Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson: 28 Years of Love

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Once we reach 60, many of us take a moment to look back over our love lives. Romance can come and go in the blink of an eye, or it can endure for decades to come, but love is always remarkable. It can inspire or hurt, but it’s something that none of us would want to live without.

Nevertheless, it’s hard not to look at those with long-lasting relationships with a sense of envy – what have they done right, how do they keep it together and what can we do to emulate them?

We all know couples who’ve stuck together through thick and thin, and their advice over a drink can prove invaluable, but what about those in the public eye? Celebrity relationships are famously brittle thanks to immense public speculation and the pressures of their respective jobs.

That’s why it’s so impressive when celebrity couples endure throughout the years, and why in this article we’re going to take a look at one of Hollywood’s most enduring couples – Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson.

Tom’s first marriage

Today, it’s hard to recall a time when Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson weren’t a couple. The actors, who share two sons together, have been married for a remarkable 28 years, staying out of the headlines and generally being very much in love.

However, contrary to popular understanding, Rita was not Tom’s first wide. In fact, Tom Hanks had been married before to his college girlfriend Samantha Lewes. The couple had wed in 1978, as the then 21-year old aspiring actor looked to settle down early, partly motivated by loneliness, he would later admit.

It was at this time that Tom and Samantha had their two children, Colin and Elizabeth. Hanks would later describe it as the best thing that ever happened to him, as it stopped him from becoming a slave to parties and distraction.

“I had kids very young. My son Colin was born when I was 21 and my daughter Elizabeth was born four and a half years later,” he told BBC host Kirsty Young on Desert Island Disks. “By then I thought I was rolling along with the natural order of things.”

Wilson & Hanks

Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson were both born in California in 1956, and both shared an early aspiration to become actors, with Tom studying theatre at California State University, Sacramento, while Rita earned early TV work with the Brady Bunch at 16. However, neither would have much success in the 70s and had to wait until the mid-80s to find their career footing – and each other.

In 1985, the two were cast in the movie Volunteers, and it was there that they fell in love.

At the time, Hanks was still married to his first wife, Samantha Lewes. He was ashamed that he’d fallen in love at the time, but his chemistry with Rita was too strong to ignore. Speaking to GQ magazine, he said “Rita and I just looked at each other and — kaboing — that was that. I asked Rita if it was the real thing for her, and it just couldn’t be denied.”

He would divorce Samantha in 1987, marrying Rita a year later. In an interview with Oprah after his back-to-back Oscars wins for Philadelphia and Forest Gump, Tom said about his relationship with his wife: “I view my wife as my lover, and we have a bond that goes beyond words like wife or girlfriend or mother. For example, I was able to construct a number of things in Philadelphia [1993] because of my relationship with Rita. The way my character felt about his lover is the way I feel about mine. The same was true when I played Forrest Gump, who loved Jenny. Without my connection with Rita, I don’t know how I would’ve been able to connect with what Forrest was going through.”

That kind of love is exceptionally rare, and it’s still blossoming within the couple, with a recent interview between Rita and Piers Morgan, she said: “Ill never forget, we were standing on the corner of 57th and 5th in New York, or 58th and 5th. We were holding hands, and we were waiting for the traffic light to change. And he looked at me and he said, ‘You know, I just want you to know, that you never have to change anything about who you are in order to be with me.’ Literally, a wave of — if love is a feeling, or a cellular thing that happens to your body, it went through me, and that’s pretty much who he is, and how he’s been.”

What can we learn from Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson?

Tom and Rita’s love is obviously remarkable, and with all remarkable relationships we have a tendency to believe that they aren’t possible for us, but that’s simply not the case.

Think of Tom. He’d married early and had two children. When you’re in those kinds of relationships, it can feel like you’ll never get out, but Tom found that he could be happier elsewhere and did what he needed to be done.

It was a step out into the unknown with a person that he felt immense chemistry with, he showed that if you follow your heart, you can find an enduring love.

Though they met in their late 20s, the fact that the couple remain very much in love today in their 60s should be a huge boost to those of us still looking for love. It’s proof that rather than fading away, love at our age burns just as brightly – all you need to do it go out there and get it for yourself.