05/21/2014 10:36 am ET Updated Jul 21, 2014

Phil And Me -- 34 Years Later


I was always terrified of marriage. It seemed to me like a place where women lost sight of themselves. And I was quoted saying things like "Marriage is like living with a jailer you have to please." Or, as Gloria Steinem once said, "I can't mate in captivity."

You get the picture. We were both poster girls for the single state. Then I went on this talk show, and some chemical thing happened. That's the only way I can explain it. The next night the show's host, Phil Donahue, asked me to dinner -- and that, as they say, was that. After three years of a long distance romance (he lived in Chicago and I lived in L.A.), we got married -- on May 21, 1980 -- quietly in my parents living room in Beverly Hills, with only our families present.

The next day, while my new husband and I were on the plane to Greece for our honeymoon, I had my first marital panic. He had just left his seat to use the bathroom, when the woman sitting across from us noticed my wedding band.

You're Marlo Thomas, aren't you?" she said. "Did you get married?"

This was the first person outside of our families to know about our wedding. I blushed, in my new bride role.

"Yes," I said shyly. "We were married yesterday."

"Why?" she said. "I am so disappointed. Why would you get married?"

I was stunned. Oh my God, I thought, what have I done? Women like this have been looking to me to set an example of independence. And now I've let them all down.

"I just can't believe you'd get married," the woman pressed.

Before I could form a cohesive response, Phil returned to his seat. I looked into his sparkly blue eyes and at that white mop of hair, and I flashed back to that day that we first met on his talk show. And I remembered the romantic journey we'd taken since then.

As he settled into his seat, Phil randomly kissed my cheek and I kissed him back.

The woman across the aisle had her answer.

That was 34 years ago this week, and the only thing that's changed is now I'm a poster girl for what a long marriage looks like.

Marriage isn't easy, of course. It takes work -- just like everything else we give ourselves to in our lives. But unlike writing or acting or any business, the perks of the job know no ceiling. Since that day in May 34 years ago, Phil and I have moved from being friends and lovers and newlyweds to lifelong companions; and the richness of the bond we have created has made us both feel stronger, safer, prouder and more purposeful -- and, yes, happier -- than we may have ever felt without each other.

I'm lucky. I got the guy I'd dreamed about, even though I didn't know I'd been dreaming about him. And he's lucky, too, because for all the love he pours on me, he gets it back tenfold.

So Happy Anniversary to us.

In years past, I've shared many photos of Phil's and my marital adventures. But I've never mentioned what we give each other as our gifts. We decided on our first anniversary that the best present we could offer each other -- with our crazy work and travel schedules -- would be our time. So each year we carve out as many days as we can -- sometimes it's just a few days, other times a week or even two -- and pick a destination to celebrate the new year in our lives. We've gone as far as China and as close as driving to the mountains nearby. The slide show below is of some of those trips over the decades.

In any event, by the time you're looking at this, I'll be off somewhere with my guy, raising a glass to times past and days to come. And you know what that means: more pictures to follow!

Hope you enjoy the travelogue.

Phil And Marlo's 34th Anniversary