It was a revelation that many might not have seen coming during another edition of Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday series on OWN, but it was one that deeply enlightening. When Winfrey’s A Wrinkle in Time costars, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling, sat down with the pop culture icon, one of Winfrey’s questions for the women prompted Witherspoon to reveal that she had been in an abusive relationship in the past that had fundamentally changed her. It was a reveal so casually noted yet, upon further prodding from Winfrey, Witherspoon was able to open up about the relationship that played an integral role in propelling her down the career and life path she is on now.
When asked by Winfrey about the “most difficult decision [she has] ever had to make in order to fulfill [her] destiny,” Witherspoon took a moment before replying, “For me, probably leaving an abusive relationship.” And while she never names the person who she says abused her psychologically and verbally (although there’s a chance she could be referencing the toxic working relationship she had with a director when she was 16 years old), nor do we know what kind of relationship she had with the person, we do know that it happened when she was much younger.
When pressed for a deeper explanation, Witherspoon told Winfrey and Kaling what led to her leaving that relationship. “A line got drawn in the sand and it got crossed, and my brain just switched and I knew it was going to be very difficult but I just couldn’t go any further.”
Witherspoon went on to say that that relationship and leaving that relationship fundamentally changed her, especially when it came to putting away negative thoughts about herself. “I could never be the person I am today,” she stated. “It changed who I was on a cellular level, the fact that I stood up for myself. None of those leaving those situations …it’s wrought with self-doubt, particularly if someone damages your self-esteem.”
She went on to say that these days, people who knew her back then up until today notice she has become an entirely different person. “People say to me that knew me then, ‘You’re a completely different person.’ I didn’t have self-esteem. I’m a different person now and it’s part of why I can stand up and say, ‘yes, I’m ambitious’ — because someone tried to take that from me before.”
Witherspoon went on to connect how this relationship not only changed her on a cellular level, implying in her statements that leaving that abusive relationship allowed her to love herself and gain confidence, but that this relationship gave her an unfortunate bond with so many women in Hollywood, including her Big Little Lies costars. “There wasn’t a woman there that hadn’t been affected by abuse,” she noted.
What matters now is that Witherspoon is safely away from her abuser and, from the looks of her social media these days, she is not only married to a man who loves and supports her, but has a happy and healthy life as well. That’s what matters most.