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Got a problem with Will Smith and Jada Pinkett’s marriage arrangement? Ask yourself why

They’ve presumably worked through any issues with non-monogamy – and it sounds like they’re having a damn good time

Victoria Richards
Tuesday 28 September 2021 13:42 BST
<p>‘Marriage for us can’t be a prison,’ the actor has said </p>

‘Marriage for us can’t be a prison,’ the actor has said

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Will Smith and Jada Pinkett have revealed the key to a happy marriage (or at least, what works for them) and it’s controversial. But perhaps it shouldn’t be.

The way to put an end to being miserable, to keep things fresh and to show your partner trust and true love, according to the actor? Ethical non-monogamy. In a new interview, Smith put a definitive lid on rumours that have circulated since rapper August Alsina claimed that he had been in a relationship with Pinkett with her husband’s permission.

Smith told GQ that they were initially monogamous after marrying in 1997 – the couple have two children together – but had decided to move to an open marriage because they were “both miserable and clearly something had to change”.

“Jada never believed in conventional marriage,” Smith said. “Jada had family members that had an unconventional relationship. So she grew up in a way that was very different than how I grew up.”

He said the pair had had “significant endless discussions” about the notion of the “perfect way” to interact as a couple. “And for the large part of our relationship, monogamy was what we chose,” he added – before admitting that they simply hadn’t considered other options.

And now? “We have given each other trust and freedom, with the belief that everybody has to find their own way. And marriage for us can’t be a prison.”

If you’ve ever been on a dating app, you’ll likely have come across people stating that they practice the same kind of “ethical non-monogamy” – but might well be wondering what that means. Put simply, it’s an umbrella term for all different combinations of an open relationship: from polyamory (having more than one romantic partner at the same time) to swinging or casual sex. The most important bit is that both partners know what’s going on – if one person doesn’t, it’s plain old cheating.

“Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it,” would be one view, and that’s really the whole point summed up, right there – it crucially, vitally, unequivocally has to be your view. If you feel nervous or undermined or anxious or jealous (or simply unsure), it probably won’t work.

Speaking personally, I don’t know that it would work for me – I “swipe left” whenever I see someone state in their dating profile that they’re non-monogamous, with a little sigh of disappointment, every time.

At some level I believe I’d be too jealous; that when I’m crazy about someone, it doesn’t come naturally to me to want to “share” them. Still, I could never say never – I simply haven’t tried it. But that doesn’t mean I think it should be condemned, or that it can’t suit others perfectly; and that’s exactly why I think Smith and Pinkett’s arrangement should be celebrated.

They’ve presumably worked through any issues or worries that will have come up along the way, and have decided to push through – and it sounds like they’re having a damn good time while they’re at it. If we find ourselves bristling and outraged, we’re probably just jealous.

After all, with 42 per cent of marriages ending in divorce, according to statistics, and with one in five British adults admitting to having had an affair (and, of those who have had an affair, 20 per cent have had more than three), it’s certainly not all romance and roses when it comes to the stricter confines of monogamy. Perhaps it’s no wonder that people are exploring other avenues – particularly when we’re living longer, too; which means even more of our lives spent with the same person.

Here’s the thing: what works for us might not work for someone else, and vice versa. And that, to me, is the most important point – we should be celebrating Smith and Pinkett’s unique dynamic in the same way that we should be celebrating anything that works for a couple, even if it doesn’t sound like it would suit us at home.

We shouldn’t condemn any adult’s mature, considered choices – especially when it comes to love. One couple’s sex life isn’t, actually, anyone else’s business. Unless you’re part of a thrupple, of course.

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