Here's why Jada and Will Smith are not divorcing even after spliting for 7 years ago
Despite Pinkett Smith's revelation that the two have been separated, the Hollywood couple has been candid about why divorce "just can’t be an option."
Jada Pinkett Smith reveals in her upcoming memoir that her marriage with Will Smith is not what it appears.
Pinkett Smith and Smith have been separated since 2016. While not legally divorced, the two have been living "completely separate lives" for the past seven years, she said in a prime-time special with Hoda Kotb that aired Oct. 13.
“I made a promise that there will never be a reason for us to get a divorce,” she told Hoda. “We will work through whatever. And I just haven’t been able to break that promise.”
At the end of the interview, Hoda asked Pinkett Smith directly: “Why not just amicably divorce?”
Pinkett Smith similarly provided a straightforward answer: "“We don’t want to."
“We love our family. And we love each other. It’s more of a life partnership," she explained. "Now, 10 years from now, Hoda, who knows?”
Their current focus is on "deep healing," Pinkett Smith added.
As for the possibility of reconciliation?
“He’s getting old!” Pinkett Smith joked in response. “Who’s going to be there for him, Hoda? It’s going to be me.”
The two have publicly discussed their views on divorce over the years. For example, in 2008, Smith once said on Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show that “divorce just can’t be an option.”
The couple has faced public scandals like news of Pinkett Smith's "entanglement" with August Alsina emerging in 2020, and Smith's altercation with Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars. Smith slapped the Oscars host for joking about Pinkett Smith's alopecia.
The couple often shared their relationship's highs and lows with vulnerability and candidness.
Smith appeared on Pinkett Smith's now canceled Facebook Watch show "Red Table Talk" twice — first in 2018, to talk through their relationship story and their "unique union," then in 2020, to talk through Pinkett Smith's "entanglement" with family friend August Alsina.
Here's what the duo has said specifically about the topic of divorce — which might explain why they've chosen not to get one.
What have Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith said about divorce?
In her interview with Hoda, Pinkett Smith said she and her husband live separately and clarified how the term "divorce" could be applied to their situation.
“It was not a divorce on paper,” Hoda stated.
“Right,” Pinkett Smith responded.
“...but it was a divorce,” Kotb continued.
“Divorce,” Pinkett Smith emphasized.
Pinkett Smith also spoke to Hoda about what led to the relationship’s “fracture.”
“That — that’s a lot of things,” Pinkett Smith answered when Hoda asked directly.
“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,” she said.
Reflecting on the infamous Oscars slap, when Smith yelled at Rock, “Keep my wife’s name out your f---ing mouth,” Pinkett Smith said part of the reason why she was so surprised by the moment was because of how Smith referred to her.
"Mind you, we haven’t called each other husband and wife in a long time,” Pinkett Smith said. “I’m like, ‘What is going on right now?’”
Before this revelation, the couple had historically been vocal about their firm stance on divorce. Smith summarized it best during a 2008 appearance on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show: "Divorce just can't be an option."
“What I found is divorce just can’t be an option,” the actor explained. “It’s really that simple. If you have the option, one day, that person is going to make you want a divorce. She's going to say something. Somebody's gonna say something. You absolutely get to the point where you're done, and the only thing that keeps you continuing is that there's no other options," he said.
"And I think that’s the problem with L.A. — there are so many options. So a huge part of the success for (Jada) and I is that we just removed the other options. We’re like listen, we’re going to be together one way or the other, so we might as well try to be happy,” he continued.
Smith said something similar to MTV News in 2006. “Divorce can’t be an option. With Jada, I stood up in front of God and said, ‘Til death do us part.' So there are two possible outcomes. One, we are going to be together ‘til death, or two, I am dead,” he said.
Pinkett Smith echoed those remarks years later in 2018, during Smith's first appearance on Red Table Talk. “I told Will from the gate ... ‘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),” she said.
In another 2018 episode of "Red Table Talk," this time about "Life After Divorce," Pinkett Smith said something similar. “I’m not mature enough to have a divorce,” Jada said. “I’m just not. I don’t think I would ever be mature enough. I don’t.”
Smith had been previously married. He and ex wife Sheree Fletcher Zampino share son, Trey, 31. Zampino filed for divorce in 1995.
On "Red Table Talk" in 2018, Smith said he struggled with his divorce from Zampino. “I was like, ‘Ouch! Ouch! And I still told her, I said, ‘No. You can’t have a divorce.' And she hit me with the, ‘So you’re going to make somebody stay with you who doesn’t love you?’ And I said, ‘I’m actually not. Nope, I’m not.' And that was the one that got me,” he said.
So in 2011, when he and Pinkett Smith reached a breaking point and were "failing miserably," Smith said on "Red Table Talk" that he wanted to avoid divorce.
“Because I had been divorced before, I wasn’t getting divorced again,” he said. “Divorce wasn’t an option.”
The couple 'redefined' their relationship in 2011, after Jada's 40th birthday
On “Red Table Talk,” Pinkett Smith said her 40th birthday party was a “turning point” for their relationship.
Smith hired Mary J. Blige to perform and put together a documentary film about Pinkett Smith’s lineage, a film that took three years to make. The party came when Pinkett Smith was having a "difficult time" emotionally, Smith said.
"It was going to be a splash," Smith said of his intentions behind the party. "It was going to be the thing that lifted her out of this midlife crisis. It was going to be my deepest proclamation of love."
Pinkett Smith didn't receive the gesture warmly. "She told me that the party was the most ridiculous display of my ego. Crushed, right? To this day, I know I was crushed because it was true. It wasn’t a party for her," he said.
Following a fight the day after the party, Pinkett Smith changed her approach to marriage.
“That was a display, that moment of me having the courage to just say no. But now I had to have the courage to unravel it, and just realizing, ‘This next 40, I gotta do it my way,’” she said. “This next half has to be directed by my picture for myself.”
“Our marriage wasn’t working,” Smith writes in his 2021 memoir of that time. “We could no longer pretend. We were both miserable and clearly something had to change.”
At some point, the relationship became non-monogamous, Smith confirms in his 2021 memoir.
"For a 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. 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,” he writes.
The couple got back together after that 2011 breakup, this time with "new rules," Smith said on "Red Table Talk" in 2018.
Pinkett Smith was wary of traditional marriage from the start. The pair married in 1997, when she was three months pregnant with their son Jaden, now 25.
On “Red Table Talk” in 2018, she said, “I was so upset that I had to have a wedding. I was so pissed. I went crying down the freaking aisle getting married,” she added.
Smith, in his 2021 memoir “Will,” wrote that the traditional wedding ceremony was a sacrifice for Jada: “This would be the first of many compromises Jada would make over the years that painfully negated her own values.”