It’s not always sunny in paradise...even when you’re married to Will Smith.
I finally got a chance to watch the first couple of episodes of the second season of “Red Table Talk,” Jada Pinkett Smith’s popular Facebook Watch show, and I was pleasantly surprised to see her husband, Will, as a guest. Jada’s usual cohosts, her mother, Adrienne Banfield Norris, and her daughter, Willow, sat at the red table, too, and listened intently to the story of what Jada called a “unique union.” “Unique” is an understatement. The conversation became more and more candid as the episode progressed, and the audience was left hanging in anticipation of the next segment of the discussion. Since I was a week behind, I was able to watch parts one and two back to back. I learned some very important lessons from their discussion:
- Timing is everything.
- Everything is not what it seems.
- Will and Jada are not my #RelationshipGoals.
It’s time to dismantle the Smith myth.
For so many years, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith have been one of black Hollywood’s “it” couples. All eyes are on them as they light up every red carpet they walk on, seeming to exude love and adoration for each other as they pose for photo ops. Black singles, and even Black, single, Christians—especially women—look at them and long for what they have. I’ve heard the saying so many times, “I want that Will and Jada type of love!” According to the conversation they had on these episodes of “Red Table Talk,” that love almost didn’t happen—and when it did, it wasn’t what it looked like.
Will and Jada’s love story began before they ever met face to face. Will, who, at the time, was a fresh face on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” saw Jada in “A Different World,” and immediately felt a spark.
Despite the “thing” that Will felt, their “magical” meeting didn’t exactly go as planned. He went to “A Different World”’s set with every intention of introducing himself to Jada, but instead of meeting Jada that night, he got distracted by another girl...and ended up meeting (and marrying) his now ex-wife, Sheree. That was the first lesson I took from this episode: Timing is everything, and if you’re not careful, distractions can cost you your destiny. Will met the wrong person at the time that he was supposed to meet the right one, and it changed the course of his life. Will and Sheree share a son named Trey, but imagine how different his life would’ve been if he’d met Jada first...
Will and Sheree eventually divorced, and he and Jada started dating the day he signed his divorce papers. Two years into their relationship, they were pregnant with their son Jaden, and 3 months after that, they were married—not because they wanted to be, but because Jada’s mother insisted.
(Bonus lesson: Never get married just because someone else says it’s a good idea. That’s a whole different story.)
So, both Will and Jada were successful actors with 3 beautiful children (by this time, they had added their daughter, Willow, to the bunch). All is well, right? Wrong.
I’ve always thought it was cool how Will and Jada just seemed to “work” together. Behind the scenes, though, the angle was off. Turns out, the Smiths have very different views on marriage:
Will said he always wanted to be a husband and family man. Contrarily, Jada said, “I just never agreed with the construct [of marriage]...Till death do us part is real for me. I just don’t agree with all of [marriage’s] rules, all of the ideas...” Jada’s mother added, “And what you can’t do,” and she continued, “The accepted, conventional definition of wife, in the paradigm, I’m not that.” This is where the Smith myth fell apart for me, and I know it’s the reason for the unhappiness Jada mentioned in the latter part of part one, in the 45+ mornings she spent crying about being unsatisfied in her union.
Will and Jada broke up—within their marriage. They destroyed it privately, while in the public eye, it looked to be intact. Then they put it back together on their own terms, after they, in their own words, “found themselves.” They stopped living for each other’s (and the outside world’s) approval and figured out who they were individually. Now, they say they don’t even consider themselves married anymore, at least not in the conventional sense.
Here’s why what “works” for the Smiths would never work for me: I know that when you enter into a marriage, you don’t get to pick and choose what parts of the vows you’ll actually uphold—just like you don’t get to pick which verses of the Bible you take to heart. Marriage is all or nothing. That “paradigm” that Jada alluded to isn’t just the accepted definition of wife, it’s BIBLICAL! Marriage was designed by God to carry out a specific assignment in His Kingdom. Disregarding parts of that mandate just because it specifies things you can’t do is not Godly.
I won’t let my marriage get to the point where we’re living separate lives (especially not with separate people—that’s called adultery!) in the same house. It won’t have to get to that point for my husband and I, because I am in the process of doing the inner work now, before marriage. Choosing a husband or wife is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. It’s second only to your choice to submit your life to God. The time to “find yourself” is not after you’ve made a commitment to intertwine your life with someone else’s. You’re supposed to learn who you are while your life is still just yours, and of course, always, God’s. If you’re doing marriage the Christian way, you know that the vows aren’t meant to “trap” you; they’re there to hold you accountable—to God, to your spouse, and to yourself.
As I watched this discussion, I noticed a lot of my single, Christian friends liking and commenting on the videos, some even going as far as to say the Church can learn from the conversation. In a lot of ways, they’re right, we can learn from it, but we have to be careful about what exactly we’re learning. I still like the show because I enjoy intellectual, personal conversation, and their discussions tackle real issues head-on...but as for me and my #RelationshipGoals, Will and Jada aren’t it. I do appreciate what their story taught me, though: What we see on TV and red carpets is often just that—for show. Marriage, even the unions we consciously or subconsciously idealize, is not always as great as it looks from the outside. Saints, I know y’all don’t want to hear this, but here it is: Just because it works for Will and Jada doesn’t mean it’ll work for you. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to have to “redefine” marriage on my terms. I want to do it on God’s terms, the way He intended it, the first time around.
*All videos featured in this post are from “Red Table Talk”’s official Facebook page. No copyright infringement intended.