1. Believe in signs. Mariska’s first real date with her husband, Peter Hermann, was in a church. On that day, an inner voice told her that she had not gotten married yet because she had been waiting for Hermann. “I had been engaged before, but what I felt for Peter I had never felt before — it was knowing that someone else put you first and that you put him first. A lot of people have doubts on their wedding day, but I was never so sure and happy. We were going into the unknown together and were taking care of each other the way you’re supposed to when you are married.”
2. Marriage is about the perfect balance of opposites. Hargitay describes her six-year marriage as “I bring him out, he brings me in; he slows me down, I make him go faster.” She and Hermann are “really different,” she says. “Sometimes we want to do really different things, and that is hard to navigate. We have to sit down and figure out how to carve this time out for you and this for me, because we need both. That’s just the way we are, so let’s just make peace with it.”
3. Follow the two-week rule. Hargitay says many actors have given her the same wise marriage advice: Never be away from each other for more than two weeks, or you’ll start leading separate lives. “I don’t always know what he’s thinking, but we want the same things. We trust that the other person wants what we want and shares the same values. That’s our gift. Even if we don’t talk all day, we are connected.”
4. Set aside quality time with and without the kids. They grab all the time together — and with their son, August—that they possibly can. On weekends, there is no sleeping in, she says, and her husband whips up “a whole big breakfast extravaganza with pancakes, bacon and eggs, oatmeal, and apples.” When they have time without their son, they read together or catch a movie. “I don’t have a normal job where you can have date night. We just had a ‘two-weeks-in-Paris-with-August’ date, which is better than any date night,” she says, grinning.
5. The toughest moments can often end up being the greatest. “We’ve said really honest things to each other — about how we feel and what we want — and I’ve thought for sure we were going to break up. And then we laugh, we can make a joke about what we talk about, and it becomes a part of the repertoire of the relationship. It’s not this secret you carry anymore. We have it out in the open. It dissipates any bad feelings, because you know the person heard you and it registered.”