A Timeline of Will Smith & Jada Pinkett Smith’s Best Relationship Advice

It’s not every day that you get a celebrity being candid — like, actually candid — about the state of their relationship. But some of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith’s best relationship advice has come out of a willingness to go against that norm and get real with the public about how and why they’ve struggled. In the past few years, the Smiths have defined their own rules for how much they want to share with the rest of the world about their marriage, and everyone who’s tuned in has reaped the benefits of their honesty. So, in honor of these two being so open with us, we’ve rounded up their best relationship over the years (grab a pen, you’ll want to write these down).

The biggest lesson we’ve learned from this inspiring couple? There’s absolutely no shame in hitting roadblocks in a relationship. In fact, breaking through that sense of shame, accepting that relationships change, and opening up honest communication is your best shot of getting through. Will and Jada, who started dating in 1995 and married in 1997, have passed the 20-year mark and have raised three children together: 26-year-old Trey Smith (from Will’s first marriage), 21-year-old Jaden Smith, and 18-year-old Willow Smith. Here’s the best relationship advice this couple has shared over the years.

On Trusting Your Partner

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Jada on set Sweatin’ Mike Lowrey! 📷: @aidan

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Back in 2013, Jada spoke to the Huffington Post about her relationship with Will, and what their secret was to having lasted so long. Here’s what she said: “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 […] 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.”

When fans later interpreted those comments to mean that she and Will had an open marriage, Jada responded like this: “This does NOT mean we have an open relationship…this means we have a GROWN one.”

On The Importance of Couples Counseling

In 2016, Will spoke to The Sun about what really happens in couples counseling — and why he thinks it was key to moving forward in their marriage. “What happens in a marriage once you do counseling, the truth comes out,” the actor shared. “And you sit across from your wife and you’ve said all of your truth and she has said all of her truth. You look at each other and you can’t imagine you could ever possibly love each other again now the truth is out […] It creates a dark moment. But for me it’s the dark before the dawn. When the truth comes out and people have to say who they are and what they think, you get to know who they are. I think that’s the cleansing before you get to the other side that is understanding and moving forward in our relationship.”

On Not Listening to the Critics

By June 2018, Jada and Will’s 21-year marriage had been through plenty of tests — not least, the skepticism and rumors from the public. Jada set the record straight on this Sway’s Universe segment: “Here’s the thing about Will and I, it’s like, we are family, that’s never going down,” she said. “It doesn’t matter, all that relationship and what people think, ideas of a husband and a partner and all that, man, whatever, at the end of the day, that’s a man that can rely on me for the rest of his life, period.”

On Committing To Yourself

In July 2018, Will gave an interview to Tidal’s Rap Radar in which he discusses his marriage, and what the idea of marriage really means to him. “As much as marriage is a relationship commitment, it really is a singular commitment to yourself that you were going to use your marriage to develop your self,” he shares. “Marriage demands that you be the best version of you or it ain’t gon work […] Jada and I realized that we were on individual journeys. We were both trying to force a marriage when actually, you know, in terms of a seed and soil, are they married? The seed is not married to the soil, it’s just growing together both doing what they were designed to do.”

On Being Life Partners

On that same interview, Will gets into how his and Jada’s definition of partnership has changed. “We don’t even say we’re married anymore,” Smith explains. “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. 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 where you’re not complaining and worrying and demanding that a person be a certain thing to sort of satiate your ego deficiencies. You’re not demanding that somebody be a certain thing so you feel better about yourself.”

On How Marriages Change

In August 2018, Jada took to Instagram to share her most recent thoughts on marriage. She captioned a photo of her, Will, daughter Willow, and son Trey like this: “I’ve been watching a lot marriages dissolve around me. It’s been really painful. Marriages change. Sometimes they need to be reimagined and transformed. Sometimes they are simply over … but either way, I pray that folks going thru this painful transition find the patience and the love within to not throw the “babies” out with the bath water. #family.”

On Knowing When to Re-Evaluate

In October 2018, the Smiths took on that now-famous Red Table Talk series, in which they unearthed their deepest, darkest marriage secrets to share with the world. Will shared in Part 1 that he wound up taking two years away from work to really focus on himself and his marriage to Jada. Here’s how he describes one moment when he realized things needed to change: “The day after her 37th birthday, I hired a team to orchestrate her 40th birthday […] It was going to be the thing that lifted her out of this midlife crisis, and it was going to be my deepest, most beautiful proclamation of love,” he says. “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.”

On Different Definitions of Success

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Red Table Talk Oct 22nd

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In a similar vein, Will reflects in Part 2 of their Red Table Talk on how his professional success was at odds with the family’s personal turmoil. “Externally, our family was winning,” he shares. “But there was a period where mommy woke up and cried 45 days straight. I started keeping a diary. It was every morning. I think that’s the worst I’ve ever felt in our marriage. I was failing miserably, but on the outside I was winning.”

On Taking a Step Back

In June 2019, Jada talked to People about how she knew it was time to take a step back from the status quo. “There was too much concentration on what was happening externally, and the family unit itself wasn’t getting the attention and care that I felt we needed,” Jada explained. “Will’s like, ‘We just came from Oslo, going to the [2009] Nobel Peace Prize ceremony [for Barack Obama] as a family, you’ve got a big house with a lake– isn’t this amazing?!’ And I’m like, ‘No.’ […] I had to really take time out for me and figure out what I wanted for myself. I had to kind of put everyone aside and ask, ‘What would I do every day if it was just Jada?’ I literally had no idea.”

On Making Sacrifices

In August 2019, Jada sat down with The Guardian to clarify that marriage itself presented certain challenges she was wary of — not the idea of having Will as her partner. “Will is my life partner and I could not ask for a better one,” she says. “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. So I wanted to talk about how we really feel about marriage. How do we really feel about different, unconventional relationships? How do we really feel about raising children? Honestly.”

On Why It’s Important to Share Your Struggle

In that same Guardian interview, Jada talked through why she did that deeply honest Red Table Talk with her husband, and how she’s feeling about the past 20 years. “When I was going through a really tough time in my life,” she shared, “there were three women, three friends, who were so honest with me — I mean so honest with me, saying some stuff you would never expect anyone to say — that they re-directed my journey. But it wasn’t necessarily advice, it was that they were willing to spend time with me and share.”

Jada continues: “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! So why wouldn’t you share what you’ve been through, when you see that other people are out there, trying to figure this crap out? We decided to make it public because it’s part of the healing. I feel like if we don’t have real understanding about it, I don’t know if interpersonal relationships are possible.”

On The Late Show with Stephen Colbert that same month, Jada added this about why they went public: “What was really important about Will and I doing that show together — two things […] First of all was really to kind of get rid of the idea that people in the public eye have perfect relationships. We were kind of sick of living up to that. We were real sick of it, and then second of all really having myself and Will come and talk about our relationship […] Us coming together and taking responsibility for both of our parts and also Will being the successful guy that he is […] you can’t imagine how many other successful men called and said, ‘Wow, my wife has been saying the same thing for years. Because you said it, it opened my eyes and because you said it, I’m willing to listen.'”

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