“It’s hard”: Will and Jada Pinkett Smith’s 24-year-long marriage is far from ‘conventional’.

Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith have been married for 24 years; a lifetime by Hollywood standards.

The key to their success is that they’ve defined what marriage means to them, and done it on their own terms. 

In a new interview for GQ, Will Smith spoke candidly about the couple's decision to not be monogamous for a period.

"Jada never believed in conventional marriage... Jada had family members that had an unconventional relationship," the 53-year-old actor said. "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?" Smith continued. 

"And for the large part of our relationship, monogamy was what we chose, not thinking of monogamy as the only relational perfection."

Will and Jada Smith
Image: Getty.

The couple, who are both actors and producers, made headlines in 2020 when singer August Alsina claimed Will had given him his blessing to have an affair with Jada, starting in 2015.

"He [Will] gave me his blessing, and I totally gave myself to that relationship for years of my life, and I truly and really, really deeply love and have a tonne of love for her," Alsina said in a YouTube interview in June last year. 

"I actually sat down with Will and had a conversation, due to the transformation from their marriage to life partnership that they've spoken on several times and it not involving romanticism," he alleged. 


Alsina described the breakdown of their romance as "probably the hardest thing I've experienced in my lifetime".

August Alsina and Jada Pinkett Smith at the 2017 BET Awards in Los Angeles, California. Image: Paras Griffin/Getty. 

In a July episode of Pinkett Smith's Facebook Watch show, Red Table Talk, the Smiths shared their side of what happened.

"One of the reasons I wanted to come to the table [was] the media, the headlines," the actor said. "We were purposely never saying anything. Coming to the table, we just felt like it got to the point where you gotta say something."

Pinkett Smith explained Alsina was introduced to their family as a friend of Jaden's. At the time, he was "really sick" and she provided him with mental health support and resources. Around the same time, Smith and Pinkett Smith had decided to amicably separate and, from there, Pinkett Smith became involved in an "entanglement" with Alsina.

She also clarified her relationship with Alsina was not an affair, and took place when she and Smith had effectively broken up.

"One thing I want to clean up… about you giving 'permission' which is... the only person that can give permission in that circumstance is myself... he wasn't a home wrecker," she said.

"Yes, it was a relationship absolutely. I just wanted to feel good. It had been so long since I felt good. And it was really a joy to help heal somebody."

Both Smith and Pinkett Smith agreed they're grateful their relationship has "gotten to that new place of unconditional love", but acknowledged they had to "go through some s**t to get there".


Smith added: "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. There's real power in knowing somebody's riding with you, no matter what."

Image: Getty. 

In his GQ interview, Smith said that while this unique dynamic had worked for them, he wouldn't recommend it for others.

"We have given each other trust and freedom, with the belief that everybody has to find their own way. And marriage for us can't be a prison," he said. 

"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."

He also touched on the fact Jada "wasn't the only one engaging in other sexual relationships," but didn't elaborate.

How Will and Jada’s relationship began.

In 1994, Jada met Will on the set of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, when she auditioned for the role of his girlfriend. However, their height difference meant Jada didn’t get the role.

A year later, they officially started dating, when Jada was starring on A Different World. During a 2018 Red Table Talk appearance, Will said he was attracted to her from simply watching the show.

"I knew there was something in our energy that would be magic," he said.

But at the time, Will was married to his first wife, Sheree Fletcher, with whom he shares his son, Trey, now 28. One night when they were at dinner, Will had a realisation. 


"I had a realisation I wasn’t with the person I was supposed to be with," he said.

"I was sitting in a [bathroom] stall and I was crying and laughing uncontrollably, and I knew [Jada] was the woman I was supposed to be with, but I was never getting divorced...

“I went back out, sat down with Sheree and started going back on with my life."

Their marriage ended in 1995, and soon after, Will and Jada became a couple. They married in December 1997 – when Jada was three months pregnant with their first child.

View this post on Instagram

Birthday boy ❤️

A post shared by  Jada Pinkett Smith (@jadapinkettsmith) on

"One day we got engaged, and the next day we found out we were pregnant," Jada told People at the time.

But as Jada recalled on an episode of Red Table Talk, she knew even on her wedding day that the concept of traditional marriage didn’t feel right.

"I was so upset that I had to have a wedding," she recalled.

"I was so pissed. I went crying down the freakin' aisle getting married."

And yet, she did it because it made Will happy.

Jaden was born on July 8, 1998, after being conceived on a holiday in Mexico. Willow was born on Halloween in 2000.

Jada Pinkett Smith talks about the moment her son Jaden said that he was going to move out at 15. Post continues after video. 

Video by Red Table Talk.

Marriage lessons learned.

In 2013, more than a decade into their marriage involving years of careers and children, Jada gave an interview to HuffPost Live, and her comments caused much speculation about the couple’s relationship.

"I’ve always told Will, 'You can do whatever you want as long as you can look at yourself in the mirror and be okay,'" Jada said.

"Because at the end of the day, Will is his own man. I’m here as his partner, but he is his own man. He has to decide who he wants to be, and that's not for me to do for him. Or vice versa."


In an interview with actress Gwyneth Paltrow on her Facebook-exclusive chat show Red Table Talk, Jada expanded on her relationship with Will. 

"It’s hard," she said. "The thing Will and I talk about a lot is the journey. We started in this at a very young age, you know, 22 years old. That’s why the accountability part really hit for me because I think you expect your partner to know [what you need], especially when it comes to sex.

"It’s like, ‘Well, if you love me, you should know. If you love me, you should read my mind.’ That’s a huge pitfall."

Gwyneth responded by saying: "Isn’t it weird, though? It’s like someone doesn’t read your mind and we feel crushed."

Jada elaborated, by saying her and Will's sex-life is based on "fantasy" and the utmost honesty. 

"Tell me what you want, and on top of it, I know that I have to be accountable to do the same... I really try... It’s uncomfortable, but it’s deeply healthy, and I think around sex, because it’s something that we don’t talk about and there’s so much fantasy around it."

This isn't the first time the Hollywood couple public to wonder if the pair had an open marriage, and back in April 2013, Jada addressed the rumours for the first time.

"The statement I made in regard to, 'Will can do whatever he wants,' has illuminated the need to discuss the relationship between trust and love and how they co-exist," she wrote.

"Here is how I will change my statement... Will and I BOTH can do WHATEVER we want, because we TRUST each other to do so. This does NOT mean we have an open relationship... this means we have a GROWN one." 

Five years later when appearing on TIDAL's Rap Radar podcast, Will shared they don't refer to themselves as 'married anymore'.

"We refer to ourselves as 'life partners,' where you get into that space where you realise you are literally with somebody for the rest of your life," he said.

“There's no deal breakers. There's nothing she could do – ever – nothing that would break our relationship. She has my support 'til death, and it feels so good to get to that space."

This article was first published in August 2019, and updated on September 28, 2021 and October 31, 2021.

Feature image: Getty and Mamamia.

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