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Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner's Relationship Timeline

Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner first met in 1971 and have been together ever since

Kevin Mazur/Getty
Kevin Mazur/Getty

Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner have had a creative and romantic spark since they met in 1971.

Their chemistry stems from their shared outlooks on life.

"We share similar feelings about people and about the world. She's able to verbalize it, and I'm able to physicalize it," Tomlin told PEOPLE in 1988.

Tomlin and Wagner married on New Year's Eve in 2013 in a private ceremony in California.

From falling in love at first sight to working together on their comedy specials, here's everything to know about Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner's relationship.

March 1971: Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner meet

Tomlin and Wagner initially met through a friend in New York City.

"A friend brought her to my hotel room," Tomlin recalled to Variety in 2020. "In two minutes, I fell in love with her. She had on hot pants, stretchy boots that went up to her knee and a little backpack. I don't know what it was, but I was in love."

Tomlin had to leave for work in Chicago, but she quickly returned to New York City and arranged to see Wagner for their first date.

Shortly after, they began working with each other when Tomlin recruited Wagner to help write her comedy album, And That's the Truth.

Tomlin soon fell in love with Wagner's work, too. She was particularly intrigued by her 1969 CBS teleplay, J.T., that Tomlin saw soon after meeting Wagner. The special, inspired by the book of the same name, would later earn a Peabody Award.

"I just was floored," Tomlin recalled in a panel discussion at Lincoln Center in November 2019. "It was everything I looked for in a monologue, which I never could find."

1975: Lily Tomlin turns down TIME cover story about her relationship with Jane Wagner

Even though Tomlin and Wagner were openly living together in 1975, when Tomlin was offered the chance to come out to the world on the cover of TIME, she declined the offer.

"It was a hard decision to make," she said on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in January 2019. "I just decided that I wasn't going to play their game. I wanted to be recognized for my performance."

Tomlin also expressed fears that the magazine would have tokenized her relationship in the story. Two years later, she did appear on the cover of TIME in a profile story focusing on her work.

1970s: Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner face homophobia at work

Oliver Morris/Getty
Oliver Morris/Getty

Tomlin and Wagner are revered as trailblazers in the LGBTQ community, but their path wasn't always easy.

"When Jane and I were doing specials, one of our writers, who was a really terrific person, said to me, 'I think you and Jane should come to work together in separate cars,'" Tomlin recalled on The Rosie Show in March 2012.

When Tomlin inquired why, the writer said, "'People are talking.'" Still, Tomlin refused, explaining to host Rosie O'Donnell that "they always talk," and she and Wagner had never kept their relationship a secret before.

1985: Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner collaborate on a hit Broadway production

Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection
Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection

Tomlin and Wagner collaborated on the one-woman show, The Search For Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe, for which Tomlin won the Tony Award in 1986 for best actress in a play.

The show's run also coincided with the advent of cellphones, and Tomlin notably stopped the performance when a phone rang in the audience — during a monologue by a character who communicates with aliens.

"I know you think this is part of the show, but it's not," she told the crowd.

1988: Lily Tomlin praises Jane Wagner's writing

Paul Natkin/Getty
Paul Natkin/Getty

Even though Tomlin and Wagner were living as a couple in their day-to-day lives, they weren't openly out in the press in 1988. That year, a PEOPLE profile of Tomlin described their connection as platonic.

"Usually she collaborates with her best friend writer Jane Wagner," PEOPLE reported at the time. "When they're not on the road, Lily says, home is 'a big old pink stucco house in L.A. that used to belong to W.C. Fields. It's casual, airy, light, very feminine, a soft house.'"

In the same story, Tomlin shared what she loved about Wagner's writing.

"She writes satirically but tenderly, and she loves farce and black comedy and broad slapstick," Tomlin said. "When you put all this together and make an audience laugh and be moved, it's just glorious."

April 12, 2013: Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner release An Apology to Elephants

Departing from their typical comedic collaborations, Tomlin and Wagner worked together on An Apology to Elephants, a documentary exploring the relationship between elephants and humans.

The film is just one example of the pair's political views and outspoken nature. Tomlin is on the board of the Voice for the Animals Foundation and was openly critical of the L.A. Zoo's handling of a baby elephant named Billy, saying she believes in the "importance of caring for those younger and weaker."

December 31, 2013: Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner get married

After 42 years together, Tomlin and Wagner wed in a private New Year's Eve ceremony at a friend's home in L.A.

"It was sweet. We didn't have any rings, so I went into our jewelry and was digging out rings," Tomlin told PEOPLE in January 2019.

A few days earlier, they quietly obtained their marriage license.

"We went in Van Nuys [Calif.] because if anyone should see us, we didn't want them to write about us," Tomlin said.

November 22, 2015: Lily Tomlin discusses not having children with Jane Wagner

Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post
Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post

Tomlin claimed the couple weren't always on the same page about not having children.

"I mean, sometimes I think it would be nice to have somebody who looks like a replica of you in some fashion, but I don't think it ever was an aspiration of mine," she told The Guardian in November 2015. But she admitted Wagner wasn't so sure, and the two had previously talked about pursuing fertility treatments.

Tomlin continued, "She has a very handsome nephew, and we thought, 'Well, we could get his sperm, and I could bear his child.' I wouldn't want to, but I could."

But when they realized that Tomlin would assume the bulk of the childcare responsibilities, they decided not to have kids. The pair have since expressed their gratitude for making that tough decision.

"So in retrospect, we say every day, 'I'm so glad we didn't have any children.' When I think of the world now, I don't want to even deal with having to raise a child," she said.

January 29, 2017: Lily Tomlin shouts out Jane Wagner in SAG Awards speech

Manny Carabel/Getty
Manny Carabel/Getty

Tomlin received the Screen Actors Guild lifetime achievement award in 2017 and thanked Wagner in her acceptance speech.

"My partner, writer Jane Wagner, is the one on whose shoulders I stand the tallest," she said

The award was presented to Tomlin by Dolly Parton and Jane Fonda, two of Tomlin's closest friends and her former costars in the 1980 film 9 to 5. The actress also included some words of advice in her acceptance speech.

"Live your life so that when you're being honored for your achievements, the people called upon to make laudatory remarks can feel reasonably honest about their comments," she joked.

January 2019: Lily Tomlin opens up about 45-year relationship with Jane Wagner

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Reflecting on her 45-year relationship with Wagner, Tomlin told PEOPLE in 2019 the key to it was mutual "admiration and respect."

When asked what advice she would give a younger version of herself, Tomlin said, "A lot of good things happen for you."

April 2022: Lily Tomlin shares her nickname for Jane Wagner

Considering her close friendship with fellow actress Fonda, Tomlin has two important Janes in her life. She told The Hollywood Reporter in April 2022 that she refers to Wagner as "Jane No. 1" and Fonda as "Jane No. 2."

In addition to 9 to 5, Fonda and Tomlin starred on the Netflix series Grace and Frankie from 2015 to 2022, with Tomlin playing the titular character Frankie Bergstein.

"I love Jane from a long time ago. And so it seemed so natural," Tomlin told PEOPLE in 2022 of working with Fonda on the Netflix show.

April 29, 2022: Lily Tomlin talks about her decades-long connection with Jane Wagner

HENNY RAY ABRAMS/AFP
HENNY RAY ABRAMS/AFP

Tomlin revealed on The Ellen DeGeneres Show that she was stunned that she'd been with Wagner for 51 years.

"I can't believe it's that long; it almost seems like it's been a couple of years or something," she said.

She also shared the two had recently unknowingly bought the same weighted blanket in the same color.

"It's army green … it's terrible," she said.

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