By Tekita Bankhead
This week, we got our second installment to this season of Jada Pinkett Smith’s Red Table Talk and a deeper dive into her marriage to Will Smith. Chile, this episode was a lot for me! While I was refreshed again by their vulnerability and candor in sharing their journey, there were several moments where I wasn’t sure I could adopt some of their practices as “relationship goals.” As always, before reading our take on the episode, be sure to check out this episode to avoid potential spoilers. This time, we’ll focus on some of the main points that resonated most.
Let’s hop right in!
Jada reminds us that matrimony is not every woman’s goal. One thing I have really appreciated about Jada Pinkett Smith in these past two episodes is her honesty about being unfulfilled by a somewhat stereotypical domestic life. She spoke about how she wasn’t exactly thrilled to get married and had several moments throughout her marriage where she experienced deep unhappiness. It didn’t signify some sort of arrival for her or major life milestone. When Jada shared the experience of her unhappiness peaking around her 40th birthday, she described it as “living in a golden cage.” What a disturbing but relatable visual to imagine someone begrudgingly living a lavish life they never wanted but tolerated for fear of seeming ungrateful. I remember wondering where she got the idea that she needed to perform as the wife people expected her to be and how long she would have kept up the show. In what other areas of our lives are Black women performing instead of being true to our desires? I imagine that it’s in more areas than we realize.
Hear what your partner is actually saying instead of what you are hoping to hear. I found it ironic that Will and Jada mentioned their commitment to direct communication in the first episode. However, in my opinion, the root of some of their larger issues stemmed from the fact that they weren’t truly hearing each other. One way that they seemed to work around this was to keep their friendship at the root of their relationship. Once they were able to truly listen to their friend,
Self-love will prevent you from using all of your marital energy trying to “fix” your partner. In the ups and downs of their relationships, Will and Jada also shared moments where they were trying to seek something in their partner that they were subconsciously missing. In an effort to have a semblance of control lacking from his childhood, Will was extremely focused, almost pushy, about maintaining a certain image of his family. From Jada’s extravagant 40th birthday party that she didn’t want to Willow’s meteoric and short-lived “Whip My Hair” musical era, Will realized he was being more of a character and less of a husband/father. In Jada’s mid-life crisis, her defining moment was when she realized that she was expecting Will to fill certain voids in her life that she was solely responsible for. She realized that you don’t have to need your partner to love your partner and that she “had to be the thing she was asking for.” This is such a common mistake in relationships, both romantic and platonic; hopefully, their transparency will help jumpstart the process of reflection for many of us.
You get to define your union on your own terms. One of the most notable takeaways of this conversation was Will and Jada’s personal definition of their relationship. They don’t call their union a marriage and don’t refer to each other as husband/wife. They emphasized that they fiercely challenge the notion that relationships are transactional and focus on truly understanding the plight of their partners. Both shared that “it is not your partner’s job to make you feel a certain way;” their only job is to be a loving supportive partner.
There are other alternatives for resolution besides divorce. Will and Jada are a great example that a strong friendship breeds a strong relationship. They were adamant that they share a lifelong partnership and that divorce was never an option nor was it necessary. Instead, they explained that they “broke up within their marriage” to break down the fantasy of what they thought a relationship should be and got back together again. Their notion that unconditional love is born the day dealbreakers are gone was extremely powerful. I had never thought about unconditional love in that way before. Now, I’m not sure I’ll find a better definition than that.
This was one of the most enjoyable interviews I’ve watched from two people I deeply admire, even more so now for their authenticity. They really helped to highlight the hard work that relationships take behind the scenes but also the tremendous rewards and development that can come as a result. To echo Will’s gushing compliments of his wife, Jada is doing absolutely brilliant work with Red Table Talk, and I look forward to the next episode. Tune in for new episodes each Monday on Facebook Watch!