A woman and six men behind her on a stage in the lights.

What do Barbra Streisand and Joan Collins have in common? What actor and singer wrote a song about Streisand more than 20 years after they broke up?

Although she’s played countless romantic leads on stage and screen, Barbra Streisand’s relationships in real life have been difficult, at least until her current marriage. She writes about her two marriages and a few other love interests in her memoir My Name Is Barbra.

Read more to learn about husbands Elliott Gould and James Brolin and a couple of relationships in between these marriages.

Barbra Streisand’s Relationships

The story of Barbra Streisand’s relationships is informed by her childhood. When she was younger, she was distrustful of men because of how her stepfather treated her and her mother. She says that, partly as a result of that treatment, she didn’t start dating seriously until adulthood.

Furthermore, Streisand tended to fall for men who were already in relationships. She thinks that’s because, as a child, she got used to being lonely. Chasing unavailable men was therefore a “safe” option because she was guaranteed to end up alone again sooner or later; either the man would turn her down, or they’d have a brief affair before he went back to his partner. Streisand believes that, subconsciously, this might have been less frightening for her than the possibility of a real, long-term relationship with someone.

(Shortform note: Some psychologists would agree with Streisand’s assessment of her love life here; women who grow up without fathers often struggle with romantic relationships. They may feel like they were abandoned, even if—as in Streisand’s case—their father didn’t choose to be absent. As a result, such women find it difficult to trust and be emotionally vulnerable around others, especially men. This lack of trust can make them overly cautious in relationships, like how Streisand describes pursuing unavailable men because she could predict how such pursuits would end.)

We’ll discuss Streisand’s marriage to her first husband, Elliott Gould. Then we’ll mention some of her other noteworthy relationships before concluding with her second (and current) marriage to fellow actor James Brolin.

Streisand’s First Husband: Elliott Gould

Streisand says she met Gould, who would later become her first husband, in 1962. He was playing the male lead in I Can Get It for You Wholesale, the first Broadway show that Streisand was cast in. Streisand and Gould started getting dinner together after rehearsals—first just as friends, then as a couple. They got married in 1963. Streisand was 21 years old at the time; she says that, in hindsight, that seems much too young for marriage.

Streisand and Gould’s marriage was often rocky. First, Gould resented that Streisand quickly became more successful than him. Second, he had a gambling problem, and he frequently wagered or sold their possessions to support it.

In 1966 Streisand gave birth to their son, Jason Gould, whom she loved dearly (and still does today). Streisand frequently brought Jason with her to rehearsals and film shoots, rather than having to hire a babysitter, and she enjoyed having him around while she was working.  

Near the end of their relationship, Gould started heavily using cannabis and possibly other drugs. Streisand says that she doesn’t take drugs—she tried cannabis once but didn’t enjoy it—and she was uncomfortable with Gould using drugs, especially around their son.

Streisand and Gould announced their separation in 1969 and finalized their divorce in 1971. 

Other Romantic Relationships

Streisand had several other romantic partners in between her first and second marriages. We’ll discuss two that are especially noteworthy.

Anthony “Tony” Newley was an actor and singer like Streisand whom she got involved with in 1969, shortly after announcing her separation from Gould but before their divorce. She says that Newley was charming and passionate. They broke up after Newley did something that badly upset Streisand, though she doesn’t say what. More than 20 years later, Newley sent her a recording of a song he’d written. In it, he lamented having lost her and blamed himself for their breakup. That was the last contact the two had before Newley died in 1999.

(Shortform note: Though Streisand doesn’t say why she broke things off with Newley, accounts from his ex-wife Joan Collins may provide some clues. Collins describes him as shallow and self-absorbed, with a taste for younger women (though she vehemently denies that he was a pedophile). Furthermore, tabloids have reported rumors that Newley regularly cheated on his wife. The fact Newley said—or rather, sang—that his breakup with Streisand was his fault also supports these stories.) 

Jon Peters was a hairstylist whom Streisand met when she asked him to design a wig for her. She describes Peters as being bold and outspoken. For instance, at their first meeting, he scolded Streisand for keeping him waiting; shortly after that, he crudely complimented her body. Streisand says that she actually enjoyed this treatment—Peters acted like his authentic self and talked to her as if she were a regular person. However, Peters used her money to buy a house in his name and to pay for landscaping and construction projects that Streisand hadn’t agreed to, prompting her to end the relationship. 

(Shortform note: In various interviews throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Streisand and Peters said that they were, in essence, too similar to each other to succeed as a couple; both of them were strong-willed and determined to be in charge. While this willfulness is why Peters wasn’t afraid to speak his mind to Streisand—which she appreciated—it also led to them endlessly butting heads, such as when Peters took her money for his own projects and assumed that Streisand would be OK with it. Although Streisand says that the two of them are much better off as friends than as romantic partners, Peters continues to insist that she was the greatest love of his life.)

Streisand’s Current Husband: James “Jim” Brolin

Streisand describes her current husband, James Brolin, as attractive, considerate, and very masculine. Her favorite thing about Brolin is that he doesn’t feel threatened by her success and doesn’t try to hold her back professionally; on the contrary, he encourages her to pursue opportunities and helps in any way he can.

Streisand explains that she met Brolin in 1996 at a dinner party hosted by one of their mutual friends. He was sporting an unusual haircut that day, and Streisand’s first words to him were to ask who had messed up his hair. Far from being offended, Brolin—a professional actor like Streisand—was pleasantly surprised to meet someone in the industry who spoke her mind freely and honestly. They didn’t speak to anyone else for the rest of the party, and then they went back to Streisand’s home where they kept talking late into the night. 

Streisand and Brolin lived together for about two years before getting married in 1998, and they’ve been happily married ever since. 

Barbra Streisand’s Relationships: Gould, Brolin, & Those in Between

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Barbra Streisand's "My Name Is Barbra" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full My Name Is Barbra summary:

  • The autobiography of Barbra Streisand, a rare EGOT winner
  • Streisand's childhood, romantic relationships, and extensive career
  • Why Streisand began singing despite having little to no formal training

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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