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Mark Harmon & Pam Dawber Are Married for 35 Years — Keeping Their Family Private Was 'Not Even a Choice'

Monica Otayza
Mar 15, 2022
10:40 A.M.

'NCIS' star Mark Harmon and his longtime actress wife decided to keep their private life out of the spotlight decades ago. They have, however, shared insight into their choice to keep a low profile.

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Mark Harmon became a staple on screen and television since his first appearance in the early 1970s and even became People's second annual Sexiest Man Alive. Pam Dawber also found success and fame through acting, but they drew a line between their fame and family life.

Fans stay curious about what goes on behind closed doors in the Harmon family, but the actors have answers to why they've chosen to remain private.

Pam Dawber and Mark Harmon at the AFI Achievement Awards on March 8, 1990 (left), Pam Dawber and Mark Harmon at the 2002 Creative Arts Awards (right) | Source: Getty Images

Pam Dawber and Mark Harmon at the AFI Achievement Awards on March 8, 1990 (left), Pam Dawber and Mark Harmon at the 2002 Creative Arts Awards (right) | Source: Getty Images

Harmon is no stranger to the spotlight, being the son of broadcaster Tom Harmon and actress Elyse Knox. He made a name for himself by starring in several movies like "Chasing Liberty" and "Freaky Friday" and is best known for being on "NCIS."

Meanwhile, Dawber is best-known for the hit TV show "Mork & Mindy" in the late 1970s. After years of acting, she guest-starred on her husband's hit show "NCIS."

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MARK HARMON'S HIGH-PROFILE AFFAIRS BEFORE MARRIAGE

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Before Harmon and Dawber tied the knot, he had several relationships with high-profile celebrities. In the 1970s, he dated singer Karen Carpenter before briefly dating actress Morgan Fairchild.

After their breakup, he and actress Cristina Raines were in a four-year relationship. Throughout the 1980s, he dated a couple of women, including Heather Locklear, Sheree J. Wilson, and Terri Garber.

Ultimately, Harmon found true love with Dawber a year after his relationship with Garber. The pair wed in 1987 and haven't looked back since.

Pam Dawber and Mark Harmon circa 1990. | Source: Getty Images

Pam Dawber and Mark Harmon circa 1990. | Source: Getty Images

A GLIMPSE INTO MARK & PAM'S DISCREET LOVE STORY

In the 1980s, Harmon had been vocal about his search for true love. Speaking about his goals for marriage, he revealed he wanted it to be "everything this town says it can't be."

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Then he finally met his match. Harmon and Dawber were introduced at a party thrown by a mutual friend. At the time, Harmon already knew what she was looking for in a man.

The actress made a list of qualities she was looking for – independence, intelligence, strength, sensitivity, sensuousness, warmth, and of course, a sense of humor. Harmon ended up ticking all the boxes.

Pam Dawber and Mark Harmon during Premiere of "Dr. Dolittle" in New York City, New York. | Source: Getty Images

Pam Dawber and Mark Harmon during Premiere of "Dr. Dolittle" in New York City, New York. | Source: Getty Images

The pair's relationship is stronger than ever after 35 years, having wed in 1987. The couple admits keeping their relationship private had a huge part in their long-lasting marriage. Dawber once said:

"We’re not trying to keep something secret, but if you don’t want it totally exploited by the press, you have to."

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Pam Dawber and Mark Harmon circa 1990. | Source: Getty Images

Pam Dawber and Mark Harmon circa 1990. | Source: Getty Images

Dawber and Harmon would soon learn that their secrecy came at a price. Rumors about them frequented the press, particularly about their alleged breakups.

However, the couple admitted they would simply laugh about these rumors, commenting, "It must have been a slow news week."

The same way they've kept their relationship private through the years, their marriage was quiet and personal, with only a couple of friends and family attending. They didn't want to have a stressful and chaotic wedding, like their friends Julianna and Bruce Springsteen had.

Pam Dawber and Mark Harmon at the Stuntmen's Association of Motion Pictures 52nd Annual Dinner in 2013. | Source: Getty Images

Pam Dawber and Mark Harmon at the Stuntmen's Association of Motion Pictures 52nd Annual Dinner in 2013. | Source: Getty Images

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MAINTAINING A PRIVATE MARRIED LIFE FOR 35 YEARS

When asked about being private people in such a social industry, Harmon echoed his wife's sentiments years ago by saying that it's just who they are as people. The couple and their children choose to stay home and away from the hustle and bustle of the industry.

When asked about the secret to their lasting union, Harmon believes it's because they've been committed to one another since the beginning of their relationship and elaborated:

"We were both in our thirties when we got married, so hopefully the stupid stuff we did earlier. That’s probably the closest I have to what the key is."

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Throughout their 35 years of marriage, Harmon's ring finger always reflected where his heart lies, and it often sports a unique ring in the shape of an eagle head, which he believes to be an heirloom from his grandfather.

When he's not wearing the unique ring, he wears a few others. "I'm proud of who I'm married to. I'm just so proud of her," he gushed.

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PAM ONCE LEFT HER CAREER TO BE A FULL-TIME MOM

Dawber's commitment to their marriage included sacrifices she made through the years and realized after having two kids that she didn't feel like chasing fame anymore.

Instead, she wanted to be a mother, driving their kids to school and being present on all their special occasions. Another important reason she decided to stay away from the spotlight was to keep her family out of the tabloids.

Pam Dawber at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on October 28, 2011. | Source: Getty Images

Pam Dawber at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on October 28, 2011. | Source: Getty Images

"I don't think two people can work all the time in show business and stay married," she admitted. Instead, she let the kids think their dad was the famous one, and she was simply just "mom."

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Harmon and Dawber share two kids, Sean, born in 1988, and Ty, born in 1992, whom they've managed to keep out of the headlines when they were younger. In the end, however, they chose to follow in their parents' footsteps.

Their eldest son, Sean Harmon, is an actor who appeared on "CSI: NY," "NCIS: Los Angeles," "Major Crimes," "Hold On," and "NCIS." He also starred in a TV movie titled "Thicker."

Like the rest of his family, Ty Christian Harmon also pursued a career in Hollywood. As a screenwriter, he wrote the 2012 film "Catholic Schoolgirl Chainsaw Showdown," directed by his older brother Sean.

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Despite choosing to step away, Dawber occasionally makes TV appearances. She guest-starred in "The Odd Couple" and also on her husband's hit show, "NCIS," which marked the first time they worked together as a couple.

When asked why it took her so long to agree to star on "NCIS," she shared it was because she had always been waiting for the right role.

When the role of her character, Marcie, came up and was being described to the cast, Mark realized they were looking for his wife. However, knowing Dawber, he said: "But she always turned us down!"

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Pam Dawber and Mark Harmon on the set of "NCIS." | Source: Getty Images

Pam Dawber and Mark Harmon on the set of "NCIS." | Source: Getty Images

Dawber was hooked on the role from the moment she read the script, but fear had taken a grip because she hadn't acted in so long. In the end, she knew it would be worse if she refused the role.

The experience turned out great for Dawber and Harmon, who will celebrate their 35th anniversary on March 21.

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