Will Smith is opening up about his courtship with his now-wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. On the latest episode of Apple TV+’s The Oprah Conversation, the 53-year-old actor tells Oprah Winfrey about how his relationship with Jada developed after they began dating in 1995.
“We drank every day, we had sex multiple times every day for four straight months,” Winfrey says, reading an excerpt from the actor’s upcoming memoir, Will. “I started to wonder if this was a competition. Either way, as far as I was concerned, there were only two possibilities: I was going to satisfy this woman sexually or I was going to die trying.”
“It ended up being a lot more complex than that, Oprah,” Will jokes in response. “Those early days were spectacular.” Those initial days with Jada followed Will’s marriage to his first wife, Sheree Zampino. The pair divorced in 1995. “She called herself my placeholder wife. She said that she just had to be here to hold the position of wife in Will Smith’s perfect life.
And she was like, ‘Can you see me?'” Will says. “I didn’t get that at the time, but it’s so obvious and so clear to me [now].” As his first marriage came to an end, Will and Jada developed a deep connection, one that has lasted for more than two decades. “Me and Jada, to this day, if we start talking, it’s four hours. It’s four hours if we exchange a sentence.
It’s the center of why we’ve been able to sustain [our relationship] and why we are still together, not choking the life out of each other, the ability to work through issues,” Will says. “I’ve never met another person that I connect with in conversation more blissfully and productively than Jada.”
Even after they tied the knot in 1997, Will and Jada never had a traditional marriage, instead opting for a relationship that focuses on “friendship versus marital prison.” At one point, they even spent time apart. “We never actually officially separated. What happened was we realized that it was a fantasy illusion that we could make each other happy,” he explains.
“We agreed that she had to make herself happy, and I had to make myself happy, and then we were going to present ourselves back to the relationship already happy, versus demanding the other person fill our empty cup.” “We just decided that you have to figure out how to be happy,” Will adds. “It was a little bit more contentious from my side. I was like, ‘You go figure it out. You go figure out if you can be happy and prove to me it’s even possible. I’m gonna do me and you do you.'”
That time apart, Will says, “helped us both to discover the power of loving in freedom.” “We are simultaneously 100 percent bound together and 100 percent free,” he says. “We agreed that we were both imperfect people doing our best to figure out how to live in this world joyfully.” That freedom has meant extramarital relationships for both Will and Jada, though it’s not something that they hide from one another.
“We talk about everything. I think the difficulty that people have and the difficulty in discussing it is people only think of it in terms of sex and their own relationship,” Will says. “… I think that even that idea to me is where people are trying to put something on it.” “Will and Jada are on a spiritual journey to cleanse the poisonous, unloving parts of our hearts,” he adds.
“We’re doing it together, in this lifetime, no matter what. But the goal is not a sexual goal. We’re gonna love each other no matter what.” Will and Jada are able to love each other unconditionally, he says, because they love themselves in that same way.
“No woman can make me happy, so I don’t need to go look for one to try to make me happy. No man can make Jada happy, so she don’t need to go look for one to make her happy. We both know that,” he says. “There is no person that will fill your hole.”
“The spiritual journey is finding your joy and bliss without vampirically using others. The Will journey and the Jada journey is finding that joy without medication. Finding that joy without distraction. It’s about being able to find that contentment within yourself, not with external stimuli,” Will adds. “The spiritual process is detoxing all of those things, not leaving your marriage to go get some chocolate cake.”
Elsewhere in his memoir, Will opens up about his childhood. Winfrey reads one passage from the book in which Will writes, “When I was 9 years old I watched my father punch my mother in the side of her head so hard that she collapsed. I saw her spit blood. That moment in that bedroom, probably more than any other moment in my life, has defined who I am today.” Will’s father died in 2016.
That experience, Will says, has made him feel as if he’s constantly “failing every woman I interact with.” “For the most part of my adult life, from that moment in that bedroom, I carry a sense of not being good enough, not being able to protect the women I love, not being able to understand enough to make the right decision,” he says. “It’s felt like everything I’ve done has been driven by sort of an unspoken series of apologies to my mother for my inaction.” Now, Will says, “I am so clear [in] what I am here to do.”
“I’m so grateful for the life I’ve been allowed to live. The first half of my life was gather, gather, gather, gather. Now this second half is give it, give it, give it,” Will says. “It makes me teary to be able to be me. I’m so happy that I can comfortably be me.”