Why Catherine Zeta-Jones And Michael Douglas Nearly Divorced

Ever since Danny DeVito introduced Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones back in 1998, they have worked to maintain their status as one of Hollywood's increasingly rare longstanding couples — but not without a few hiccups along the way. But the couple almost didn't happen. "The Mask of Zorro" star was recently single and not looking for love. And Douglas didn't help the situation. "After she told me she loved golf, I told her, 'I'm going to be the father of your children,' and then she said 'Goodnight,'" the "Fatal Attraction" actor said on "On Air with Ryan Seacrest" in 2018.

Luckily for him, Zeta-Jones felt a connection. "I knew this was something special," she told People in 2003. And she couldn't have been too put off by his forwardness because he did indeed become the father of her children. Even before tying the knot in November 2000, Douglas and Zeta-Jones welcomed their son Dylan, born the previous August. They expanded the brood in April 2003 with the birth of Carys.

Their lives seamlessly came together, with Zeta-Jones becoming close with her father-in-law and Douglas finding a support system in her parents. But not everything was sunshine and roses. In 2013, Douglas and Zeta-Jones separated. "Catherine and Michael are taking some time apart to evaluate and work on their marriage," their rep told Us Weekly that August. They quickly mended things, though. By that October, they had moved back in together. It got to that point because the couple had been trying to weather a pretty rough storm for a few years.

The couple had struggled with serious health issues

The early 2010s were difficult for both Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. In August 2010, Douglas shared he had been diagnosed with stage IV throat cancer (which in 2013 he revealed was actually tongue cancer), for which he had to undergo chemotherapy. Zeta-Jones took the news hard, experiencing sleepless nights and nonstop worrying. "I really thought, 'You are going to have to wipe me off the floor,'" she told The Telegraph in 2013. The stress affected Zeta-Jones' mental health.

In April 2011, just months into Douglas' treatment, she checked herself into a facility to treat her bipolar disorder, marking the first time she publicly disclosed her diagnosis. "[Bipolar] is something I have been dealing with for a long time," she told The Telegraph. "When you get sideswiped like that [with Douglas's illness] it's an obvious trigger." Zeta-Jones sought treatment again in May 2013, around the time she and Douglas stopped being seen together.

The aggravation of Zeta-Jones' condition amid Douglas' recovery was hard on their relationship, a source told People. But their health issues may also have caused a different kind of strain on the marriage. Two months before announcing their separation, Douglas infamously told The Guardian his cancer had been caused by HPV transmitted via oral sex. Zeta-Jones has consistently refused to comment on it. In 2015, Douglas admitted it had caused tension. "I so regretted any embarrassment that it caused Catherine," he told the Daily Mail, adding, "And her family."

Michael Douglas believes the situation was blown out of proportion

Neither Catherine Zeta-Jones nor Michael Douglas wanted to divorce. "Her parents have been together for more than 50 years and are her role models. She wanted her marriage to be like theirs," a source told Page Six. They both worked hard to fix the marriage because both wanted to be together. "It can't be a one-way street," he said on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" in 2015. Douglas also suggested their brief separation was turned into a bigger deal than it actually was.

"I think every couple has their difficult times," he told DeGeneres. "The only problem is, as you well know, we're all in the public eye, and it tends to get a little more exposed than most." Speaking to the Daily Mail, he also downplayed the situation. He said: "We had a little bump in the road." To Douglas and Zeta-Jones' loved ones, there was no question their separation was meant to be temporary. "I knew they would work it out ... They've always been very affectionate and easy (with each other)," Douglas' mother, Diana Dill, told the Daily News in 2014.

Douglas and Zeta-Jones have been going strong ever since. The secret to their long-lasting marriage is actually no secret at all. "The constant is love and respect," she told WSJ Magazine in 2021. But a key factor is that they enjoy each other's company. "My husband and I spend a lot of time together," she said.