Will Smith Recalls the Time He Broke Up With Jada Pinkett Smith: 'I Was Devastated'
By Antoinette Bueno
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Will Smith appeared on wife Jada Pinkett Smith's Facebook Watch series, Red Table Talk, on Monday, and the two opened up about their relationship like never before.
The couple has been married for 20 years and got blunt about experiencing their ups and downs. The 50-year-old actor even reveals that they, at one point, broke up.
"We broke up and I was devastated, even worse than a divorce," Will says in the tease to the next episode of Red Table Talk.
But during Monday's episode, Will and 47-year-old Jada discuss the beginning of their relationship and also, what led to a serious period of arguing. Interestingly enough, Jada reveals she actually went on a date with Will's Fresh Prince of Bel-Air co-star, Alfonso Ribeiro, before she ended up with Will. Still, that's not the craziest connection the two have. Will says that after seeing Jada on the sitcom A Different World, he immediately sensed they would have chemistry, and went to a taping to meet her. But during the taping, he ended up falling for the woman that was with the man who was supposed to introduce Will to Jada. The woman at the taping was none other than his first wife, Sheree Zampino, whom he shares his 25-year-old son Trey with.
Still, Will says he and Jada continued to see each other years later in what he describes as "near-misses," and describes sharing a deep connection with her one night when he ran into her at a party thrown by Tisha Campbell and Duane Martin.
"We had that moment and we connected, but I was married," he says.
Jada quickly clarifies, "We did not have an affair when he was married, let's be clear about that."
Will says that just one day after the party, while at dinner with Sheree, he had a breakdown in the bathroom due to the realization that he wasn't with the woman that he was supposed to be with, but would never consider getting a divorce from Sheree. However, Sheree later ended up filing for divorce from him, despite his reluctance to end the marriage.
A day after finally agreeing to sign the divorce papers, Will reveals he immediately called Jada, who at the time, had just moved out of L.A. and bought a farm in Baltimore, Maryland.
"'Are you seeing anybody?'" he recalls asking her. "Uh, no ... cool, you're seeing me now."
"My dumb a** was like, 'OK!" Jada adds with a laugh.
Of course, it wasn't all smooth sailing after that. Jada says she knew right away when she got pregnant with their son Jaden and wasn't exactly overjoyed.
"I cried all night long because I was pregnant, my life was never going to be the same," she recalls. "I didn't want to get married. I never wanted to be married. I didn't want to have a wedding either. It was a horrible wedding. It was a mess."
Jada, who was three months pregnant at their 1997 wedding, recalls being sick and "pissed" she had to have a wedding, at the strong suggestion of her mother.
"I went crying down the freaking aisle," she recalls. "I cried the whole way."
Will and Jada definitely admit to having communication issues early on in the marriage. But a turning point came when Jada cursed at Will while he had his son Trey in his lap during a family get-together. Will admits to bopping her on the head with a newspaper and asking her to talk in another room.
"I grew up in a household where I watched my father punch my mother in the face," he claims, explaining why he took the situation so seriously. "I will not create a house, a space, an interaction with a person where there's profanity and violence. If you have to talk to me like that, we can't be together. We're not gonna use any profanity in our interactions. We're not gonna raise our voice. We're not gonna be violent. I can't do it. ... It was 20 years before we used any profanity in any conversion we've had."
Later, Will and Jada get serious about the period Will says he was "failing miserably" as a husband. The actor says that although to the outside world his family appeared perfect, it was far from it.
"Together we win," Smith stresses about the Smiths' various successful projects. "We rule the material world. Karate Kid. 'Whip My Hair.' Hawthorne. Nobel Peace Prize. Our family did that within a six-month period ... I was like, 'I'm parenting the hell out of these kids! We're killing it.' Externally, our family was winning."
“And [then] there was a period where Mommy woke up and cried 45 days straight,” he continues, growing somber. “I started keeping a diary.”
“You missed some days," Jada immediately cracks.
Will goes on to explain a major issue in their marriage, which was when he attempted to build a house for her which he named "her lake." He says he struggled with wanting to build a certain life with Jada, that he now acknowledges wasn't realistic.
"During that time I was saying, 'I built this house for you. I called it 'her lake,'' and she said, 'No, you built this house for you,'" he remembers. "And I was like, 'What you talking about, Jada?' But it was devastating for me to accept that I built the house for me. Because in my mind, I was saying I was building it for her but I wasn't. I wanted this house. I called it 'her lake' as an ego cover, right? And Jada was calling me on that. What I realize is I was building a picture. I grew up in a household where I was scared and watched my father beat my mother up, and so I was going to build the complete opposite of that -- it's gonna be wonderland! Everyone's going to be happy all the time!"
"And I had a public perception that I wanted to protect of our relationship, of our family, and what my kids are, and what my wife is, and what we are in the world," he continues.
Jada later acknowledges she built up resentment towards Will because she had to take a break to raise their kids -- 20-year-old Jaden and 17-year-old Willow -- but acknowledges it was partly her fault for letting things "slide." She also says she felt "ungrateful" for being unhappy even though the family was so well off.
"I've been trying to live up to an expectation for Will," she reflects.
These days, Will has some perspective on Jada's feelings at the time.
"She was sacrificing herself to fit my picture, but my life wasn't really disrupted in the least," he shares. "I felt that money and winning made a good relationship ... You were trapped in a life that you didn't build, that you didn't want."
Another unforgettable moment in the relationship came when Willow, who was only nine years old at the time, was able to get through to her father. Will recalls Willow putting her hand on his face and saying, 'Mommy, isn't it sad? Daddy has a picture of a family in his mind and it's not us.'"
For her part, Jada says that when she turned 40, she also realized, "I can't do this like this anymore."
For more on Will's extremely candid appearance on Red Table Talk, watch the video below: