A 20-year marriage is an urban legend for most Hollywood couples, but in 2016, Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos toasted two decades worth of wedded bliss. They originally met on the set of All My Children, playing each other’s love interests on the show. It wasn’t long before real life started to mimic set life. After a year of dating, Ripa and Consuelos eloped to Vegas on May 1, 1996. Over the years, they have shared the secrets to their happy union. I spoke with therapist Kimberly Hershenson about Ripa and Consuelos’ marriage and the positive takeaways from their marital success.
Communication, especially listening, is key to any successful relationship. Ripa stressed this point to AOL in 2015, saying about partnership, “That’s what you want in life, to have a good companion, somebody that loves you, that listens to you and is your equal in every way.” It is the small moments of communication that can make a big difference. Hershenson suggests, “If you know your partner has a big meeting at work, send them a text wishing them luck. If your partner had a long day, give the a message. These small gestures show your partner they are loved and supported.” This type of daily communication can help couples feel connected and united.
Fighting can be stressful in a relationship, but Ripa doesn’t avoid arguments with Consuelos. She told People in 2013, “…it’s OK to fight about things. We’re secure with each other. I don’t feel like if we have an argument, it will be the end of our lives.” Fighting in a marriage is common and can be a healthy way to let go of anger and resolve problems. Hershenson suggests focusing on emotions rather than placing blame when arguing. She says, “Fight fairly. Use ‘I’ statements attached to a feeling instead of ‘you’ which puts the focus on your emotions rather than blaming the other person.” Even if the fighting gets heated, Hershenson recommends never dropping the d-word — divorce — during a fight. “Do not threaten divorce no matter how upset you get,” she states.
Setting boundaries for a peaceful union
As much as she isn’t afraid of conflict, Ripa also stresses the importance of a peaceful union. She told AOL, “The phrase ‘this too shall pass’ is such an important phrase when you’re in your early wedding years. Every argument, every disagreement, seems like the end of the universe and it really isn’t.” Knowing that a fight is not the end of a relationship can help a couple weather trying times.
Hershenson encourages couples to keep their relationship drama-free and she suggests maintaining privacy between partners. “Set boundaries with others, including in-laws and children. Do not share personal details of your relationship with others such as fights or your sex life.” And when a fight does occur, take a cue for Ripa, and acknowledge that it is a fleeting moment.
Ripa has made it very clear how much she and Consuelos support one another. She told Good Housekeeping in 2010, “When you marry somebody, you really are life partners. What happens to them happens to you. So we feel things very deeply for each other.” With Consuelos’ support, Ripa agreed to join Regis Philbin on Live! With Regis and Kelly in 2001, despite her worries. This type of support can strengthen a marriage. Hershenson reiterates this important point. She says, “Offer support. Asking your partner how they are doing sometimes without even sharing your own personal issues allows you to be completely available to them.” The partnership will deepen if both members feel they can lean on their partner during times of self doubt or insecurity.
Ripa adores Consuelos and sang his praises when she was interviewed by Marlo Thomas in 2012. Ripa expressed her deep gratitude to Consuelos, sharing that he is a wonderful husband and father. She said, “He’s my friend. I just sort of tell him that every day or at least I try to tell him that every day.” This type of appreciation can lead to a meaningful bond for couples.
Hershenson offers a gratitude practice for couples, “Each partner should find three things they are grateful for each day about his or her partner and share it with them. Whether it’s gratitude for working hard, cleaning up the house or taking care of the children, complimenting your loved one leads to increased positivity in the relationship.” Saying thank you often will lead to a happier union.
Weekly date nights
Ripa makes sure to schedule a weekly date night with Consuelos, even if it is just time spent watching a favorite TV show together. She told Redbook in 2009, “A date night for us is watching Top Chef. A date night for us is getting our kids asleep before 9:30! It’s really just about checking in, asking how the other person’s day is, and cuddling up. It doesn’t have to lead to anything, although usually it does.”
A weekly date night can help a couple stay connected and keep the intimacy going. Hershenson backs up Ripa’s suggestion stating, “Set aside one night a week for ‘date night in.’ Set the table, put out candles and have a delicious meal together.” She also stresses the importance of devoting full attention to each other, suggesting, “Turn off electronics and focus on conversation.” Date nights are a great time to reconnect, especially if partners have children or demanding careers.
Along with a weekly date night, regular sex, can help sustain a marriage. On Watch What Happens Live in 2016, Andy Cohen brought up the topic of sex with Consuelos. Consuelos coyly responded, “We keep it going! I’m bananas over my wife.” Even small gestures of affection are beneficial. Hershenson says, “Physically touch each other. Whether it’s a kiss hello or goodbye, snuggling on the couch, or holding hands. Even non-sexual touching builds connection between partners.” So, take those opportunities each day to touch your partner, whether it’s a hug, kiss, or cuddle.
Ripa and Consuelos not only nurture their marriage, but they are also raising three children. Spending time together with their kids creates a sense of family unity. Ripa told Good Housekeeping in 2010, “It’s important to have that time together as a family. We have some very deep conversations.”
Spending quality time as a family is a great opportunity to check in with everyone. Hershenson says, “Whether it’s a board game, arts and crafts, baking, or a family outing to a museum or park, the focus should be solely on family time, free from distractions. Have a weekly discussion about the high point and low point of everyone’s week.” This focused time will build a sense of unity and trust for all members of the family.
When asked in 2012 by Good Housekeeping, about her best qualities as a wife, Ripa answered, “I don’t give him a hard time about seeing his friends. Or for doing things independently, like taking a weekend biking trip with his racing friends. He doesn’t need to take me everywhere or do everything with me. I’m very much about us having our own separate time.” This time apart will help partners maintain a sense of independence.
Hershenson agrees with Ripa’s statement. She suggests, “Be independent. Find a hobby that you are interested in, whether it’s running, painting, or cooking, and engage in the activity without your partner. Do a brunch or night out with friends every so often. Make sure you maintain individuality in the relationship.” Spending time apart will foster a sense of balance in the relationship.
Keep the dating vibe alive
Ripa makes no secret that, after twenty-plus years together, she still has a crush on Consuelos. She told Marlo Thomas in 2013, “I’ve had a crush on him since the day I met him. I think having a crush on someone is important.”
Hershenson suggests incorporating dating rituals into a marriage. She says, “Remember what it was like when you were dating and bring some of those behaviors back into the relationship. Text your partner in the middle of the day to let them know you’re thinking of them. Buy them their favorite treat as a surprise. Kiss them goodbye and say you can’t wait to see them later.” Dating can be fun and there is no reason why dating rituals need to stop when a couple marries.
Their love stays strong
Ripa and Consuelos continue to be super adorable and gush over each other, even after two plus decades of marriage. They make marriage look good! Hopefully they continue to share their fun, spontaneous, romantic love moments so that fans can take notes on what makes a strong marriage.