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Through 26 years of rumors, speculations and tabloid scandals Oprah Winfrey and Stedman Graham’s non-traditional relationship has stood the test of time. Winfrey and Graham, CEO and founder of S. Graham & Associates, began dating in 1986 after ending her then relationship with Reginald Chevalier.

In spite of the gossip and rumors of separation, Oprah and Stedman have continued to blossom in their love and support of one another. In 2010 during an interview with Jenny McCarthy, Oprah rebuffed these claims stating, “We’ve never broken up once. They’re always lies,” said Oprah, adding, “I do regret ever mentioning him” in the press.

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In the past few years, Oprah has opened up about her personal life, demonstrating that long-term couples can find happiness living non-traditional lives, without marriage and children.

Why She Loves Him: In her 2010 interview with Barbara Walters, Oprah stated of Stedman, “I don’t know of another man on this planet who could have lived this life with such dignity, such grace and such respect and humility in it and still hold his own and be his own.”  Despite Oprah’s significant fame, Stedman has maintained his own identity and remained by her side through it all.

During her appearance on the Piers Morgan Show, Oprah candidly discussed a family member selling her out to the tabloids for $20,000. In response to Stedman’s support at that traumatic time in her life, she said, “here is someone who is willing to stand in and stand up for you. And that is love.”

Why He Loves Her: Though the two rarely make public appearances together, Stedman surprised the audience by walking out on stage and paying tribute to Oprah during Part 2 of the ‘Surprise Oprah! A Farewell Spectacular.’ “It really does amaze me that I get to be around a woman who changes peoples’ lives every day and who also takes her own lunch to work,” Stedman said. “I cannot, honey, believe that a colored girl from the backwoods of Mississippi has done all that you have done … But you know what really is amazing? You have done this, sweetheart, through all of the sacrifices you have made and the humility that you have and through God’s amazing grace. I love you for making a difference in my life.”

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Why They Work: Again during her Piers Morgan appearance, Oprah said it best “the reason why this relationship has worked as well as it has is that we each got to define ourselves in it and not in a traditional form.”  In the early 2000s, Oprah and Stedman made a conscious effort to pull back on their public appearances together, stating that “every time we showed up in public… there’d be another exploitative story.” Maintaining their privacy and the integrity of their relationship has definitely been the keystone to their success as a couple.

Why We Love Them: Oprah and Stedman have battled it out with the media for the past 26 years, choosing to live outside of society’s norms and embracing their own definition of happiness.  Oprah once said about her relationship, “the truth of the matter is, had we gotten married we wouldn’t be together now, because in no way is this a traditional relationship.” Thus proving that happiness doesn’t have to be defined by a ring or a label.