Published: 22:04 GMT, 20 March 2019 | Updated: 22:19 GMT, 20 March 2019
A few days before my wedding anniversary last month, I was invited to appear on ITV's This Morning to discuss my 'secrets to a happy marriage'.
At first, this took me by surprise given that, on paper, my four failed marriages would suggest I don't have the makings of a top relationship counsellor.
But, upon reflection, I recalled the story of the man who, when he was stopped in the street and asked: 'How do you get to Carnegie Hall?', replied: 'Practise, practise, practise' — and I certainly have a lot of that.
When Percy and I married on February 17, 2002, everyone said it couldn't last.
Percy and Joan married on February 17, 2002, everyone said it couldn't last. But 17 years later the couple are still going strong
Sniggering behind their simulated fans, even some of my friends were doubtful — not least because he's 32 years my junior and I don't have a fabulous track record.
Yet, 17 years later, we are thriving, happy and still in love.
After I managed to reel off a handful of tips on air, I enlisted Percy's help to reflect on what things we do for each other that seem to spell success.
Providing you haven't married a drunk, a cheat, or a psychopath, hopefully our tips can help you, too:
1. Don't rush
What strikes me most about our marriage is that Percy and I began our relationship as friends, when touring together on a play he was managing in the U.S. called Love Letters. That friendship continued for nine months before we became romantically involved.
Because we were so compatible on every level and liked doing the same things, we had a strong foundation for a really good relationship and a happy marriage.
He's my soulmate and that's what you should aim for.
There are a lot of good partners out there, but they don't grow on trees — and rarely in nightclubs and bars!
2. Have your own space
It is vitally important to respect each other's space.
In any relationship where you share a home, there will be physical 'spheres of influence'. For me, it's my bathroom, with my lovely dressing table and my walk-in wardrobe. For Percy, it's his office (and, yes, his own bathroom).
Here we can organise what is important to us in our individual ways, and I would never infringe or comment on his surroundings — much like he never does on mine.
As ideal as it would be for most people to have separate bathrooms (especially in the hard-pressed mornings), just try to establish a beachhead in your home that you call your own, and make sure your partner does, too.
Joan enlisted Percy's help to reflect on what things we do for each other that seem to spell success
3. Accept your differences
Always be aware that you are two completely different individuals, no matter how compatible you may be.
Even though you may like to think so, she or he is not going to be on exactly the same wavelength and may not think or act in the same way that you would. This is a strength, not a weakness — use it and capitalise on it.
4. Don't be needy
Independence is one of the most admirable traits in men and women.
Both sexes are attracted to people who can take charge and get things done, and the couple who can successfully share the power makes them unbeatable.
5. Respect their opinions
If he loves Corbyn (however unlikely!) and you hate him, and this leads to a heated discussion, then remember that you married this person because you trusted their values and opinions, and a few discrepancies don't annul the entire package.
Divergence of opinion and taste is healthy and challenging — vive la difference!
6. Never go to sleep angry with each other
Of course you will have arguments — you're only human — but try to resolve them before you go to sleep, as the next day they may fester and lead to resentment. Don't slam the door shut on each other.
Joan Collins was married to Maxwell Reed from 1952 to 1956 (left) and to to Anthony Newley from 1963 to 1971 (right)
7. Treasure the little things
One partner bringing the other a cup of tea or coffee in the morning, praise for a home-cooked meal (even though it may be the same thing you've eaten for the past ten years!), a compliment for a haircut or outfit. Try to notice the little things and praise them, and you may find it is requited.
8. Play nice
Overlook trivial idiosyncrasies, and try never to criticise — much less insult — each other.
Nasty jibes can lie dormant and metastasise into a cancer that will strangle your marriage.
You can, and should, advise, caution and even gently tease each other — but watch the fine line between a jokey jibe and a cutting, sarcastic remark and, if overstepped, apologise quickly.
9. Remember the important dates
Never forget each other's birthdays and your anniversary! And, if you want your relationship to thrive, it's recommended you remember other key dates, such as the day you met, your first date, the day you proposed and any other red-letter dates in your lives.
Joan was married to Ronald Kass from 1972 to 1983 (left with daughter Katyana) and Peter Holm from 1986 to 1987
10. Accept their family and friends
Try to accept and, if possible, actively enjoy and embrace, your partner's family and friends.
But, above all, do not criticise or demean them — especially mothers! Remember that these are the people who surrounded and nurtured your significant other long before you met them, and are as important to him or her as you are.
11. Always take their side
If your partner is angry with their family, don't undermine him/her. You can always gently coax him or her to forgive and forget later, but always agree in the first instance!
12. Don't dwell on old flames
Don't spurt out your whole life history and/or past love stories. Particularly the latter.
No matter how much they ask for honesty, your partner doesn't want to know how many other people you've slept with or what a successful seducer you've been.
Of course, they'd be dumb not to know you've had a love-life in the past, but usually they don't really want to think about it.
13. Be intimate
Even if you're not the touchy-feely type, physical contact was natural at the beginning of your relationship and you have to be careful not to lose that bridge — especially if you're not big at expressing your feelings verbally.
It's not a prelude to sex — it's showing love in a warm and caring way. But if it does lead to sex, then enjoy the ride!
14. Think of each other as equal
Never make each other feel like one of you is more important than the other in the marriage. Even if one has a high-powered job or is trying to manage with a large family, realise that the other may feel inadequate.
Joan and Percy (pictured together in 2002, the year they married) say that saying 'I love you' is one secret to their successful marriage
15. Be punctual
Lateness can be misconstrued for lack of concern, and it may be a subconscious way of showing your partner that you are the more important half, so be aware of it.
16. Pitch in and help out
Do the dishes or help with the grocery shopping or the DIY. Nothing is beneath either of you, and there is no such thing as 'man' or 'woman' work any more. Welcome to the 21st century.
17. Don't bottle up your feelings
We are all too rushed to face what might be bothering us, so take the time to sit down with your partner — away from devices or the TV or the children — and have an honest conversation about it.
Be judicious about this — it needn't be a daily summit. Almost every problem can be made to go away if you spare five minutes to touch base.
18. Remember your special moments
Cherish the things you noticed when you first came together, be it a love song or a special place, a favourite food or a particular movie, and be ready to acknowledge it to each other when it comes up.
19. Don't compare to others
Don't compare each other unfavourably to family or friends. Nothing can be more hurtful than saying: 'I wish you could be more like . . . '
20. Jealousy is a killer
And I'm not just talking about the other sex. Envy of a partner's intelligence, charm or ease of doing certain things will only make you feel bad about yourself and angry towards them.
Recognise that it's not their problem, but, instead, is probably down to you not being happy in your own skin.
21. Make future plans together
Set out goals about where you see yourselves next week, next year and in the next ten years. Plan things together — important birthdays, anniversary parties, Christmas, holidays. The plans you make will give you something to look forward to when the grind of life weighs on you.
22. Say 'I love you'
And, most importantly, tell each other that you love one another as frequently as possible. Do it every time you say goodbye and every evening before you go to sleep.