Will Smith is laying all his cards on the table.
In a revelatory profile on GQ, the 53-year-old actor opens up about his evolution as a husband, father, and professional actor and how he continues to maneuver the countless controversies plaguing his family.
Everyone knows that the Smiths like to wear their hearts on their sleeves as far as their family is concerned. They never shy away from delicate subject matters, they never conceal the pains and frustrations they experience within marriage and parenthood, and they will be honest about their lapses in judgment no matter what. In keeping with his honest character, Will Smith provides deeper context about his wife Jada’s so-called infidelity and clears up the misconceptions that have arisen following the initial story.
In his admission, Will discloses not only his own blunders over the course of his and Jada’s 23-year partnership but exposes the dangerous double standard of how the public perceived Jada’s affair.
Will Smith revealed he also slept with other people outside of his marriage
The situation has always been complicated with Will and Jada Pinkett Smith.
The couple said as much when they sat down on Red Table Talk last summer to address Jada’s affair with singer August Alsina. Jada confessed she and Will had briefly separated many years ago, and while they were taking time apart from each other, she pursued a “relationship” with August, who’d been introduced to the family by her son Jaden. The romantic and sexual “entanglement” led to a lot of “pain” on Jada’s end, but it did make her realize how crucial it is to heal yourself from within.
Will mentioned in the episode he and Jada had dealt with her affair years ago and had already gone through the customary motions of fighting, arguing, cold-shouldering, and reconciling. Therefore, discussing the ins and outs of Jada’s extramarital activity wasn’t so groundbreaking for them as it was for the rest of the world. They had made up behind closed doors and had made peace with the revelation.
Still, the media jumped to slander Jada for admitting to the tryst, and Will was subsequently characterized as a wounded soul; a brokenhearted man jilted by his deceitful wife in favor of a younger man. Yes, he was also mocked and somewhat humiliated for expressing emotion in the episode, but the public was largely sympathetic with his predicament and urged him to leave his wife, both indirectly and directly. In the GQ profile, Will lays bare the realities of their marriage, underlining there’s more to their relationship than meets the eye. “Our marriage wasn’t working,” he said.
We could no longer pretend. We were both miserable and clearly something had to change […] Marriage for us can’t be a prison.
Will Smith on GQ
The two came to this conclusion in the wake of Jada’s 40th birthday party in 2011, after Will had surprised her with a grand party and a documentary he’d commissioned about Jada’s lineage and family background. After the function, Jada apparently said the whole endeavor was the most “disgusting display of ego” she had ever seen, catalyzing a fighting match between husband and wife. They were yelling so loudly at each other that their 10-year-old daughter had to interrupt them to tell them to stop. That’s when Will and Jada decided their marital union was on the rocks and that they simply had to take a break. Something had to change, Will said; otherwise, they would likely head down a dark path.
Contrary to what people think, Jada wasn’t the “only one” who engaged in these liaisons; in fact, Will dabbled in them before his own wife did.
His admission exposes the double standard surrounding the couple
Will’s honesty in the face of scrutiny speaks volumes about his growth as a husband, but it also clues us in on a glaring double standard.
The Smiths have had an open marriage for 10+ years, yet Jada was immediately crucified for daring to sleep with someone else, even though she said in no uncertain terms that she and Will were separated at the time and weren’t breaking any rules by seeing other people. They mutually agreed to a new framework, knowing how critical it was for the survival of their marriage. Yet, Jada, being the woman, was scapegoated for the whole ordeal. Is it really “cheating” if your partner is informed about your decision and has likely consented to it?
We have given each other trust and freedom, with the belief that everybody has to find their own way […] 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.
Will Smith on GQ
Will says Jada has never been a proponent of conventional marriage, yet she endured a lot of its rigid principles for the sake of her family and her love for Will. “Jada had family members that had an unconventional relationship. So she grew up in a way that was very different than how I grew up,” said the King Richard star. Therefore, the pair carried out extensive conversations about what they wanted their relationship to represent and about the “perfect way to interact as a couple.” Eventually, they determined perfection in a relationship doesn’t necessarily come from monogamy; this is when non-monogamy becomes a valid option. It’s a deeply personal and profound choice to make as a couple, but the fact that the public jumped to condemn Jada without knowing the whole truth reeks of nothing but misogyny. Men in the industry are caught up in illicit sex scandals nearly every day, but most people just dismiss these stories, claiming it’s somebody else’s business. Yet, when a woman candidly speaks about her own sexual encounters, it’s time to accuse her of unfaithfulness.
“Once the public decides something, it’s difficult to impossible to dislodge the pictures and ideas and perceptions,” said Will. Just look, for example, at the memes of Will Smith that surfaced following the Red Table Talk discussion: he was made out to be such a hapless, dejected husband, whereas, in reality, Will was exhausted, it was midnight, and they were heading to vacation the following day. “I’m not sad. I’m f**king exhausted,” he said regarding the publicized photo.
Marriages are never what they seem
Will and Jada needed to give each other “trust and freedom” to function in their partnership. The father-of-three won’t risk recommending this route to anybody else, but it can certainly serve as a legitimate alternative if this is what you think you need. What matters more is to gain a fresh perspective on the Smiths’ situation and empathize with their choice; you might disagree with it, but there’s something to be said for two people who are so devoted to each other they’re willing to court widespread criticism to defend each other and their marriage.
Furthermore, we need to be careful about how we touch on other people’s relationships. We never know the full story, so why waste our time by batting back and forth over which we have no control? Marriages are never what they seem, so let’s focus less on what others are doing and more on how we can better ourselves.