If you haven’t heard of it yet, Jada Pinkett has a really brilliant show on Facebook called The Red Table. It’s basically an intergenerational talk show that she hosts alongside her mom and her daughter. They talk about everything from motherhood to body image to sex and marriage. Which brings us to the last two episodes where a very brave Jada Pinkett and Will Smith sat down with the whole fam to discuss the ups and downs of their nearly 25-year-long marriage as well share the secrets to how they overcame a separation to create their very own unique union.
This kind of conversation is not for the weak or weary, even in private, so for them to be so open and honest about their relationship on a talk show is kind of unheard of, especially for such a famous couple. Still, they didn’t hold back any punches and the two-part episode was pretty revelatory. It’s basically a must-watch for anyone in a marriage or anyone interested in what makes people in relationships tick, what can drive them apart, and what can bring them together again. Most importantly, there are some real, fundamental lessons that came out of the nearly two-hour convo that we can all take home to make our partnerships stronger. Here is what we learned from Mr. and Mrs. Smith…
Lesson #1: Learn How to Fight
Apparently, Will grew up in a pretty violent household where he witnessed domestic violence and lots of fighting and he did not want to recreate that with his marriage. So, very early on in his relationship with Jada, he made a point to say that even if they disagreed or fought, he did NOT think it was acceptable for them to curse and scream at each other. It seems so simple, but it’s a rule that many couples don’t follow in the heat of an argument. I’ve definitely been guilty of this, but to hear Will explain why it was painful for him and how it’s just fundamentally respectful made me realize it really never has to come to that. If you feel yourself getting to that level of anger, remove yourself from the situation until you’ve calmed down and cooler heads can prevail.
Lesson #2: Be Bold
Will was married when he first really had a chance to connect with Jada (they’d met but never really talked) but he was not the divorcing type so even though he knew he wasn’t with the woman he was supposed to be with, he resigned himself to the fact that they had just missed each other in this lifetime. However, when his first wife filed for divorce (on Valentine’s Day no less) and told him she no longer loved him, he signed the papers, walked out of the office and promptly called Jada. That very first conversation after finding out that she was single, he told her, “You’re seeing me now!” and Jada said, “Ok.” Sometimes, it really is that simple.
Lesson #3: Listen to Each Other
Humans do this weird thing where we pretend to be working towards a goal or want something for someone when we really want it for ourselves. Take for example Will’s desire to build this huge house “for Jada and the kids.” Jada didn’t want a huge house, she didn’t want a lot of the trappings of wealth and success that Will liked to revel in. But he didn’t listen to her, and eventually, Jada referred to the home as a “gilded cage” because she felt trapped by Will’s desire to show everyone outside their world how successful they were.
Lesson #4: Never Lose Yourself
Lots of women find themselves trapped in the mommy-wife paradigm and wind up losing sight of what their dreams, hopes, and aspirations were before they became attached to those roles. Jada was trying to figure out how to explain to Will what was going on in her life and she was struggling. She could have blamed her mom, or her childhood, or her partner, but she knew that the real problem she was struggling with was deep inside her and that she was going to have to find it and figure it out on her own. So instead of letting the surface symptoms of her unhappiness distract her, she put in the work and figured out what she needed to gain back her own power as Jada, and not as a wife or mother.
Lesson #5: Compromise is Key
Will had to learn to take a step back and put his desire to win, win, win, on the backburner in order to listen to the deeper truths the women in his family were trying to share with him. One simple way they compromise is how they choose to decompress. Will loves to run around the globe going on adventures, while Jada loves to stay at home creating traditions and intimate family moments. So, they each get 10 days where one has to do whatever the other wants. Sounds about right to me!
Lesson #6: Your Life is Your Own, Married or Not
Jada and Will talk frequently about how you can’t rely on someone else for your happiness. Your life and happiness is your responsibility and your responsibility alone. You can’t expect someone else to fulfill needs or a void inside you that they can’t even see. All of our lives are ours to live and ours alone. Whether or not you have a life partner is only one aspect of happiness. You can be in the most supportive relationship in the world, but if you don’t know who you are or what you want you’re not going to be living life to the fullest. And that’s on YOU.
Lesson #7: You Can Have More Than One Relationship in One Marriage
No, we are NOT talking about an open marriage here. We’re talking about transformation and forgiveness and the fact that people grow and change and relationships need to grow and change with them. If you’re planning on being married for a lifetime, you best believe that the person you married is going to change and evolve over time. Rather than being something that we fear, we can chose to embrace that change and use it to get to know ourselves and each other more deeply. Will it be easy? NOPE! But rarely are things that are worth it.