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Marlo Thomas & Phil Donahue on "What Makes A Marriage Last": Leon Bibb Reports

40 celebrated couples share their secrets to long and fulfilling marriages.

CLEVELAND, Ohio — For tens of millions of Americans, their faces are familiar from television. 

Marlo Thomas of "That Girl" fame and The St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Phil Donahue, creator and host of the first TV talk show which featured audience participation.   

Married now for forty years. And authors of "What Makes A Marriage Last." 

As part of their 40th anniversary, they wanted more answers.  

"And we thought, wouldn't it be interesting to get out and talk with married couples that we've admired, and see if we could put togther what is this puzzle?" Thomas said. 

They conducted forty interviews of married couples. President Jimmy Carter and wife Rosalyn Carter. Al Roker and Deborah Roberts. Elton John and David Furnish. 

Hollywood's Viola Davis told them marriage does not start on the walk down the aisle with the ring and the rice, but at the breakfast table when you see …

"This person who's got a habit that you just can't stand and you think, 'oh my God! I'm not going to be able to live with that person!' And then you say to yourself, 'but I love this person,'" Thomas said. 

 Love blossomed a few years after Marlo and Phil met when she was a guest on his "Donahue" show. Married, they learned each partner must show the other a true self including vulnerabilities.  

The forty couples interviewed totaled 1,252 years of marriage. Common theme: Marriage takes work.   

"If one partner is passive, the other partner is going to get very tired just tap dancing and dragging the other partner along," Donahue explained. 

Their book is not a "how to" book. The couple call it a "what" book. What the forty couples did when they hit big obstacles in marriage. Example: When there is an argument that goes like this: "When you said.....!" "No, I didn't!" "Yes you did...!"

"Sooner or later, somebody ought to say, 'oh, lets kick that can down the road.' And marriage has a lot of cans down the road," Donahue said. 

Phil Donahue and Marlo Thomas' "What Makes A Marriage Last" is about what each partner must bring. It's not 50/50, but 100/100.

"What Makes A Marriage Last" is in paperback and available at most book retailers as well as on Amazon.

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