The year was 1979, and 26-year-old star-in-the-making Pat Benatar was not looking for a boyfriend. That all changed when a young guitarist—“the most drop-dead gorgeous man I had ever seen in my life”--walked into her rehearsal space one day.
“I thought, Girl, you have just seen the father of your children,” Benatar recalled of that moment in her 2010 autobiography Between A Heart And A Rock Place.
Turns out she was right: The guitarist was Neil Giraldo, who would end up being not only her longtime guitarist, but also her husband. The couple are now parents to two daughters, and have collaborated professionally as well as personally for 30 years strong and counting.
Benatar, who turns 60 on Thursday, is still in the thick of an active career—she and Giraldo embarked on a summer tour in 2012 and are currently playing dates around the nation through this spring--and explains that her long partnership with her husband is a result of respect and simply accepting that failure isn’t an option.
“It's kind of an incestuous relationship,” she told Parade of her marriage. “There isn't any part of our lives that isn't intertwined--so even when there's a conflict, you just have to resolve it.”
“It was a partnership from the very beginning,” Giraldo added. “We were just two missing pieces that found each other."
Benatar and Giraldo’s relationship didn’t start out under the most ideal of circumstances. Part of the reason Benatar was not looking for a boyfriend at the time was because she was separated from her first husband, a soldier in the army whom she married at age 19. “I knew the day we wed that I was making a terrible mistake,” she related in her autobiography. Meanwhile, Giraldo himself was in a relationship, with famous Exorcist actress Linda Blair.
The two dealt with mutual feelings for each other while on tour, rehearsing, recording a debut album, and traveling around the country before Giraldo finally one day asked Benatar to have a drink with him—alone. At the restaurant, he confessed that he believed Blair had cheated on him. Benatar noted that she was sympathetic, but deep down overjoyed. “This is a done deal,” she remembers thinking. “You. Are. Mine.”
From that point, it was just a few weeks before the star-crossed pair became an official couple. Benatar’s divorce went through in 1979, and she and Giraldo married in Hawaii in 1982.
Since the two met so fatefully in that rehearsal space, they’ve worked on a dozen studio albums, embarked on more than 20 tours, and seen 19 singles hit the Top 40 chart. Benatar has won four Grammy Awards. Still, she insists that she and Giraldo “met as regular people” which forms the solid ground for their relationship.
“I feel about him now the way I felt about him the very first moment I saw him, and I am so grateful for that,” Benatar confessed to Parade. “We're nuts about each other."