Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith’s marriage has been the source of speculation since they tied the knot in ’97—from the idea that they were Scientologists to rumors that they were swingers with open marriages. So when the couple took to Jada’s Red Table to give the world an inside look into their marriage, the insight into their union became instant fodder for debate, fascination, and adoration. Will and Jada’s openness to one another and true, genuine love was evident through the course of their hour-long discussion, which led to plenty of declarations that they were hashtag “marriage goals.”
I get the admiration and the sentiment, I really do. And in the sense that Will and Jada are two people who are in love with one another and seemingly happy in their marriage, they do seem to possess some sort of goal that we should all aspire to have in our relationships. However, our desire to be like them should end there. No two people can model their marriage after anyone else’s with the hope of reaching the same goal, because each marriage is different. In short, #MarriageGoals—in the way we use the phrase to discuss other people’s marriages—is a figment of our imaginations that only set our own marriages up for failure.
Each marriage works for, at most, two people: the couple in said marriage. What works for one marriage will most assuredly not work perfectly for another marriage because, surprise, each couple is as different as a snowflake.
There were plenty of aspects in Will and Jada’s marriage that I want to incorporate into my own or am reminded to emphasize in my partnership: the way Will makes sure to communicate his need for space to communicate effectively, their agreement to spend 10 days a year doing something the other person wants to do (or fewer, because the way my PTO days are set up…), or the fact they spend hours just talking to each other in the morning. They have also seemingly found a medium between Jada’s apathy towards marriage and Will’s obsession with having a traditional family. It works for them.
But I’d be miserable in their marriage. When Jada cursed at Will in public, he hit her in the head with a rolled up newspaper like she was a puppy. She spent years depressed due to her unhappiness in their marriage. Will was incapable of seeing beyond his ego for years. That seems like hell. Now, this isn’t a slight to their marriage in the least bit. Instead, it’s a recognition of the fact that different marriages work for different people. The things they went through to get to where they are in year 20 worked for them. It wouldn’t work for me. Just like the things that have gotten my wife and I to seven years of marriage would only work for us.
For example, my wife goes to bed at eight or nine every Friday night, snuggled up on the couch with the kids knocked out with her. That’s understandable. My wife is a superhero, and when the week is done, she’s exhausted. On the other hand, I work from home most of the week and am stir crazy by Friday, so I have to get out. My wife and I have an understanding that she will fall asleep and I’ll go out by myself, either with friends or just alone at a bar. My wife is sound asleep so she doesn’t really know when I get in (I’m washed, so it’s generally before midnight, but still). It works for us. I get to recharge and focus on my family on the weekend and my wife gets to sleep without worrying about me dragging her on a groggy date. For some people, that level of unsupervised time for a spouse late at night is a no-go.
If you find yourself looking at someone else’s marriage, envious of the relationship that you see between the spouses, then that says more about you and your marriage than theirs. No healthy marriage should want to be anyone else’s marriage. That’s why proclaiming to want Will and Jada’s is a slippery slope into focusing on what your own union is missing. Marriage is a lot of work. A lot of work. It takes breaking and molding, sacrifice and compromise. It takes years to make the marriage fit. Nobody can just squeeze themselves into someone else’s marriage and be happy.
I don’t know much about Will and Jada’s marriage beyond what they’ve shared with us on a social media app for an hour. Neither do any of you. But what I do know is that trying to fashion a marriage after someone else’s is setting your own marriage up for failure. Marriage is a clumsy sack race where you and your partner will fall and stumble all along the way to the finish line. The thing is, you can only run your race and you can’t measure your success by how far along other people are in their respective journeys. Because you don’t know the discomfort, pain and stepped-on toes hidden in those bags away from plain sight.