“What are the alternatives to divorce?” Pinkett Smith asked Perel. “Everybody thinks as soon as you find out there’s been an affair you have to get a divorce.”
“I’m not of that persuasion because I think there are many relational betrayals, ― contempt, neglect and violence and indifference ― and nobody tells people, ‘Leave, leave, get the hell out,’” Perel said.
Pinkett Smith agreed, admitting she could “relate” in her own marriage to Smith.
“I’m asked a lot about, ‘Is there infidelity in your relationship with Will?’” she said. “And it’s like, ‘No, but there’ve been other betrayals of the heart that have been far bigger than I could even think in regards to an infidelity situation.’”
“When you talk about contempt, or resentment or neglect ― that can just tear your world apart,” Pinkett Smith said.
It’s true. Contempt in a marriage is so bad, renowned marriage researcher John Gottman has identified it as the single best predictor of divorce. (Contemptuous behavior includes eye-rolling, sarcasm and name-calling, among other things.)
The actress said what made the biggest difference was her refusal to let her own needs take a backseat to Smith’s.
That involved letting go of some traditional ideas about married life and “redefining the marriage as a life partnership,” she said. Now, each partner’s autonomy is valued, she added.
“[I was told] you have to be a perfect wife, you have to be that source that supports his dream, no matter what it is,” she said. “Whatever he wants to build, you’re there to support that. Our whole life looked like his dream.”
“And the title you got for that? His muse?” Perel asked.
“Yeah, basically, I’m his energy source,” Pinkett Smith said. “That’s great, but I have to create part of this life that is designed and looks like me.”
As the actress’s frank conversation with Perel proves, the Smiths clearly aren’t afraid to retool their marriage or let it evolve on its own terms. In an earlier episode of “Red Table Talk,” Pinkett Smith said she and Smith have outgrown the term “married” and prefer to view their union as a “life partnership.” They also don’t freak out if they’re not spending their wedding anniversary together.
The couple were married on Dec. 31, 1997, but sometimes aren’t even in the same place for their anniversary, she said in an episode: Smith likes to be on an adventure for New Year’s Eve, while Pinkett Smith prefers to be inside, she explained on the show, as her daughter, Willow, and mother, Adrienne Banfield-Jones, laughed.
“He now has the freedom to go and have an awesome adventure of some kind,” Pinkett Smith said.
Smith, too, has talked about this new, more open chapter in their relationship.
“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,” the “Aladdin” actor said on Tidal’s “Rap Radar” podcast in July 2018.
“There’s no deal breakers,” the actor added. “There’s nothing she could do ― ever ― nothing would break our relationship. She has my support until death and it feels so good to get to that space.”
Watch the rest of Pinkett Smith’s revealing “Red Table Talk” with Perel here.