"I feel like we have a stronger bond than we ever had in the beginning," Jada Pinkett Smith tells PEOPLE of her relationship with Will Smith

By Elizabeth Leonard
June 26, 2019 08:00 AM

Jada Pinkett Smith never doubted her love for Will Smith or their devotion to their kids, Jaden, 21, and Willow, 18. But over the course of their now 21-year marriage, she nearly reached a breaking point.

“It just felt like loss,” Jada tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story, in which she, daughter Willow and mom Adrienne, 65, the stars of Facebook Watch’s Red Table Talk, discuss their family’s unbreakable bond.

“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.”

Drained from juggling her family’s four careers and feeling suffocated by what she saw as unrealistic expectations of the conventional marriage paradigm, she hit a wall about 10 years in.

“Will’s like, ‘We just came from Oslo, going to the [2009] Nobel Peace Prize ceremony [for Barack Obama] as a family, you’ve got a big house with a lake – isn’t this amazing?!’ And I’m like, ‘No,'” Jada recalls.

Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith
Kevin Winter/Getty

“By the time my 40th [birthday] came, I was like, ‘I can’t do it anymore.’ I was so depleted.”

While Jada had thoughts of suicide, she recognized what she really needed to do was step back, reassess her whole life and put in some serious work.

Watch the full episode of People Cover Story: Jada Pinkett Smith, Willow Smith and Adrienne Banfield Norris streaming now on PeopleTV.com, or download the PeopleTV app on your favorite device.

“I had to really take time out for me and figure out what I wanted for myself,” she says. “I had to kind of put everyone aside and ask, ‘What would I do every day if it was just Jada?’ I literally had no idea.”

One thing that was clear? She believed she and Will had the tools, and the love, to get to a healthy place and keep the family together.

  • For more about Jada Pinkett Smith and her family, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
Sophy Holland

“I am kind of a ride-or-die chick,” she says. “I just knew with the kind of love that Will and I share — which is beyond romantic love — that we could transform our union and figure out how to re-create what we had.”

RELATED: Jada Pinkett Smith Says There Have Been ‘Betrayals of the Heart’ in Her Marriage to Will Smith

While rebuilding herself was “the most excruciating process” and one that took years, she says, Jada felt “by redefining myself, the relationship got redefined.”

Their last few years have been among some of their very best.

“The journey between Will and me… we have come to such a beautiful place,” she says, crediting Red Table for helping her define and share her truth. “I feel like we have a stronger bond than we even had in the beginning.”

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