Signs That Will and Jada Pinkett Smith Have Been Separated for 7 Years

Signs That Will and Jada Pinkett Smith Have Been Separated for 7 Years

Will and Jada Pinkett Smith‘s marriage has fascinated the world since the couple got married on Dec. 31, 1997, in the latter’s hometown of Baltimore.

As one of the most famous and long-lasting relationships in Hollywood, the couple has generally been seen as a golden standard for love because of their clear and present affection and respect for one another. But the road hasn’t been an easy or conventional one. Both Will and Jada have been remarkably open about the struggles and the triumphs of their strong union over the years.

While the couple has always found themselves making headlines because of their unconventional relationship, the most recent revelation seems to be the most shocking of them all.

Their relationship was thrust into the spotlight again when Jada revealed to Today‘s Hoda Kotb that she and Will have been separated for seven years. “Yes, it was not a divorce on paper, but it was a divorce,” Jada says in an interview published on Oct. 11, ahead of the Oct. 17 release of her memoir, Worthy.

The 52-year-old actress disclosed that she and Will, 55, have been leading “completely separate lives” since 2016, even though they never officially divorced.

The separation began seven years ago, as Jada confirmed during the interview, making it a long-standing arrangement that they have successfully kept hidden from the public.

Hoda, who was clearly taken aback by the admission, asked Jada why they chose to maintain this unique arrangement, to which Jada responded, “I think just not being ready yet. Still trying to figure out between the two of us how to be in a partnership, and in regards to how do we present that to people, you know? And we hadn’t figured that out.”

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When Hoda pressed for more details about the reasons behind the separation, Jada revealed, “I think by the time we got to 2016, we were just exhausted with trying. I think we were both kind of just still stuck in our fantasy of what we thought the other person should be.”

Despite the separation, Jada shared that she made a promise to herself and Will to never allow their marriage to result in a divorce. “I made a promise that there will never be a reason for us to get a divorce. We will work through whatever. And I just haven’t been able to break that promise,” she stated.

“But you still live separately,” asked Hoda. Jada confirmed, “We live separately.”

A source tells ET, “What you see is the loving way they choose to move forward.”

While the separation was kept under wraps, and the couple’s public statements have never hinted at any trouble in their marriage, Will and Jada have never been shy about the fact that their romantic lives deviate from the standard. Their candidness resulted in persistent tabloid rumors about their relationship — specifically, that the two had an open marriage — over the years, which the couple often laugh off. 

But, as the years went on, the couple began talking about how the nature of their relationship had evolved, and after their private separation in 2016, the way they defined their marriage took a subtle turn.

In 2017, Jada joked about all the swinging rumors when she appeared on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen, and a caller asked her about the craziest thing she’d ever heard about her family. Jada replied, “That Will and I are swingers. It’s constant.”

Jada didn’t take offense to the claims, adding, “And I’m like, ‘Yo, I wish!'”

“Will and I just have amazing chemistry on a lot of different levels,” she continued. “We love to laugh together, we love to learn together, and we just love each other. We just have a good time together. Yeah, I guess that’s the secret. Yeah, we just really like each other!”

During Jada’s appearance on Sway in the Morning back in June 2018, she talked about their “unique partnership” and why it’s transcended the concept of marriage.

“Here’s the thing about Will and I — [we] are family. That is never going down. It’s just not. Ever,” she said. “We are family. Take out all that whole marriage/relationship crap, at the end of the day, Will and I are family. I am going to hold him down, doesn’t matter. All that relationship and what people think ideas of a husband, partner and all that, man, whatever. At the end of the day, that is a man that can rely on me for the rest of his life, period.”

In a July 2018 interview on TIDAL’s Rap Radar podcast, Will explained why he and Jada use the term “life partners” when referring to their union as opposed to “married.”

“We don’t even say we’re married anymore. We refer to ourselves as life partners, where you get into that space where you realize you are literally with somebody for the rest of your life,” Smith shared on the podcast. “There’s no deal breakers. There’s nothing she could do — ever. Nothing that would break our relationship. She has my support till death and it feels so good to get to that space.”

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Jada echoed this sentiment during a Red Table Talk episode in January 2019 when explaining why she and Will don’t celebrate their wedding anniversary.

“It’s more of a life partnership, so it’s not steeped in that day,” Jada explained. “We don’t really celebrate that day anymore in the sense because the context of our union is totally different.”

“Usually Will on New Year’s likes to be in an adventure in the world somewhere,” she continued of why they often spend their anniversary apart. “There’s no telling where he’s going to be. And I like to be inside. I don’t want to be out in the world. He now has the freedom to go and have an awesome adventure of some kind.”

Jada has talked multiple times about her and Will’s marriage not living up to a perfect or conventional standard. As far back as her 2009 Redbook interview, she talked about letting go of certain expectations.

“We hardly ever agree on anything, and we’ve learned to really respect that in our relationship,” she said. “You might have an idea in your mind of what a marriage is supposed to be, and you’re driving, driving, driving toward this ideal picture. But you have to be open to the fact that your relationship is meant to be something else.”

During Will’s extremely candid two-part October 2018 appearance on Red Table Talk, he opened up about learning to let go of the perfect image when it came to both his marriage and family. He and Jada emotionally recalled a period in their marriage when they struggled, when both Jada and their kids resented their outside success — Willow’s 2010 hit single, “Whip My Hair,” and Jaden having a box office hit with 2010’s The Karate Kid — though Will had pushed for it.

“I had a public perception that I wanted to protect of our relationship, of our family, and what my kids are, and what my wife is, and what we are in the world,” Will acknowledged.

“I’ve been trying to live up to an expectation for Will,” Jada added.

Still, the two said divorce was never in the cards for them.

“I was reading in the tabloids that we were getting divorced and all that stuff. It was never even a consideration,” Will said. “Because I had been divorced before I wasn’t getting divorced again. Divorce wasn’t an option.”

“I put in too much. Period,” Jada agreed. “Why do that? Why create all that disruption? I told Will from the gate, I said let me tell you something, ‘If you marry me, know this: we’re gonna be together. We’re going to be under the same roof’… for me personally, I knew that there was no reason that he and I would ever [divorce].”

Will stressed that there were still absolutely no deal breakers in their relationship.

“There’s nothing that could happen that we won’t be together and love each other,” Will said. “It’s not because we’re just saying it, it’s because we’ve cracked each other’s heads wide open and we woke up the next day and high-fived and kept going. I think that’s the part where we set each other free.”

“What you are is the best friend I’ve ever had. You’re the best partner I’ve ever had,” he also told Jada. “When you go to sleep at night knowing you have an unbreakable bond, an unbreakable friendship, an unbreakable connection — that’s how you want to go to sleep every night.”

Meanwhile, Jada echoed, “It’s a life partnership, in the sense that we’ve created a foundation together that we know is for this lifetime. … It gives us the freedom to create a different context for ourselves to not have to live up to the expectation of what people consider marriage to be.”

In February 2019, Jada again discussed her and Will’s evolving journey on Red Table Talk.

“There have been several occasions where you just had enough and you want to leave and I just couldn’t. Or Will just couldn’t,” she shared of the two’s struggles. “Because we knew this was what was meant to be — this partnership. No matter what the form is. We had to redefine it. We don’t call ourselves married anymore. We’re in a life partnership.”

“At the end of the day, to know that you have another person that can love you for all that you are … Will has loved me through the worst of myself,” she added. “And I have done the same. When somebody can love you in that way, it makes your faith in the world come together. … I am 47 years old and I want you to know, that this is probably the first year of my life that I can say, ‘I am happy,’ because that’s how long the journey has been.”

During a Red Table Talk episode in June 2019, Jada sat down with couples therapist Esther Perel and again discussed her marriage. The women gave their thoughts on infidelity, and Jada explained why she felt cheating actually wasn’t the worst thing that could happen in a marriage.

“I’m asked a lot about, ‘Is there infidelity in your relationship with Will?’ And it’s like, ‘No, but there have been other betrayals of the heart that have been far bigger than I could even think in regards to an infidelity situation,'” she said. “When you talk about contempt, resentment, neglect, it can just tear your world apart.”

Jada said that a big strain on her relationship with Will actually came from the expectations that had been drilled into her mind by society and those closest to her.

“[I was told] you have to be a perfect wife, you have to be that source that supports his dream, no matter what it is,” she said. “Whatever he wants to build, you’re there to support that. Our whole life looked like his dream.”

VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images

When the world went into quarantine during the coronavirus pandemic, Jada and Will admitted that the experience revealed how the couple don’t really know one another during a Red Table Talk episode in April 2020.

“One of the things I realize is that I don’t know Will at all,” she said. “It’s challenging. You’re forced to look at things differently.”

“Let me tell you, that’s been something: To be married to someone for 20-some odd years and then realize, ‘I don’t know you and you don’t know me,'” she continued. “But also realizing there’s an aspect of yourself you don’t know either.”

Jada said the two were now continuing to build on their friendship.

“The thing that Will and I are learning to do is be friends,” she said. “Because you get into all of these ideas about what intimate relationships are supposed to look like, what marriages are supposed to be. So Will and I are in the process of him taking the time to learn to love himself, me taking the time to learn to love myself, right? And us building a friendship along the way.”

The nature of the couple’s relationship was drastically thrown into the spotlight when singer August Alsina — who has previously appeared on Red Table Talk as a close friend of Jada’s — claimed he was romantically linked to her, and that Will gave him his blessing.

During August’s interview with radio personality Angela Yee, he said that he’s lost “money, friendships [and] relationships” over rumors about his relationship with Jada.

“People don’t necessarily know the truth, but I never have done anything wrong,” he said. “I actually sat down with Will and had a conversation. Due to the transformation from their marriage to [a] life partnership that they spoken on several times, and not involving romanticism, he gave me his blessing.”

“I totally gave myself to that relationship for years of my life,” he continued. “I truly and really, really deeply loved, and have a ton of love for her. I devoted myself to it, I gave my full self to it. So much so to the point that I can die right now and be OK with knowing that I truly gave myself to somebody. I really loved the person that I experienced that [with] and know what [that feels] like — if some people never get that in this lifetime.”

Jada acknowledged she had a past relationship with August on an incredibly candid episode of Red Table Talk with Will that aired in July 2020. She said she first met August more than four years ago and that the singer had initially come to her when he was “sick” and in need of some help, and that the Smith family had supported him. Jada said she ended up getting involved with August when she and Will were separated.

“We were over,” she said of her and Will’s relationship at the time. Will added, “I was done with your a**. … We decided we were going to separate for a period of time and you go figure out how to make yourself happy and I’ll figure out how to make myself happy.”

Jada said that during that time she got into an “entanglement” with August, and when Will pressed her, she acknowledged that it was a “relationship.” But she pushed back against the notion that Will gave August “permission.”

“The only person that could give permission in that particular circumstance is myself,” she pointed out. “I just wanted to feel good, it had been so long since I felt good. And it was really a joy to just help heal someone. I think that has a lot to do with my co-dependency.”

However, she did not find the type of fulfillment she was looking for. “I definitely realized you can’t find happiness outside yourself,” she said.

Jada and Will stressed that there have never been secrets in their marriage, and Jada said she didn’t consider what she did a “transgression,” noting that she learned so much from it. Both Jada and Will said they continue to have “unconditional love” for one another.

“We came together young and we were both broken in our own ways, and to be able to make mistakes without the fear of losing your family is so critical,” Will said.

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for WarnerMedia

“We ride together, we die together,” they said at the same time with a smile.

Later that year, Will told GQ that Jada wasn’t the only one who had engaged in other sexual relationships outside of their marriage. He also shared that he had fantasies about other celebrity women, including Halle Berry and dancer Misty Copeland.

“We have given each other trust and freedom, with the belief that everybody has to find their own way,” Will said of his and Jada’s arrangement. “And marriage for us can’t be a prison. And I don’t suggest our road for anybody. I don’t suggest this road for anybody. But the experiences that the freedoms that we’ve given one another and the unconditional support, to me, is the highest definition of love.”

“Jada never believed in conventional marriage.… Jada had family members that had an unconventional relationship,” he also shared. “So she grew up in a way that was very different than how I grew up. There were significant endless discussions about, what is relational perfection? What is the perfect way to interact as a couple? And for the large part of our relationship, monogamy was what we chose, not thinking of monogamy as the only relational perfection.”

In an interview with Gayle King for CBS Sunday Morning in March 2022, Will insisted that there has never been infidelity in their marriage.

“Jada and I talk about everything, and we have never surprised one another with anything ever,” he said.  

Even with their confessions of engaging in sexual relationships outside of their marriage, Jada still firmly denies that the couple has an “open” marriage.

“We’re still figuring it out,” she told People in a recent interview. “A lot has happened. The thing about relationships is that it’s constantly moving. Relationships are, it’s an organism. It’s its own thing. It’s constantly shifting and constantly moving. There’s a lot that’s transpired in the last two years, and so we’ve been doing some really heavy-duty work together.”

“We eliminated the chance of betrayal. It’s like, ‘Let’s talk about it. Let’s work through it together. Let’s be in partnership. Let’s not keep each other in the dark,'” she added. 

The actress explained that the couple’s boundaries shifted as they navigated stages where they decided they weren’t together anymore. “We didn’t tell the public, where I was actually thinking about divorcing, separating. There’ve been several of those where we’ve gone and lived our separate lives. So I think within that is where people might’ve thought that, ‘Oh, they must be having an open relationship,'” she explained.

Despite how others may see their marriage, Jada is adamant that she and Will will remain together. “What we do know is that in this lifetime, we’re what we got,” she declared.

“We just got deep love for each other and we are going to figure out what that looks like for us. And that is the thing that’s most important,” Jada concluded. “Trust me, that is not for the faint at heart. I’m going to tell you straight up, it is not for the faint at heart. But I do believe that is why Will and I are still today married.”


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