Her first marriage was with Paul Johnson, a music composer, from 1976-83. She found long-lasting love with Frank Gifford after that.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on June 10, 2021. It has since been updated.
Former Today Show co-host Kathie Lee Gifford, 69, has had a long career and marriage with Frank Gifford, who died in 2015 at the age of 84. The couple was married for almost three decades. However, that was Kathie's second marriage. Her first one was with Paul Johnson, a music composer, to whom she was married from 1976-83.
In her memoir, It's Never Too Late: Make the Next Act of Your Life the Best Act of Your Life, she shared personal stories about her first marriage, according to The Sun. "The truth is, it was only a marriage in the pages of the law. Though Paul and I were married, we shared only one thing - our faith," she wrote in her book. "I was a virgin on my wedding night with Paul, and still considered myself one when he left me five years later. It’s hard even now to explain why I stayed so long in a sexless marriage. I certainly would never do it again," she wrote.
"But back then divorce had much more of a stigma, and no one in my family was divorced. I believed that God could heal our marriage and prayed every day that He would. Before we married, Paul told me that he was a virgin too," she said. Instead of them enjoying each other's company in the bedroom, Johnson shunned her to another room.
"We talked about how we wanted to honor God’s Word and present ourselves as a gift to the person we would eventually marry. But after we were married he wanted nothing to do with me. Nothing. I was excited about starting a life with someone, but he didn’t feel the same way. I felt humiliated sleeping in my guest room," she added.
She revealed that while they were "never been truly intimate," by the end of the marriage, they had "stopped talking too." This must have been hard for the young TV presenter. Only in her mid-20s back then, it would have felt devastating to face rejection from her husband.
"It was so damaging to me on so many levels, damaging for me emotionally as a woman to be rejected after saving myself all those years,” she explained to People. “And then it was so disappointing on a spiritual level, because I had to ask the Lord, ‘How did I get this so wrong anyway?’ I don’t even like to call him my husband because he wasn’t in the truest sense of the word."
She tried to make the marriage work for a long time but her first husband decided to leave, and she was not disappointed. “I was relieved,” the former television personality admitted. "I realized, you know what, we can make all the vows we want in life, but if both people don’t want the same thing, it’s not going to work out. And I was very hopeful that one day I would find a real love," she added.
And, she did find real love with Frank Gifford, a football star-turned broadcaster, who was 23 years older than her. They met during her stint hosting Good Morning America. They fell in love and decided to formalize the relationship eventually. In 1986, they got married and welcomed son Cody in 1990 and daughter Cassidy in 1993. “Our almost 30-year marriage was a real love affair and a true marriage in every sense of the word, so God redeemed," said the 67-year-old.
However, their marriage wasn't smooth sailing either. Just four years after the birth of their daughter, they were hit by scandal. Gifford had cheated on his wife, and it was splashed all across the tabloids. "It was absolutely devastating" for the mom-of-two. She went into depression and was losing hope. "Nobody knows what I went through. You feel hopeless and you don’t want to live anymore," she says.
They made efforts to make things work in their marriage, and eventually, he earned her trust back. They stayed married until his death in 2015.
Cover image source: Getty Images | Photo by (L) Jason Kirk (R) Jason Kempin