How Barbra Streisand and James Brolin Have Kept Their Marriage Strong for 20 Years
Barbra Streisand and James Brolin are known as one of Hollywood's biggest power couples. But before they got together more than two decades ago, the singer and the actor had been unlucky in love — and the story of how they ended up together is beyond sweet.
Both husband and wife had been married to others previously. Streisand was married to actor Eliot Gould from 1963 to 1971, and has one son, Jason from that marriage. Brolin was married twice before, first to Jane Cameron Agee, with whom he had two children, Josh (a high-profile actor in his own right) and Jess. He then married Jan Smithers, with whom he has a daughter, Molly. And before they met, Streisand had become comfortable with being single. "Without being in despair, I was finally liking my solitude," she told People.
James Brolin, Barbra Streisand, and Josh Brolin pose on the red carpet together.
Streisand and Brolin first met when they were set up at a party. "I met him at a dinner and expected a bearded mountain-man type, and he had cut off all his hair and was clean-shaven," she told W magazine. "I asked him, 'Who screwed up your hair?' He later told me that's when he fell in love with me. My fella likes to hear the truth, which is unusual."
Brolin and Streisand at the premiere of The Mirror Has Two Faces in 1996.
Their first date was July 1, 1996, and it went so well that they talked until 3 a.m. and then fumbled while trying to decide whether to go in for the kiss. For Streisand's part, she said it took "a couple of months" before she knew he was the one. And around that time, Brolin went to Ireland to direct My Brother's War, so their relationship was often over the phone. By November, he had moved in with her.
Brolin and Streisand embrace as Brolin gets his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1998.
Some of the first people who knew Streisand and Brolin were getting married were fellow A-listers. People reported that John Travolta, Kelly Preston, Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson, and Marlon Brando were kept waiting at a dinner party because Streisand was meeting the rabbi who was set to marry them. "After her mother, Kelly and I were the first to know the big news," Travolta told the magazine. "We got misty-eyed, then thrilled that we were in on it so quickly. But Barbra asked us to keep it a secret."
An overhead view of Streisand's estate, showing the tent set up for their wedding.
The two were married in 1998 at Streisand's estate in Malibu, California. She wore a crystal beaded Donna Karan gown with a 15-foot veil. The wedding date, July 1, was the second anniversary of their first date. And in classic, fabulous diva style, according to the New York Daily News, Streisand insisted the caterer return the Pellegrino they mistakenly brought instead of the Perrier she requested. Another celebrity move? She put loudspeakers outside her home so the press outside couldn't hear them recite their vows.
Workers bring in chairs for Streisand and Brolin's wedding in 1998.
Guests reportedly included Travolta, Preston, Hanks, Wilson, Quincy Jones, and Sydney Pollack. Streisand sang two love songs and Brolin gave an emotional speech. "I can't tell you how lucky I am that this would happen to me so late in life," he said, according to People. "Every night is a new adventure. Sleeping is a waste of time. I can't wait to see her again in the morning."
Nowadays, Streisand is proud her marriage has lasted for two decades. "Twenty years in Hollywood is like 50 years in Chicago, I always say," she told Extra. She said she's learned how to tell the truth in a way that preserves emotions. "The Dalai Lama says, 'Give truth with compassion...' I used to use truth as a weapon years ago, actually, 'Well, you look fat 'cause you're fat ... I'm telling you the truth.' Truth with compassion would say it a different way — I don't think you can take each other for granted."
Jason Gould, Barbra Streisand, and James Brolin pose at a French ceremony to honor Streisand.
There are other secrets to their long-lasting marriage which are far more practical. Brolin said a key to their relationship happiness is keeping separate bank accounts. "We've bifurcated, and I love it that way," he told HuffPost Live. "I have my own money and she has her own money. […] This is my third marriage, and I know what trouble can come out of marriage, so I didn't want any reason that I would ever have to be either divorced or married again. We've been in heaven for 20 years, so it works."
Brolin also has said couple's counseling is a great way to resolve conflict. "I do believe in counseling if anybody ever has a problem in their marriage," he told Entertainment Tonight. "Bring in a referee, talk it over, and I swear to you, it will dispel by the end of the session, each time!"
Streisand, for her part, keeps the romance alive by leaving him notes. "I'm always welcome when I get home," Brolin told ET. "I always get notes, 'Hurry home!' When I get there, there's always something kind of great waiting for me, some plan, and I try to reciprocate."
This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.