Jennifer Garner Is Beautifully Frank On Her Divorce From Ben Affleck
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Jennifer Garner Is Beautifully Frank On Her Divorce From Ben Affleck

Actress Jennifer Garner presented an award with Benicio del Toro at the Oscars, wearing a stunning and sophisticated off-the-shoulder Versace number.

— The Insider (@TheInsider) February 29, 2016

Her smiling and beautiful face exuded warmth and a sexy self-confidence. She also graces the cover of March’s Vanity Fair, and has given an interview that is notable for how she talks about her divorce from actor Ben Affleck.

She refers to her last year, since the news of her marriage’s dissolution, as “a year of wine.” She talks about the challenges of being a mother to children of divorce. Asked about the role that the family’s nanny, 28-year-old Christine Ouzounian, played in the divorce:

Now to end on what the gossip pages call ‘nannygate’—it’s all so unsavory and such a cliché. ‘Let me just tell you something,’ Garner says. ‘We had been separated for months before I ever heard about the nanny. She had nothing to do with our decision to divorce. She was not a part of the equation. Bad judgment? Yes. It’s not great for your kids for [a nanny] to disappear from their lives.’ Months later, she’s still assessing the damage. ‘I have had to have conversations about the meaning of ‘scandal,’’ she says, with her children.

On having your marital failure be discussed by the larger world:

‘I turned on CNN one day,’ she says, ‘and there we were. I just won’t do it anymore. I took a silent oath with myself last summer to really stay offline. I am totally clueless about all of it.’ In this constant, 24-hour media age, unplugging takes real discipline—which can be interpreted, by some, as indifference. ‘Ben says, ‘Oh, you just don’t care,’ and I say, ‘No, it’s the opposite.’ It hurts me so much, and I care so much,’ she says, choosing to not ‘give a shit’ how the divorce looks to the outside world. ‘I cannot be driven by the optics of this. I cannot let anger or hurt be my engine. I need to move with the big picture always on my mind, and the kids first and foremost.’

Reflecting on that marriage:

‘I didn’t marry the big fat movie star; I married him,’ she says. ‘And I would go back and remake that decision. I ran down the beach to him, and I would again. You can’t have these three babies and so much of what we had. He’s the love of my life. What am I going to do about that? He’s the most brilliant person in any room, the most charismatic, the most generous. He’s just a complicated guy. I always say, ‘When his sun shines on you, you feel it.’ But when the sun is shining elsewhere, it’s cold. He can cast quite a shadow.’

and

(Garner had a starter marriage at 28 to actor Scott Foley, whom she met on the set of Felicity; it ended after two years.) ‘Of course this is not what I imagined when I ran down the beach, but it is where I am,” she says. “We still have to help each other get through this. He’s still the only person who really knows the truth about things. And I’m still the only person that knows some of his truths.’

Asked about Ricky Gervais’ Golden Globes joke about Matt Damon being the only person Affleck has ever been faithful to:

She admits to watching it and adds, ‘I laughed. People have pain—they do regrettable things, they feel shame, and shame equals pain. No one needs to hate him for me. I don’t hate him. Certainly we don’t have to beat the guy up. Don’t worry—my eyes were wide open during the marriage. I’m taking good care of myself.’

The interview does the standard for such promotional pieces, praising her upcoming film roles and convincingly arguing that she’s on the top of the financial and acting worlds. Friends, including Matthew McConaughey, praise her to the hilt as a generous and lovely person.

What’s remarkable about this interview is how she respects the dignity of her children by refusing to say anything that will embarrass them, and how she speaks both generously and forthrightly in such a way as to make it absolutely clear who really messed up.

But even there, she surprises. Toward the end, and even with the interviewer speaking so frivolously of marriage, she says:

Garner’s parents have been married for 51 years. When I ask her if there was a turning point in her own marriage, where she couldn’t work any harder, she tells me, with emotion in her voice, ‘That’s a really hard question. I’m a pretty hard worker. It’s one of the pains in my life that something I believe in so strongly I’ve completely failed at twice. You have to have two people to dance a marriage. My heart’s a little on the tender side right now, and it’s always easier to focus on the ways that you feel hurt, but I know that, with time and some perspective, I’ll have a clearer sense of where I let the system down, because there’s no way I get off in this.’

People should work hard on their marriages, because the dissolution is horrible for the parties and their children. And while a wronged spouse has every right to be upset at the failures of a husband or wife, it’s far healthier to also look at the bigger picture and to hold one’s self accountable for where one erred. This shows a maturity more people should exude in all aspects of their lives.

Mollie Ziegler Hemingway is a senior editor at The Federalist. Follow her on Twitter at @mzhemingway
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