Ted Danson has had an unbelievable career in comedy. Despite the occasional miss, his roles on Cheers and The Good Place alone have solidified his status as a Hollywood legend. Similarly, his personal life has been a smash hit for the past 20-plus years. But that wasn’t always the case.

As Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen’s bumpy love story proves, sometimes you have to deal with your fair share of drama and heartbreak before being rewarded with unconditional love. 

Here’s what we can learn from Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen’s marriage:

Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen have enjoyed over two decades of wedded bliss, but when the pair first met on the set of Pontiac Moon in 1993, the outlook was anything but promising. That’s because they had both sworn off love for good.

Steenburgen had gotten divorced in 1990 and Danson was having zero luck in the romance department. Not only was he twice divorced, but his second marriage ended in scandal and a historic $30 million settlement

Everyone changes…

Ted Danson’s first shot at love came at a young age. In 1970, at the age of 23, he married actress Randy Gosch whom he had met at Carnegie Mellon University. As their respective careers began taking off, however, they found themselves on different paths and separated in 1975. 

People change with every experience they have and don’t always remain compatible.

It’s a lesson Danson would soon learn for a second time. Unphased by his divorce, Danson said “I do” to producer Cassandra Coates just two years later. Sadly, a major health scare would soon drive a wedge between them. 

And tragedy can change your relationship

The year was 1979 and Coates was giving birth to their first child, Kate, when she suffered a stroke that paralyzed her left side. Recovery was slow and painful, but Danson remained by her side, even sleeping on the hospital room floor for the first three weeks. Unfortunately, the trauma soon took its toll. 

Speaking candidly about their experience, Coates told People in 1982:

For the first month, I did nothing but cry. I gave Ted permission to leave me. I thought I was going to be a wipe-out the rest of my life.

Cassandra Coates, People Magazine

As she noted, they were still “adjusting to the fact that we aren’t the same people we were before this happened.” 

Not only was their intimacy gone — “You don’t think about your sex life when you’re paralyzed,” she told the outlet — but as they tried to find their new “normal,” tensions grew.

As Danson admitted, “There was a huge rift between us — a massive lack of trust” accompanied by a major “sense of sacrifice” on his part.

Sometimes you have to lose everything to find joy 

Despite all of the challenges they faced, Danson and Coates remained a team for the next decade, but their foundation would crumble in the early ‘90s.

Danson was accused of having an affair with co-star Whoopi Goldberg on the set of 1993’s Made in America and the media just couldn’t get enough. That’s when the actor’s life began spiraling out of control. 

His marriage fell apart, he was hit with a history-making $30 million divorce settlement, Cheers was officially over, Made in America was a flop and, when all was said and done, his new relationship with Goldberg just couldn’t withstand the pressure. The couple called it quits after only 18 months of dating, shortly after an embarrassing comedy routine in which Danson dressed up in blackface to roast his girlfriend.

“I was a mess-and-a-half,” Danson told AARP Magazine of that time in his life.

I thought, I’m incapable of being in a relationship. But I was working on myself.

Ted Danson, AARP Magazine

And that’s when the unexpected happened. As he noted, it’s “ironic how life works in those moments. Once you throw your arms up and surrender, a lot of times things come your way.”

True love comes when you least expect it…  

Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen
3/7/99 Los Angeles, CA. Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen at the 5th Annual Screen Actors Guild Award.

When Danson met Steenburgen on the set of Pontiac Moon in 1993, she was in a similar headspace to his. She was a newly single mother of two, having divorced Malcolm McDowell in 1990, and, like her co-star, she had all but given up on love.

“I announced to all my friends — not dramatically, but very seriously — that I was done with relationships,” she told Closer

That all changed one fateful day. The actors, who were tasked with playing a married couple, spent five hours shooting a canoe scene that would alter their lives forever. As Danson told the magazine, “We went out as friends and by the time we came back, we were in love.”

The timing of their encounter, which may have seemed odd at first, was actually perfect, as the pair had similar experiences to bond over.

As Danson explained, “We found each other when I was 45 and she was 40 — we had lived a bit.”

Both of us stared down some demons within ourselves, and it was lucky that we met then.

Ted Danson, Closer Weekly

They soon restored each other’s faith in love and were married in 1995.

True love gets stronger with age 

While Danson experienced his first three relationships crumble over time, with Steenburgen he learned a valuable lesson: True love gets stronger with age.

When faced with hardships, personal growth, and changing outlooks on life, true love doesn’t dissolve. Rather, it’s able to withstand anything you throw at it.

Which explains why the couple is as crazy in love today as they were when they first met. 

“I’m madly in love with Mary,” Danson proclaimed in 2017, gushing, “She’s a remarkable human being so I’m just incredibly blessed. It feels like heaven on Earth,” he continued. “If I were to die, I can say, I know what it’s like to be loved and to love.”

The feeling is mutual. “I’m ridiculously in love with him,” Steenburgen proclaimed in 2018. “I find him endlessly fascinating. He surprises me all the time and most of all he makes me laugh.” 

Ted and Mary’s biggest lesson:

It’s easy to have regrets or second-guess your choices in life, especially when the outcome isn’t the one you’d hoped for, but consider this: If you were to change even a single element of your past, your present might look very different.

This is a truth Danson is acutely aware of. As he told AARP Magazine, “If I corrected my mistakes — which are cringers — would I take them away if it were to alter anything about where I am now? No. Life is messy. The older I get, the more I realize it’s okay to be imperfect,” he noted. “Because you can still grow and make changes in your life.” 

Rather than pondering the what-ifs, use every experience, both good and bad, as an opportunity to learn. Treat failure as a chance to grow and better yourself and remember that your present is the result of everything that came before it, so there’s no time for regret. Instead, trust that you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be or, at least, that you’re headed there.

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