Oscar-winning actor Denzel Washington and his wife Pauletta have been married for nearly 35 years, and it's safe to say they've picked up some words of wisdom along the way. Although it hasn't always been an easy road for the couple, thanks to awkward first dates, rejected proposals, and Hollywood divorce rumors, they've managed to make their marriage much stronger, while also raising four successful kids. Here's the story of how they met, and what life has been like for the stars since then.
They meet on set, leading to an funny first date
The couple met in 1977 while filming the television film Wilma, and started dating about a year after they first met. Denzel shared the story of their first date on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and explained why he and Pauletta still argue over who paid for the date.
Third time's a charm
Several years after that disputed date, Denzel was ready to pop the question, but Pauletta initially turned him down. In an interview with Access Hollywood, the couple playfully argued about how many times he had to propose. Denzel originally said he had to propose twice, but his wife corrected him and said it was actually three times.
Denzel, still unsure, asked, "Why was it twice … Why would I have to ask again?"
"Because I said no," Pauletta fired back.
"You heard it here first," Denzel said. "She turned me down, she said no. And since it was three times, that means she turned me down twice."
Thankfully, the third time was the charm, and the couple married on June 25, 1983.
They grow their family and focus on a stable home life
Denzel and Pauletta had their first child in 1984, a son named John David. Two years later, they had a daughter, Katia, and then in 1991 they had twins Olivia and Malcolm.
Fatherhood is clearly a responsibility that Denzel takes very seriously. When doing press for his latest film, Roman J. Israel, Esq. (which earned him the Best Actor nomination in this year's Oscars), he talked about the importance of having a father figure.
"It starts in the home," he said to theGrio. "If the father is not in the home, the boy will find a father in the streets. I saw it in my generation and every generation before me, and every one since."
"My children are good people," he said in an interview with The Guardian. "They are not perfect but they are generous and humble and kind. My wife did that."
Now, all four children are following in their parents' footsteps and pursuing careers in Hollywood, both in front of the camera and behind-the-scenes.
They renew their vows in a romantic ceremony in South Africa
In 1995, the couple renewed their vows during a romantic trip in South Africa. Well-known activist and archbishop Desmond Tutu officiated the ceremony.
Of his long-lasting marriage, Denzel said in a 2010 Guardian article, "There is no secret to the perfect marriage. I have been married 27 years to Pauletta. Everybody has their ups and downs; we've had ours. It's hard work, you know. But we made a commitment. A spiritual foundation helps everything – marriage, work, peace of mind."
Pauletta echoed the idea of a strong foundation, saying to The Root, "When Denzel first started, I was right there, but there was no focus on me. But there's been no less presence in his life and in my life than now. As you climb, you grow deeper in the foundation, so it makes our foundation deeper."
In the face of divorce rumors, they remain committed
Like nearly all celebrity couples, Denzel and Pauletta have weathered their fair share of rumors about infidelity and divorce. In 2013, there were reportedly pictures of Denzel kissing another woman, spurning rumors that the couple was headed for divorce. Both Denzel and Pauletta denied the rumors, but acknowledged that marriage can be a lot of work.
"I don't know what statistics are, or I don't know if people in show business have a higher rate of divorce, but I just think that you have to work at it," Denzel wrote in a Reddit AMA. "Not give up on each other. It's a commitment. It's not all the honeymoon, it doesn't last forever, so you work at it. And hopefully you're good friends first, that might help!"
In June, the couple will celebrate 35 years together
In a November interview, People Magazine noted that Denzel and Pauletta are set to celebrate their 35th anniversary in June 2018. They asked how early he starts planning the celebration or gift, and his response was hilarious.
"Don't put no pressure on me now, don't put no pressure on me!" Washington joked. "Go on, interview is over! Gotta go!"
We're sure he'll think of the perfect anniversary gift for her.