25 Famous Women on Marriage

“Go in ready for the work.” –Michelle Obama Photo: Getty Images

A royal wedding is fast approaching! We’ve seen the ring, the BBC interview, the fashion, and already there’s some family drama. Now that the countdown has officially started for Meghan Markle and Prince Harry to wed in May at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor, we gathered some words of wisdom on marriage from Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Michelle Obama, and Dame Helen Mirren. Read on for advice from 25 famous women on all the joys, pains, and *secrets* of being in a forever relationship.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
“Sometimes people say unkind or thoughtless things, and when they do, it is best to be a little hard of hearing — to tune out and not snap back in anger or impatience … When Marty and I were temporarily miffed by something one or the other of us said or did, I would take several deep breaths and remember that tempers momentarily aroused generally subside like a summer storm.” —The Washington Post, July 2014

Michelle Obama
“To the extent that there’s a lesson learned from another marriage, the thing that I tell lots of young couples is that marriage is hard work. Even the best of marriages require a lot of work — even if you’re married to your soul mate who has very few flaws. Building a life with a person other than yourself, and raising kids and dealing with all of the bumps and the bruises and the joys and the pains that go along with life, that creates the natural state of marriage, and it’s a challenge. I say that to people not to discourage them, but to say that you will inevitably hit those bumps. Don’t view that as a shortcoming of yourself or your spouse or your marriage. Don’t give up on it. Just understand that you’re going along the path that everybody else goes on. Go in ready for the work.” —Good Housekeeping, April 2010

Ina Garten
“The secret is that you just take care of each other and admire each other and support each other and you get that back … If Jeffrey and I disagree on something, he always agrees with me!” —People, April 2017

Helen Mirren
“People get together for reasons other than sex and, although it’s important in the beginning for most couples, it’s not what makes marriages last. But I think the power of partnership in marriage is under-recognised in our society. That’s what makes marriages work, not sex.” —Women & Home Magazine, January 2013

Gillian Flynn
On Gone Girl: “I wanted to write about marriage. In my first two books, my protagonists were single almost to the point of not having much attachment to anyone else in the world. I wanted to explore the opposite — when you willingly yoke yourself to someone for life, and what happens when it starts going wrong. I’m playing with the idea of courtship as a con game: You want this other person to like you, so you’re never going to show them your worst side until it’s too late.” —Entertainment Weekly, June 2012

Ellen DeGeneres
“Portia and I constantly say to each other, ‘We are so lucky.’ Sometimes it’s lying in bed at night before I go to sleep, and I just say thank you to whatever, whoever is out there. I’ve gotten to a place where I really am just settled. Really. I know that I’m not going anywhere. She’s not going anywhere. I’m not saying the relationship took a while; I’m saying in my life, it took a while to find this.” —People, October 2016

Betty White
On her greatest regret: “I spent a whole year, wasted a whole year that Allen and I could have had together, saying, ‘No, I wouldn’t marry him. No, I won’t. No, I won’t leave California. No, I won’t move to New York.’ I wasted a whole year we could have had together.” —Oprah, March 2015

Jhumpa Lahiri
“Being married doesn’t make writing about men any easier, just as my being a woman doesn’t make writing about women any easier. It’s always a challenge. That said, the experiences of marriage and motherhood have changed me profoundly, have grounded me in a way I’ve never been before.” —Writers Write

Dolly Parton
On the secret to making a marriage last: “Yeah, stay gone! We’ve been married for 50 years and I’ve been gone for about 47 of those. But the truth is, we’ve always been very compatible. To those that follow the signs, I’m a Capricorn and he’s Cancer, and those are very compatible signs. But we’ve always had a good time together, and he’s got a great sense of humor and so do I. And he loves staying home and I love staying gone, so it’s worked out really well … The longer you live with somebody, the more you know them, and you take on all their traits as well as them taking all of yours. And you just have a deeper and better understanding — more of an appreciation. But we’ve always had a great respect for each other, and I think that’s been the thing that really and truly sustained us through the years.” —Vanity Fair, August 2016

Iris Apfel
“[Carl and I] have a sense of humor. Most people break up for the most stupid reasons. Basically — unless they’re neurotics or something — they marry one another because they have some basis for it. Something other than wanting to hop in and out of the sack. At least that’s the best way to do it. If you have a sense of humor, the only misunderstanding is over stupid things like ‘We were at a flea market and I wanted to buy something and he said no.’ You get very heated and then you look at each other and laugh because it’s so silly.” —The Hollywood Reporter, September 2014

Megan Mullally
On advice for people getting married or who are married: “‘Fuck’ seems like it’s key. We have a two-week rule. We’re never apart for more than two weeks. Just not being separated for Jurassic periods of time seems to help. And no children probably helps a lot.” —GQ, May 2017

Gloria Steinem
On if she decided marriage was not for her: “Absolutely not. I assumed I had to get married. Everybody did. If you didn’t, you were crazy. But I kept putting it off: ‘I’m going to do it, but not right now.’ Until I was in my late 30s and the women’s movement came along, and I realized: I’m happy. Not everyone has to live the same way.” —The New York Times, November 2015

Lauren Bacall
“There’s no answer to why you don’t find personal happiness or satisfaction [in relationships.] It has a lot to do with luck and the time of your life. You don’t find it when you look for it anyway. What happens happens in life. Maybe I expect too much. I probably do. But listen, why shouldn’t I? I don’t want to settle. I was so lucky when I was young. What happened to me then sometimes happens to people when they’re older. And sometimes never happens. So I feel lucky that I had it at all. I think to be open to whatever happens to you in life is the best possible way to be. And I am.” —Parade, May 1997

Salma Hayek
“You’re going to laugh … Find the right guy! That is the key, and it’s so hard because there are so few of them. It’s very important that they support you. They should never make you feel bad or insecure. What’s important in a marriage is generosity, thoughtfulness, thinking of the other person all of the time … Spend quality time together. And don’t forget over the years.” —The Edit, February 2015

Gal Gadot
“Oh, [my husband]’s the best man. [Knocks on wood.] We met nearly ten years ago through mutual friends at this very strange party in the Israeli desert. It was all about yoga, chakras, and eating healthy — we didn’t exactly find ourselves there, but we found each other … I think I [knew he was the one], but I was too young to get it. He did! He’s ten years older than me. He told me on our second date he was serious and wasn’t going to wait more than two years to ask me to marry him. Fast-forward two years; he proposed. We were married in 2008 … Both of us said, ‘No games. Let’s just be honest and keep it simple.’ I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without him. Family still has to be the first priority. I have to do what’s good for my child.” —Glamour, March 2016

Diane von Furstenberg
On her views on marriage and why she still believes in it: “I didn’t think marriage was ever important to me, and that’s why I’m so surprised that I ended up marrying twice. And yet I married twice out of love for love … I don’t believe in rules. I think it’s the heart that should talk. The first thing about love is that you have to love yourself. No relationship will work unless you do. You have to be hard on yourself, demanding of yourself, but you have to like yourself. You can’t be needy. It doesn’t matter how much people love you. You cannot be needy. It’s very unattractive and a turnoff. And therefore it’s a game. That’s why it’s so important to be independent and have an identity outside your family. Because otherwise it can feel like you have no identity. And that is terrible. It’s not becoming, and it’s not pretty, and it makes you insecure, and you run into a hole.” —Harper’s Bazaar, January 2012

Kristen Bell
“If you’re in a fight with your husband, just stop and be vulnerable. Say, ‘I’m so scared this fight is going to lead to us breaking up and I don’t want to break up with you.’ Like, say that in the middle of a fight about the garbage and sh*t is gonna change.” —Women’s Health, August 2017

Sheryl Sandberg
“You can date whoever you want, but you should marry the nerds and the good guys … The guys who want an equal relationship. Guys who want to support your career … You ask and you ask early and you are not afraid of offending. If they’re going to be offended by the answer, you don’t want to date them anyway.” —The Financial Times, May 2017

Blake Lively
On dealing with conflicts in her marriage to Ryan Reynolds: “In other relationships, if something came up, I would call my girlfriends or my sister, and say, ‘Hey, this is what he did — what should I do?’ Where with him, we were friends for two years before we were ever dating. And I treat him like my girlfriend. I’m like, ‘Hey, this happened. It upset me. This is how I feel. What do I do?’ And he does the same for me. He treats me like his best buddy.” —Glamour, September 2017

Judith Light
On her long-distance marriage with Robert Desiderio: “It’s been the best. I highly recommend it. He loves California, and I would never ask him to leave there and he would never ask me to leave here … Now, mind you, I go back and I shoot Transparent and I’m there four or five months, so I’m there all the time, so then when I’m done there, I come back here and he’s flying here today, so we’re going to be together for a few days and then I’ll go back to California, so it really is this kind of supportive … we’re on each other’s team … There’s a solid, different kind of intimacy that comes about out of this and the support for each other and each other’s lives. I think people need alone time. I know I’m one of those people that needs that.” —People, October 2017

Tina Fey
“The only thing that comes to mind is my mother-in-law, before I got married, she said, ‘My only advice for marriage is don’t fuss too much.’ She’s a little Southern lady, and it’s so true. Sometimes if you’re not really mad about it, don’t make yourself mad about it because you think you should be. Like, who cares?!” —Buzzfeed, December 2015

Alicia Keys
“[Swizz and I] like surprising each other and going on secret weekend dates. One of us plans it and the other has no idea where we are going. We’ve found some undiscovered gems and moments to take hikes or walks or just discover new things about life and each other. Those are my favorite times.” —People, April 2017

Nicole Richie
“We [she and Joel Madden] met and we were partners from day one. And from the second we found out we were going to be parents together, we looked at each other and we said, ‘Okay, both of our parents are divorced. We both have had ups and downs with our parents and don’t really have a strong example of what a healthy family life is. But we’re recognizing that now, so let’s work at it and let’s go through this together as a team.’ It’s been great. And I would say that’s the easiest and hardest part.” —Oprah: Where Are They Now?, July 2014

“You have to be at the right time in your life that you’re ready for an everlasting relationship, that it becomes first and a priority in your life. If your career is important to you, don’t get married and have children, because something will give. I know we as women, we want to be able to have it all, but we can’t have it all at the same time. So make your priority of what you want at that time.” —Oprah: Where Are They Now?, April 2016

Miranda July
“Each couple’s version of intimacy is so fascinating to me. A friend will tell me about her marriage, and I’ll think, Yikes, they have horrible communication! They’re going to get divorced! And then I’ll hear about them at another time and think, Wow, they love each other so much! They have sex on the bathroom floor! I’ve come to see that it’s all true, and true of my marriage, too. These wild contradictions are the unique heart of each couple.” —The New Yorker, August 2017

25 Famous Women on Marriage