compromised person, you're not the perfect person.


You have these these vulnerabilities, these frailties. And this person loves you so much that they even love that. You know, I think I read this somewhere that the kind of acceptance that you give your children is the kind of acceptance that you need to give your spouse. I remember once Richard Burton was on The David Frost Show a hundred years ago, and it was in the evening I was in bed watching it. And David Frost asked Richard Burton a question that he asked a lot of people, what is your definition of love?


And I sat on the edge of the bed. Here's Richard Burton, this womanizer, this lover, this robust Casanova. I couldn't wait to hear what he said. And he said, the definition of love is tolerance.


He said, if you're a child, murder somebody. You hate what they did, but you love your child. And that really not that you want anybody to murder anybody. But the point is that is the kind of depth of unconditional love you must have for your spouse or you probably don't have anything, because that really is the bottom line. Not I love you if in the condition here in a condition there. I love you, period. That's it.


Well, thank you so much. I think you are doing such fantastic, great work for telling people how they can make better marriages. I think this is one of the reasons I love the podcast so much. But thank you both for sharing the wisdom that you've gleaned in forty one years, which is really incredible. And thanks so much for sharing with us today on The Happiness.


Thank you, Laurie. Thank you very much. If you enjoyed that conversation even half as much as I did, then you probably want to hear more. So be sure to check out double date wherever you get your podcasts. And now, as promised, here's a chance to hear Marlo and Phil in action, one of my favorite episodes of Double Date with Viola Davis and Julius Tennen. I hope you enjoy it. Hi, I'm Phil Donahue, and I'm Marlo Thomas.


We've been married for over 40 years, but when I was younger, I never wanted to be married. It didn't seem possible for two people to live together for life.


And you were half right. Nearly half of all marriages end in divorce.


But what about the ones at last? What's the secret sauce? I have no idea. But the best way to find out is to talk with some long married couples, you know, like a double date.


And so we did.


We made dates with couples we admire actors, athletes, musicians, journalists.


And you know what I love about a double date? Everybody talks, everybody remembers. And you get a real sense of who this couple is together. Exactly.


Take Viola Davis and Julius Tennen. What a couple here are two great actors with all the talent and none of the ego.


The first feeling you get from them is welcome.


Remember, Julius was standing outside on the street in front of their house, just to be sure we didn't get lost.


Such a great hello. They told us a lot about them right from the start.


My big thing with me and Joyce is where the fun we have the best parties. Oh, that's really good. I'm glad I'm getting to know you.


It's going to work out for I'm telling time.


How shall we settle down at their dinner table with these tall, comfy chairs that you could just sink into. And we started talking. I felt an immediate bond with Viola like me. She never could imagine herself with a life partner.


I did not want to get married either. I never had any visions of walking down an aisle with a white dress. I admired every woman who was alone and happy and who had a lot of boyfriends. I was a narcissistic artist. That's what I was right.


And then then I read somewhere that you prayed for a husband.


When I was up at Williamstown Theatre Festival, I was doing A Raisin in the Sun and a friend of mine said, Why are you alone? And I felt like, oh, my God, I almost started crying and my eyes were welling up.


He was like, Is there a reason why you don't have a relationship?


I said, Well, I guess I've just never found anyone who loved me, you know? And then he was the one Joseph Edwards I know, because he just got married.


He just got married.


He said, go into your room. This is what I want you to do and get on your knees. And you ask God for blah, blah, blah, blah.


I was like, oh, God, another on fire for Jesus person. And you did. I did.


I did it. And there was a specific prayer, right. That you were very specific because he told me to be specific. And literally I was like, OK, this is what I want. Now, he really doesn't have to be black, but I want him to be black.


I want him to look like a football player because I love football players, OK? And I want to be from the South because I love country men and I kind of would appreciate it.


He's already been married.


He's already had kids because I don't want that pressure and I want him to be like maybe very spiritual, churchgoing, funny, you know, maybe someone who is an artist who's he has got those artistic sensibility.


And I met Julius three and a half weeks later, three and a half weeks, three and a half weeks.


How on City of Angels is the show? Stephen Bosco's City of Angels? We actually met during the pilot episode.


I was dating the girl I was really trying to run away from kind of a monster. And so when I met Viola, I gave her my card and then she called and then we went on our first date. And twenty years later, here we are.


And I felt like I had done all the work before then I was in therapy. I finally went to therapy because I had Screen Actors Guild.


And so when Julius came along, I remember telling my therapist, you know, this guy gave me a car and he's really good looking. And she was like, oh, okay.


Because you could tell she was maybe a little bit bored with what I was talking about. She's like, talk about something else.


And I said, this guy gave me a card and he oh, he invited me to church. And she was like, have you called him back?


I said, no, I don't know, because I'm struggling. I got to get my credit up. I got to get my life in order. She said, call him.


Wow. And and I said, yeah, but you know what? There may be something wrong with him. She's like, there's something wrong with everyone, Biola. There's something wrong with you. It took me six weeks to call them because I was so nervous.


I was having anxiety attacks about L.A. And then when I finally called him, I said he's never going to remember me.


And he remembered me and I remember he invited me to his place where he worked and the openness, emotional availability, I never had that before.


Usually men it's like, OK, how do you feel? How do you feel about me? You love me. Do you not love me? Do you want to be with me?


Not do is you never had to guess. My mom did a good job. She really did. I'm always taught me to respect women.


I already knew that there was a certain kind of decorum around the way you needed to treat women.


You know, Phil said to me one time, what do you have so much against marriage? I said, Well, I think that people lose courteousness and I really don't like that. I don't want to be treated in a discourteous or dismissive way. And we do that for each other.


I mean, I'll say I don't want to get you a sweater. It's cold out here. Oh, he'll say that to me. There's a concern for the other person.


Yeah. You know, I went to an all boys Catholic high school, and one of the things that was given to us were dancing lessons. And they taught us, you know, you don't call the woman, you place your hand gently on her back and you be sure to return her to wherever it was when you asked her to dance.


There would be taught grace, you know, I mean, that's a lovely I to a school. We both are Catholic and I want to do so. And I think I think sharing not so much sharing a religion or a faith, but sharing the values of that.


That's right. And so when people ask me what I think our marriage has lasted, well, we define certain important words the same like what's fair and unfair. Yes. What's acceptable and unacceptable. If Phil says to me, that's not fair. I know. I know what it means. I don't know what you mean. It is fair.


I mean, I got it. You have to allow the other person. You know, they're say it's always kind of this thing of agreeing to disagree and it's OK. But, you know, we try to get around that thing without it being an impediment to what it is. We always we just discuss, you know, and for some people, it works where if the anger at each other, because it's all tone, you can say some things that you can never take back.


So you have to be careful with this. But some folks have to, like, sleep on it. We never go to sleep on our anger.


Do you fight how do you fight on the door slam? I say, yeah, and I'm kind of the guy that just goes away.


I just go away.


But then it dissipates fast and then it's nothing like nothing. Yeah. I'm the Chaser.


I follow him till I can get him outta here.


I do that to he's to just get away now because I think how you fight and how you come back from a fight is a big line in the sand.


It is.


You got to know how to do that.


You really do my big thing, my advice about marriage that I give to all of my friends. I say your marriage does not start when you walk down the aisle, your marriage starts when you look over at a person that you love more than anything, and there's something about them. You just see just one character trait, just a glimpse, and you're thinking, oh, man, that's going to drive me crazy.


I don't know if I could deal with this.


You just said you bring in like I don't know if I could deal with this in the next minute you like.


You know what? But I love them. I'm going to stick it out. What is it? That's when your marriage starts. That's great. Tell us what it is with Joey that that drives you crazy. I know I can tell you what drives me crazy, but, oh, I know a lot of things drive me crazy about Julius.


He's a little OCD, huh? Yes.


You know, I'm let's just see. Familiar with this issue.


I know. I know. I'm sorry. But I think it should be called obsessive compulsive order.


That drives me a little bit crazy. I'm I'm OCD to that's why people like you and me never get to do this. But I need it. So you'll take the there's all this mess on the floor.


I'm like, oh my God.


And it'll be too little from a walk into my office talking like crazy about everything and straightening out this book, getting this magazine over here where, you know, I set things down and that's where they are.


I mean, you can tell where I've been in the house just by looking, you know, he had orange juice over here because that little orange cap is there and he had a ginger ale over there.


Exactly what he did.


If he ever murdered anybody, I could like, you know exactly how my life got better as soon as we got together.


And I mean that to my life did get better. I had bad credit when I met Julius. I didn't know anything.


I I had my apartment in New York. That was the ceiling was caving in because it was rent stabilized. The pipes had burst so I couldn't get anyone to sublet it. And then I was here doing a TV show and I had to pay rent here. And then I was sending my family money. I was just all over the place. Julius came in. He was making my life easy. It's like B, this is what we could do me and you could move it together.


We could share the rent.


And I was like, oh my God, I started saving my money. This is how you build up your credit. I was like, Oh, really?


So all of a sudden I'm like, saving money. My credit got better. She didn't have to clean. I mean, I know how to clean baseboards. I know how to wash blinds. I can do it all. You know, Vinoba wasn't used to doing that kind of thing.


And I remember the very first time she stayed with me and then I went to the bathroom after she left because she had to go to work. And I went in there and the top two were off everything. The toothpaste, the the moisturizer, everything. I'm like going, oh, my God. It seemed like the bathroom had been blown up. She came back and she saw her bathroom and she said, Why did you do that? Why don't you put everything?


But I said, that's just what I do. And I said, Listen, honey, you don't ever have to worry about it. Just do what you do and I'll do what I do.


And that's the way we roll. Oh, wow. Ever since. And so just like what might take her a thirty minutes to an hour to do, I can do in fifteen.


She's a slob but that's us you must love. I always say what I feel is a man who doesn't know the meaning of the word, have no idea what I mean. And I'm always fixing when I'm writing better.


I've gotten better over the years. It took a while to get better, but I still do things.


Yeah. So then how long did it take to get to serious about moving in together? It seemed like we just lived together right away.


It felt like that. I always I always it. Well it did. Yeah. Because he brought his clothes to my apartment.


I loved it. There was nothing about it that I questioned. It was easy. It was right. And we had so much fun. It was the first time when I was coming from New York with three, four roommates.


Yeah. You know, living at Juilliard in the dorms. And then finally here I was with an apartment in Los Angeles.


And it's like all of a sudden we had a Christmas tree. It's like I had made a Christmas tree in years. We had Thanksgiving. Remember things first Thanksgiving. We must have so much we need so much food for ten people. And we ate it in four days. Oh, my God.


It always amazes me how people know how to trust another person.


I mean, we went to I mean, he came to see me like the first night I was I had moved around. I was doing a promotion of a movie. So I was in Chicago promoting my movie on his show. And then I. Went on to Denver and to two other shows around the country, and he called me and he said, I'd like to see you. Where are you? I said, I'm in Denver is Denver, very far from Chicago.


And he said, no, that's fine at all.


So he comes from Denver to try to have dinner with me and we got together.


What was it? That was it. Well, I don't know when you think to yourself, how did I not know that he would take out a knife and kill me?


You know, I mean, you get into a vulnerable place with a person who doesn't say, well, you know, I've always thought of that as the act of faith. My goodness.


Well, relationships are in their faith and vulnerability is the ultimate, you know, level of courage and bravery.


And you felt awfully vulnerable in our early days to be dating an actress. Remember what you said to me?


I sure do. When do I know you're not acting? And it never dawned on me and I thought it was such an innocent dear question. Like when you cry is that you crying like you cried the day we got I'm a great memorizer was we all are actors. We wrote our own house and my friends are with him at the hotel saying he was walking around the courtyard memorizing, memorize, memorize it. And then I saw my little one. I got it right.


So it comes time for the wedding to do our vows. And he does his vows, you know, beautifully. And I got to do my vows.


And I just choked and was like, when you hear about stage fright, I just couldn't do it. And and I was crying and I was just it was just a mess. When we got back to the hotel after the wedding and he said, I can't believe you didn't learn our vows. I said, I know the vows. I've rattled them off.


All right. He said, well, why could you do that today? He said, You're an actress. I said, I wasn't an actress today. I was a terrified bride.


I was in a state of panic.


Now you know how to know that I'm not a good actress when a real person couldn't remember my lines, which is what I'm actually good at. We'll have more after a quick break. Want to hear something amazing, Discovery matches all the cash you earn on your credit card at the end of your first year automatically and even more amazing, the things you can earn cash back on seem almost endless. You get cash back when you buy essentials like groceries, clothing, and in the past year, probably that new streaming service.


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We're back to our interview with Viola Davis and Julius Tennen, and I wanted to know, what do you get from each other that you can't get from anyone else?


Well, what I get what I can tell you, one of the big things I get from her.


As I can tell her anything and she listens and she yeah, she listens, she takes it in, she's always interested in my well-being and happiness.


And Julius has Julius has the capacity to love. Not everyone has the capacity to love.


You know, one of the things that Julius did when we first got together. Is he said the you know, you've never had a parent who died. I find that really interesting.


I was like, oh yeah, my both my parents are still here. He was like, all the it's going to be hard.


And, you know, my parents at that point were raising several of my siblings children because of drugs and all of that. And Julia said, we me tell you something. When parents have a hard life, they can go from pretty good health to really bad health in a very short period of time. And they don't have any resources. So do they have any insurance or whatever? Because when it happens, it's so devastating. He so kind of inundated with it.


You can't make choices. No one else in the family can make choices.


So I remember we got insurance on my parents. I remember my dad passed from pancreatic cancer and the first person I called was joyous. I was devastated because I was there. Hospice when he passed, I was out of my mind and I called Julius. I said, he's gone. And Julie says, OK. Oh, baby, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. OK, now here's what you're going to do. You go hang up from me, you're going to pick up the phone, you're going to call the insurance company.


You give them all the information where the funeral home is going to be. They will take care of everything.


I will get on the plane and I will be there as soon as I can, step by step that that person who literally has a capacity to love has really the capacity to really have your back in all of that deep, ugly, messy but beautiful things happen in your life.


That's the elixir as as far as I'm concerned, and that's everything with him. How long were you together before you got married? Four years.


Oh, well, there was a little you know, there wasn't fear from me. It was just that. I wanted to, you know, be free of all of my debt, and so when we got married, we could start off on even footing and she said, well, we're we're together. We're going to be together. So your dad is my dad. We're going to do this together.


And I remember not really saying anything that night. And then the next day I told her, I said, you know what? You're the girl.


For me, that's a very honorable idea that I want to be out of dad. I want to be responsible. I want to right into this, you know, without having to drag. That's right. That's. That's right.


I think that's Biola and Julia seem so connected. We wondered what throws them out of sync. We couldn't help but dig a little.


Are you are you the jealous type? Do you think I am? Not really. But I think it's good to have a little jealousy, but not I have a little jealousy.


I do because I always pinpoint those women who are very questionable. They may come off really nice, but they I always feel like we have a radar for those women.


Right? I don't think men do. Aha. So I'm like that and then I'm very, very articulate about those.


What did you what I said she can't come to the house anymore. We're having a party. We're having a party. I'm the mayor. Everywhere, everywhere I go, I can just go out and she's really more introverted, but I can walk in a room and I can just start having a conversation with anybody. I mean, anywhere in the subway station anywhere just comes easy for me.


I am an introvert. I am like maybe a step away from being a straight up loner. I love my alone time. I love getting lost.


I could drive to, you know, a theater, watch a, you know, a foreign movie, eat my sushi by myself with my book.


And that's it. I spent most of my time alone. I haven't had a lot of boyfriends in been long term.


So when I got married to have to answer to someone, to have to say, OK, this is where I'm going to be, it was very difficult for me.


It's like I almost needed a woman, Kabe someone like and, you know, the invention of cell phones. It's that that just killed me. So that was one thing that I felt like I was going to have to give up my independence, you know, and I didn't want to give up my name. I was like, oh, I don't know if I can give up my name.


I think that commits you to a stable long term marriage.


Yeah, I do worry more than I think the people that are in danger, the people who say, oh, I can't live without him or yeah, I'm breathless to get married, the ones that kaboom.


Yeah. You know, weeks. How about stress.


How do you handle stress. We had to really learn work on that because in the beginning, when he'd panic, I'd panic and it was a disaster. So we had to really work on. Somebody once said that a good marriage is where both people don't go crazy at the same time.


First thing he told me is kind of always one of those things where between us violence does tend to get more stressed out.


I had so much stress living in Los Angeles. I mean, I just didn't understand how to connect with people.


I felt like my funky look, my funky ways mean not really caring about being thin or cute or I just didn't have all of that stuff going on.


I just I, I felt like I didn't fit in.


And just New York was my city, you know, I was I never had delusions of becoming a star and nothing I never had anything.


I was a journeyman actor and then I met Julius and I did go back for six months to do a Broadway show. Was it wasn't it working in the second Kennedy Center?


She gave me goosebumps from the top of my head to my toes. And at the end of the show, I went backstage and I said, You're going to win the Tony Award for this? I was sure of it.


Speaking of awards, you wanted to ask about that speech and speech?


Oh, I mean, speech or Harriet Tubman and. Yeah. Oh, yeah. You know, I mean, it was just very political.


And the work that Harriet Tubman speech where, you know, that she talks about having a dream about a line.


Right. And white women with their hands outstretched, you know, reaching for her to come over the line. But then she wakes up and she says she can't ever get to that line. She couldn't ever. It's so heartbreaking. Right.


You know, moments like that where, you know, and Julius just having him in my life, it's like my way of sort of saving myself of what I what I feel this is just what I feel is that I don't like about L.A., which is trying to retain my authenticity, trying to retain something about me that is just myself. This is just how I felt about being out here, that everything was an audition, even friendships was an audition, that you had to sort of pass a test in order to be, you know, even be the cool friend, to be the cool mom.


But, you know, even when does your kid go to school? Right. And if it's not the hip, funky school that all the celebrities have their kids at, then it's like you're out, right?


That that's my protest. You know, I feel it is. It's like that's my protest. No, it's like everything, you know, even with how to get away with murder, taking my wig off, everything is my rebellion.


You know, it was her idea. Yeah.


I love how supportive he is of her work. I know something about that. Yes, you do.


I guess we see you as. Stable as hell. I mean, you guys are solid and talking to you. I am impressed with the insight you brought to your union. Not everybody has that.


One of the things I did before I met Joyce as I was in therapy because. I was not a great girlfriend. I had a lot of I would say like bad boyfriends, but I was attracted to them for a reason. So and I remember a friend of mine said, Viola, why do you keep meeting assholes? And I said, I don't know. Isn't that something I keep meeting these assholes? She said, Did you ever think it was you?


And I remember that was my big aha moment, and I think that's the best thing that I've brought into my marriage, is to really ask myself, what am I contributing to it or what am I doing to destroy it at any moment?


You know, it's like my first therapist said what she said was, Biola, whenever you're on automatic in your marriage, you're not in it. Hmm.


You know, and so that's that's been my personal responsibility, not to put everything on him, not to say make me happy, Julius. Make the marriage good. Julius, be the great husband.


Julius, I also have to step up. Right.


OK, I'm going to give you one last chance, OK? My husband is looking at me like, you know, you've already I go I could go on forever. Really. And I'm so fascinated by this. But if there was a young couple here about to be married, is there something you'd want to tell them to make their marriage last? The big thing I would tell them is that you have to listen to the other person. I mean, you really do.


You have to really listen, let it land. Because once you start listening, you're not you're not there.


You're not in it. You're not listening. Right. You know, that's a big one for me. What about you?


I would say that commitment is love. And and what I mean by that is you can't operate separately with your own joy and go on your own path and your own road if if in the end it doesn't honor the big umbrella of the ultimate commitment.


The ultimate commitment between Viola Davis and Julius Tennen, it was wonderful for us to experience it until next time.


I'm Phil Donahue. And I'm Marlo Thomas.


Your love. Really? Really. Oh, well, thank you. Thank you. This has been fantastic.


You were invited to one of those fabulous parties.


Double Date is a production of Pushkin Industries. The show was created by us and produced by Cherilyn Lee. Michael Beharry is associate producer. Musical adaptations of It Had To Be You Buy Sell Waggons Infonet.


Milo and I are executive producers, along with Mia Lobell and Little Molalla from Pushka Special thanks to Jacob Weisberg, Malcolm Gladwell, Heather Fain, John Schnauz, Carly Migliore, Eric Sandler, Emily Rustic, Jason Gambril, Paul Williams and Bruce Kluger. If you like our show.


Please remember to share, write and review. Thanks for listening.


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