Jada Pinkett Smith, known for her very real conversations on Red Table Talk, brought some of her candidness to social media on Thursday, when she responded to headlines that suggested her and husband Will Smith have problems in their sex life.
“Only because I got time today,” she posted. “Stop making up headlines. Watch the @RedTableTalk I did with @GwynethPaltrow for yourselves. Will and I have NEVER had an issue in the bedroom. Thank you.”
She had said in the episode that the couple, who married in 1997, has faced challenges in their sex life.
“It’s hard,” Jada 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.”
Over the past few years, both Smiths have spoken about their relationship, one of the longer ones in Hollywood and the subject of much speculation and rumors.
Here’s what each has said:
In July 2017, Jada shut down talk that she and Will were swingers on an episode of Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen, when a caller asked her what was the craziest thing she had heard about her family. “And I’m like, ‘Yo, I wish!'” she said, adding that she was at a loss for tips on keeping a relationship sexy. “I don’t know. I mean, I’m baffled, really. Will and I just have amazing chemistry on a lot of different levels. 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!”
‘Stop the divorce rumors’
Will released a song called “To the Clique,” with the lyrics, “Stop the divorce rumors and mind your damn business” and, later, “The real-life Incredibles, last name Smith. Jada, Jaden, Willow, Trey — y’all ain’t f****** with my clique,” in May 2018. In addition to Jada, he called out the names of his two children with her, Jaden and Willow, and the older son he shares with his ex-wife, Sheree Zampino.
“Here’s the thing about Will and I — [we] are family. That is never going down. It’s just not. Ever,” Jada said on SiriusXM’s Sway in the Morning in June 2018. “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.”
Will elaborated the following month.
“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,” he said on TIDAL’s Rap Radar 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.”
‘You have to go your separate ways’
In a two-part episode of her series in October 2018, Will and Jada were incredibly open about the low-point of their relationship. They explained the incredibly trying period of their life together when they knew something had to change, with Jada waking up in tears for, as Will recalled, “45 days straight.” Will said he was devastated more than if they had chosen to divorce. But neither wanted that.
“We essentially had to destroy our marriage,” he said. “She was like, ‘I can’t do this anymore,’ and to me… it was over, but divorce was never even an option. I was reading in the tabloids we were getting divorced and all of that stuff, and it was like it was never even a consideration. Because I had been divorced before, I wasn’t getting divorced again. There was a time when I was scared that she might [want a divorce].”
Jada felt the same way. The solution they arrived at was a less conventional one.
“I was devastated even worse than a divorce,” he recalled. “We broke up within our marriage and got back together again and had to rebuild with new rules and something way completely different.”
Will took two years off from films and read books on relationships and marriage, while Jada focused on becoming the best version of herself.
“You have to go your separate ways and get out of each other’s way to really see yourself,” she explained. “I had to go away, gain my strength as Jada again — not Mommy, not wife.”
Improving a union, Jada said, “takes a lot of beating up on each other … because really what you’re breaking down is all the fantasies.”
‘We don’t really celebrate that day’
In December 2018, ahead of the couple’s wedding anniversary, Jada’s mother and Red Table Talk co-host, Adrienne Banfield-Norris, asked her on-camera whether she thought of her relationship differently, since she and Will had rebuilt their marriage.
“Oh, yeah, definitely, because it’s more of a life partnership. So it’s not steeped in… that day,” the former Hawthorne star said. “We don’t really celebrate that day, you know what I’m saying, anymore in that 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. There’s no telling where he’s going to be. And I like to be inside. I don’t want to be in the world. He now has the freedom to go and have an awesome adventure of some kind.”
‘Nobody talks about the sacrifice’
When Jada sat down with rapper Wale and actor Justin Baldoni to talk about love, she of course mentioned her own experiences.
“Let me tell you, nobody talks about the sacrifice, the deteriorating and dissolving of fantasies,” Jada advised Wale, who was single at the time, on a February 2019 episode of her show. “You right now, have in your mind, your perfect woman. And when you find that woman, she will be a goddess to you. We fall in love with the goddess, or the god, within that person, and then when we actually meet the human being, then we gotta learn how to love that one. The reason why it is so important to me to be able to stick it out, to really get to the true meaning of love, in my opinion, it is unconditional. It has to be, because we are all too flawed. No matter how much work we do! It never ends.”
She said that the work the couple had done on their marriage was worth it, because it left her with the feeling of unconditional love and support.
“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 said. “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.”
‘Betrayals of the heart’
Jada explained her views on the subject of infidelity in a June 2019 episode of her Facebook Watch series. “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.”
The same month, she revealed on another episode that she and Will have been engaged in “a non-sexual throuple” — or three-way relationship — with the mother of his elder son, ex-wife Zampino, throughout their relationship.
‘I knew that I was not built for conventional marriage’
There’s a stereotype that girls grow up dreaming about their wedding day. That was not Jada, as she told the U.K.’s The Guardian in August 2019: “I knew that I was not built for conventional marriage. Even the word ‘wife’: It’s a golden cage, swallow the key. Even before I was married, I was like, ‘That’ll kill me.’ And it damn near did!”
Still, Jada made it clear that her hesitations were never about her husband.
“Will is my life partner and I could not ask for a better one,” she said. “I adore him, I never want people to think it was Will I didn’t want to marry — he and I were talking about this the other day. But I can assure you that some of the most powerful women in the world feel caged and tied, because of the sacrifices they have to make to be in that position.”
‘Oh, this is not working…’
A few months later, Jada spoke with rapper T.I. and his TV co-star, wife Tiny, about an issue they were having that was just like something she and Will had worked through in their relationship: the power dynamics within a partnership.
“We do relinquish a lot of our power to our men that we’ve given our lives to,” Jada said. “And at first, I gave it all over. And then I realized, ‘Oh this is not working.’ And you get just a little disappointed because you feel like, ‘I gave it all to you and you took it and you misused it — you stopped listening to me.'”
Jada eventually realized that she had willingly become dependent on her husband.
‘We decided we were going to separate’
In July 2020, rapper August Alsina — who had been spotted vacationing with the Smiths as early as 2016 — confirmed in an interview with The Breakfast Club‘s Angela Yee that rumors he and Jada had had an affair were true. Alsina claimed that Will had given him his blessing and that he had devoted himself to her fully. Jada’s rep initially responded that the story was “absolutely not true!!” But nine days later, the actress acknowledged that she did have a romance — she famously called it an “entanglement” with Alsina — but said it took place during a break from her marriage.
Will returned to Red Table Talk to discuss the situation, something he said they’d done in therapy.
“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,” he said.
Both said the break had made them stronger as a couple.
‘Marriage for us can’t be a prison’
More than a year after the story about Jada’s extramarital affair came out, Will confirmed in his September 2021 interview with GQ that he had also gone outside of his marriage. While the Ali star wouldn’t go into specifics because he wanted privacy, interviewer Wesley Lowery wrote, “Because the impetus for the Red Table Talk was Alsina’s disclosures, a viewer could have walked away thinking that Jada was the only one engaging in other sexual relationships, when that was not, Smith delicately explained to me, in fact the case.”
Will did touch on the idea of a non-traditional marriage. (Jada denied the suggestion that they had an open relationship in an April 2013 interview, but said that “Will is his own man” and could do whatever, as long as he could look himself in the mirror.)
“Jada never believed in conventional marriage. 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,” he said. “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. 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.”
Will had worked with an intimacy coach for years, he said, even coming up with the names of women he’d like to have in a “harem of girlfriends” that he’d dreamed about since he was a child. He scrapped the idea after she had him think the fantasy through.
He said that he understands his and Jada’s approach to marriage isn’t for everybody.
“But the experiences that, the freedoms that we’ve given one another and the unconditional support, to me, is the highest definition of love.”