“Know When to Shut Up”: Jeff Daniels’ Secret to His Nearly 45-Year Marriage

Jeff Daniels reveals the secret to his 45-year marriage: “Know when to shut up.” He values family over fame, sharing music with his children.

Kathleen Treado Daniels and Jeff Daniels in New York City in June 2019. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, ANGELA WEISS/AFP VIA GETTY)
Kathleen Treado Daniels and Jeff Daniels in New York City in June 2019. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, ANGELA WEISS/AFP VIA GETTY)

Jeff Daniels, the renowned actor known for his versatile roles in film and television, has shared the secret to his nearly 45-year marriage with his wife Kathleen: “Know when to shut up.”

In an exclusive interview with PEOPLE, the 69-year-old actor opened up about his enduring relationship with Kathleen, his high school sweetheart whom he wed in July 1979.

He described her as his “leveling influence” and his biggest supporter, emphasizing her role as a constant source of encouragement throughout his career’s ups and downs.

“In the good times and the bad, she’s been a leveling influence — my biggest fan, my biggest cheerleader — telling me it’ll be okay,” Daniels said. “You’re going to get something else. It turned out she was right.”

Daniels attributes part of the success of their marriage to knowing when to stop talking and avoid “mansplaining,” which he considers a disease. For him, the key is to simply listen and be supportive.

Jeff Daniels and Kathleen Treado Daniels at a screening of 'A Man in Full' in Los Angeles, Calif. in April 2024. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, ALIAH ANDERSON/WIREIMAGE)
Jeff Daniels and Kathleen Treado Daniels at a screening of ‘A Man in Full’ in Los Angeles, Calif. in April 2024. (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, ALIAH ANDERSON/WIREIMAGE)

In 1986, the couple made the bold decision to leave the glitz and glamour of Hollywood and New York City behind to raise their three children in Chelsea, Michigan, a small town with a population of around 5,400 people.

Despite initial doubts, Daniels has no regrets about the move, stating that he didn’t want to be “contaminated by stardom” and that staying away from the fame was the right decision for his family.

Despite living outside of the Hollywood bubble, Daniels continued to work steadily in the industry, starring in high-profile films and shows such as “Something Wild,” “The Comey Rule,” and “The Squid and the Whale.” Meanwhile, his children grew up and chose to stay close by.

Today, Ben, Lucas, and Nellie are all pursuing their own paths, each making their mark in their respective fields.

Jeff Daniels in 'A Man in Full.' (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, NETFLIX)
Jeff Daniels in ‘A Man in Full.’ (PHOTO: VIA PEOPLE, NETFLIX)

Lucas works as an artistic associate at the Purple Rose, a nonprofit theater founded by Jeff, while Nellie teaches U.S. government at a public high school.

Ben wears several hats, working with his dad on the podcast “Alive and Well Enough,” and serving as an audio engineer for Jeff’s audiobooks and voice-over projects.

Additionally, Jeff and his son Lucas, along with daughter-in-law Amanda, tour the country playing music with the Ben Daniels Band.

For Jeff, music has always been a passion, and touring allows him to share that passion with his family while empowering them to take on leading roles in their performances.

“We’re in vans going from gig to gig and five-hour drives and showing up playing at some 200-seat club,” Daniels shared. “It’s a way of sharing what I do with them but also featuring and empowering them. You give them that solo in a certain song, and they’ve got to do it every night in front of a crowd.”

Reflecting on his career, Daniels admits that he initially harbored dreams of becoming a full-time musician if acting didn’t work out. Despite finding success in Hollywood, he still finds immense joy in performing and recording music, describing it as a liberating experience where he has full creative control.

“That’s what I was going to do,” he said. “I’ve got 20 years of gigs, which isn’t bad for somebody with a day job. I really enjoy it. There’s no director, no studio, no editor, no writer. You’re all of it — and I like that.”

With the release of his new Netflix series “A Man in Full,” Jeff Daniels continues to showcase his talent and passion for storytelling. However, beyond the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, he cherishes the simple moments with his family and the opportunity to share his love for music with them.

Through his enduring marriage, his dedication to his craft, and his commitment to family, Jeff Daniels exemplifies a life well-lived, both on and off the screen.

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