Picture the perfect relationship. If, like me, you’re a millennial woman reared on a diet of heteronormative Noughties romcoms, it will look something like this. Two people, gloriously in love. They have a few children with whimsical names – Cassius and Luna – and live in a gorgeous house nestled in the suburbs that has a trampoline built into the soil of an enormous garden. There is probably also some sort of spaniel.
Maybe, though, your image looks a little different. Perhaps you don’t use the word “married”, for example, despite the legal system recognising you as such. You might also have other relationships outside of your primary one, and your partner is fully aware and supportive of that. Or maybe you’ve actually been separated from your husband for seven years and have kept that fact a secret from a hell of a lot of people.
Yes, I’m talking about Jada Pinkett Smith, who recently revealed that she and Will Smith have not been together since 2016.
It’s a stunning admission, particularly given the context of how their relationship has unfolded in the public eye. The Girls Trip star, 52, has been married to the former Fresh Prince of Bel-Air actor since 1997. Together, they share children Jaden and Willow, as well as Will’s son Trey, whom he had with his first wife, Sheree Zampino.
The unconventional nature of their relationship has been the subject of speculation for years. In 2018, Will said on Tidal’s Rap Radar podcast that he and Jada “refer to [themselves] as life partners, where you get into that space where you realise you are literally with somebody for the rest of your life”. Then, in 2020, singer August Alsina claimed to have had a secret relationship with Jada.
At the time, Alsina claimed Will gave him and Jada his “blessing”, adding: “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.”
Two weeks later, Jada and Will appeared on Jada’s Facebook Live talk show Red Table Talk to discuss the rumours, during which time Jada admitted to the relationship with Alsina, clarifying that she and Will had been separated at the time. She did not, however, explain at that point that they hadn’t actually been together for several years.
The real drama surrounding their relationship, however, emerged last year at the Academy Awards, when presenter Chris Rock made a joke about Jada’s shaved head, and Will walked up to the stage from his seat and slapped him round the face, before shouting: “Keep my wife’s name out of your f***ing mouth.”
With Jada’s memoir on the way, there’s arguably more to this story – so far, all she has revealed to People, besides the separation, is that her and Will are “still figuring it out”.
“We’ve been doing some really heavy-duty work together,” she added. “We just got deep love for each other and we are going to figure out what that looks like for us.”
Clearly, nothing about this relationship has been traditional. While all we can do is speculate, from the outside, it seems as if there have been moments of separation, reconciliation, and a lot of complicated discussions about what love looks like for them.
To some people, this might seem odd. Why stay married if you’re not romantically involved? Why hide the fact that you’re no longer together from the public when you’ve both borne the brunt of baseless gossip online about your relationship? And why bother trying to make something work that seems irretrievably broken?
Well, the truth is we don’t know if any of this even applies to Will and Jada. All we do know is that whatever they’re doing, it’s working for them. Does anything else really matter? Who are we to judge and scrutinise? Having the level of fame they both have can’t be easy on either of them as individuals, let alone as a couple. Neither of them live conventional lives; why should we expect them to have a conventional relationship?
These are the things I’ll be keeping in mind as more revelations inevitably come to the surface with the publication of Jada’s book. After all, nobody really knows what goes on in a relationship aside from the two people in it. Sometimes it can be an act of kindness to remember that.