Willow Smith Admits She Hoped Her Parents Would Divorce At One Point: I Could ‘Feel’ Their Tension

Despite appearing to have a perfect marriage, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith struggled behind the scenes. It once got so bad that Willow Smith wanted them to pull the trigger and break up.

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“It just felt like loss,” Jada Pinkett Smith, 47, said to PEOPLE magazine when describing her descent into depression and despair nearly a decade ago. Her marriage to Will Smith, 50, was causing the Gotham star to feel “suffocated by what she saw as unrealistic expectations of the conventional marriage paradigm,” according to PEOPLE, and the anguish led her to some dark places. Jada’s turmoil didn’t go unnoticed by her children, as daughter Willow Smith, 18, told the magazine that she wondered if her parents would ultimately break up. “It crossed my mind a lot,” she said. “I was like, ‘I’d rather them divorce than keep being unhappy in the same house.’”

“Once they realized that they had individual work they needed to do and started doing it, everything changed,” Willow told PEOPLE. “The communication was so much smoother and there’s almost no tension between them. Before, the kids could feel it, [and] I think not knowing how to help contribute to my own confusion and my sadness.” Now, Willow says that her parents have “a true friendship and that’s the most beautiful thing ever.”

“I never wanted to get married,” said Jada. The Girls Trip actress was raised in Baltimore by her single mother, Adrienne Banfield-Jones, 65. “But my mother was like, ‘You have to get married’ – she’s so old-school – and Will wanted a family. So I said, “all right, maybe it’s something I should do.’ … I had never seen a happy marriage. I adored Will, I f*cking adored him, but I just didn’t want to be married.”

The two tied the knot in December 1997, but in 2009, she reached her breaking point. Jada was “depleted” from juggling her family’s four career – Will, Willow, Jaden Smith, 20, and her own – and the confines of marriage. “There was too much concentration on what was happening externally, and the family unit itself wasn’t getting the attention and care that I felt we needed,” she said.”

“By the time my 40th [birthday] came, I was like, ‘I can’t do it anymore.’ I was so depleted. I had to really take time out for me and figure out what I wanted for myself. I had to kind of put everybody aside and ask, ‘what would I do every day if it was just Jada?’ I literally had no idea.” After redefining herself, her relationship with Will was also redefined, and the two have found happiness. “It’s more of a life partnership…he doesn’t belong to me. I don’t own him. He doesn’t own me. He has to be his own person first, and vice versa….love is freedom.”