The truth about our marriage: They admit their relationship's fiery but Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford say it's the key to their success
21:31 GMT, 6 July 2012
'You’ve got a big bum,’ Eamonn Holmes teases his wife – and co-presenter – Ruth Langsford with a cheeky smile.
‘If you want to stay married, I’d shut up right now,’ she jokes back, as the couple walk out of ITV’s This Morning studio after presenting another two hours of unpredictable live TV.
The pair, who’ve been together for 17 years, have become the channel’s new Richard and Judy, albeit a more feisty and outspoken incarnation.
Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford have been together for 17 years and are the channel's new Richard and Judy
Domestic disputes and differences of opinion play out on screen every Friday, to the delight of daytime viewers.
‘The fights can get very real,’ Ruth admits, adding she once stomped on Eamonn’s foot during one disagreement to illustrate the point.
‘Maybe we sometimes overstep the mark with our banter – with the one you love, you know how to hurt them.’
Eamonn explains, ‘There’s no point us being a couple but not acting like one on air. Some people tell me, “My husband’s never spoken to me like that.” But that’s not us. I’ve never had criticism in Northern Ireland for teasing my wife. People get the banter there.’
Soon, for the fifth summer in a row, the 52-year-olds will be keeping This Morning viewers entertained every day of the week. Eamonn will juggle the role with his regular job as the host of Sky News’s breakfast show Sunrise, dashing from its studio near Heathrow Airport to ITV’s studio on London’s South Bank.
Ruth, who often hosts Loose Women, loves the flexibility of her presenting work as she can be there for the couple’s ten-year-old son Jack and have enough time to cook dinner for Eamonn when he finally returns to their Surrey home. ‘We’re not a couple who split everything down the middle, but we do have our roles.
I love my kitchen and I’m very territorial. And I’d never expect him to cook. He doesn’t want to – he’s not interested. But Eamonn’s in no way a chauvinist, he’s the most house-proud man I know and does a lot. He doesn’t ever sit in his chair demanding dinner.’
‘We’re not a couple who split everything
down the middle, but we do have our roles. I love my kitchen and I’m
very territorial. And I’d never expect him to cook.'
Ruth also adores motherhood. At 42, when she became pregnant, she thought her dream of having a child might be over.
Before committing to Eamonn, who already had three children from his first marriage, she gave him an ultimatum.
‘I was falling in love with him but if he’d said he didn’t want any more children I’d have said, “It’s been lovely knowing you but let’s stop this now.” So I asked him, “Look, I know you have three children, but would you consider having more, because that’s what I want” He did.
‘Of course, there were no guarantees it would happen. We were together for a long time and I did start to wonder if I’d ever get pregnant. But I was very lucky that it happened naturally and I had a nice birth and a healthy baby.’
Did she want a bigger family ‘Yes, if I’d started younger. We did talk about it, but at 42 we thought I shouldn’t push my luck.’
Talking so intimately about their relationship comes naturally to Ruth. ‘On Loose Women once I spoke about Eamonn being a good kisser and he hated that,’ she recalls. Eamonn groans, ‘That’s too much detail, Ruth! People just see two old people and they don’t want to think of that!’
Ruth ignores him, giggling, ‘I will talk about sex to a certain degree. I’ve got no complaints.’ Eamonn interrupts. ‘I don’t like you doing that,’ he scolds his wife, before turning to me to add, ‘Let’s just say she’s very happy.’
Eamonn was 34 when he first saw a picture of Ruth, bizarrely dressed in a suit of armour, stuck to the fridge at the house of their mutual friend, TV presenter Sally Meen.
Their first conversation on the phone took place when she was in the middle of a bubble bath. ‘Of course I remember it, sweetness,’ Eamonn assures his wife. ‘You were embarrassed because you were naked!
'We were together for a long time and I did start to wonder if I'd ever get pregnant. But I was very lucky that it happened naturally and I had a nice birth and a healthy baby'
‘We began a very long courtship,’ he continues. ‘I like curvy women and I’m married to the sexiest woman on the planet.
'To me, this relationship is based on animal attraction.’ On cue, and with perfect comic timing, Ruth turns to her husband and barks, ‘Woof woof!’
‘It is, Ruth!’ Eamonn stresses. ‘It can be fiery, but my God we love each other. Women’s magazines are obsessed with our marriage coming to an end. But we’re rock solid.’
He split from his first wife, Gabrielle, after ten years of marriage in 1996, as the pressure of commuting to London to present GMTV from their home in Belfast took its toll. ‘I was flying more often than pilots,’ he explains.
Even as his relationship with Ruth began, he travelled home nearly every weekend so he could be with his three children – Declan, now 23, Rebecca, 21, and Niall, 19.
He says he worked ‘conscientiously’ with Gabrielle and Ruth to make their new arrangements work. ‘The break-up of my marriage was more sad than anything, so the animosity wasn’t huge.’
Eamonn and Ruth’s unique on-screen rapport has made them much in demand.
Before Eamonn signed a lucrative new three-year deal with Sky, keeping him there until at least 2015, there were rumours he and Ruth could take over ITV breakfast show Daybreak after Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley left. ‘But it wouldn’t have worked with our family life,’ says Ruth. ‘It’s hard enough Eamonn having to wake up at 4am. But it’s very tempting when your name’s in the mix.’
Eamonn was also reluctant to return to the same time slot he occupied at GMTV with Anthea Turner, with whom he had a famously strained relationship, and Fiona Phillips from 1993 to 2005. He quit, citing disillusionment with the show, which he said was ‘formulaic and no longer covers real news’. ‘I don’t think me going back to do something I did at 32 years of age at 52 would be a cast-iron success.’
Eamonn has very publicly battled with his weight, but I remark it looks as if he’s lost a few pounds in the past year. ‘Not really,’ he replies despondently. ‘I try my best but I’ll never have the discipline to be stick thin.’
‘He has lost weight,’ Ruth jumps in. ‘But I don’t want a stick-thin man.’ The constant jibes about his size are a sensitive point for Eamonn. ‘When newspaper columnists write about me it’s never just Eamonn Holmes, it’s Porky Eamonn Holmes,’ he says.
In 2010 he was criticised for getting lawyers to complain to the BBC after Jon Culshaw mocked his weight on The Impressions Show. The BBC apologised and agreed not to poke fun at Eamonn in future series.
The day before our interview he happened to meet Jon face-to-face at a lunch and the pair have put the incident behind them. ‘I was very disappointed with Jon and he knows it. He’s a very talented man who doesn’t need such twisted scripts,’ Eamonn says.
‘I told the BBC it was in breach of its own guidelines. Someone wanted employers of mine to think, “We’ve got a fatty on board, let’s get him off.” People say I’m being over-sensitive, but I’m standing up to bullying. They wouldn’t broadcast the same sketches on ethnic, colour or sex grounds.’
The couple have a great on-air rapport and soon, for the fifth summer in a row, the 52-year-olds will be keeping This Morning viewers entertained every day of the week
On a daily basis, Eamonn expresses his own opinions on the two shows. ‘Why shouldn’t news be opinionated’ he asks. ‘All I want to do is be a bit on the edge so my shows aren’t boring. But sadly on live TV you’re only one comment away from getting the sack.’
While he won’t name names, he thinks too many presenters are afraid of upsetting anyone. ‘Everybody’s so bland because they think viewers want everything saccharine-coated,’ Eamonn sighs. ‘A lot of presenters aren’t the same person they put across on TV. They have to live with that.’
Last month, Eamonn sparked controversy when he dismissed an Ofsted report claiming half of children are bullied as ‘unbelievable’ on his Sky News show. But he’s unrepentant. ‘I was saying, “Let’s deal with the people who actually are bullied, rather than the ones who think they are.”’
He also irked royalists with his somewhat negative appraisal of the Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the Thames. While presenting the event for many hours on Sky News, he warned the public not to attend because of the miserable weather. ‘What everyone in TV land does is pretend.
'So you have presenters saying, “The atmosphere here’s fantastic.” It wasn’t. But I was accused of trying to spoil the day. Should I have said, “Come to the Thames to get pneumonia” We saw what happened with Prince Philip after all,’ he argues.
‘We’re actually a very normal couple and we lead a very ordinary, but very happy, life.’
After broadcasting for 30 years, starting on regional TV in Northern Ireland, Eamonn is concerned about the new breed of presenter – good-looking, but not journalistically trained. ‘The industry’s changed beyond recognition,’ he laments. ‘Where are the new versions of my heroes The likes of Dickie Davies, David Frost and Alan Whicker. You can’t keep launching people through The X Factor or Big Brother. But that can seem like the only route into TV these days.’
The couple are aware they’re already among the oldest presenters on TV. So how do they avoid being pushed aside like so many before them ‘There’s not much we can do about it,’ Eamonn answers. ‘But hopefully all this experience will count for something.’
Ruth, who started as a continuity announcer at ITV regional station TSW, adds, ‘Look at the real world – 60-year-old women aren’t wearing black lace and sitting at home any more. They’re doing amazing things. But lots of broadcasters aren’t addressing that. A programme like This Morning lends itself to older presenters because you need someone who has life experience. You don’t want some 20-year-old sitting there.’
If the worst were to happen, have they considered a life after TV ‘All the time,’ Ruth answers immediately. Eamonn concludes, ‘Having work is so important. You’re defined by it. And you have to appreciate it while you have it. But I wish I was invisible.
'Sometimes I’d genuinely like to have enough money so that I could get on with watching a lot of sport and having time to visit people. ‘We’re actually a very normal couple and we lead a very ordinary, but very happy, life.’
Eamonn and Ruth present the This Morning summer series on ITV1 from Monday 16 July at 10.30am.