Reese Witherspoon carefully discusses the time she ‘left an abusive relationship’

90th Annual Oscars Nominees Luncheon 2018

I’m shocked! I’m shocked that Oprah Winfrey allowed two other actresses on the cover of O Magazine! Usually, O is just all about Oprah! But Oprah is promoting A Wrinkle In Time, where she costars with Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling in the Ava DuVernay-directed film adaptation. Oprah, Reese and Mindy reportedly got along really well, and they’ve been joined at the hip during the early promotional appearances. I really do think they get along, which makes me happy… in particular for Mindy, because I want Oprah and Mindy to be BFFs. In any case, being around Oprah has made Reese feel very comfortable… comfortable enough to talk about how she left an abusive relationship:

In the March issue of O, The Oprah Magazine (on newsstands Feb. 13), Oprah Winfrey interviews actresses Mindy Kaling and Reese Witherspoon, her co-stars in Ava DuVernay’s adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time. The trio talk openly about how the #MeToo movement and Time’s Up initiative have impacted Hollywood—and, by extension, women across all industries.

“What’s the most difficult decision you’ve had to make to fulfill your destiny?” Winfrey asks.

“For me, probably leaving an abusive relationship,” Witherspoon replies, adding that she endured both “psychological” and “verbal” abuse. “I drew a line in the sand, and it got crossed, and my brain just switched. I couldn’t go any further. I was really young, and it was profound.”

Without delving into the specific details, Witherspoon explains, “It changed who I was on a cellular level, the fact that I stood up for myself. It’s part of the reason I can stand up and say, ‘Yes, I’m ambitious.’ Because someone tried to take that from me.”

[From E! News]

I’m not going to call this a “blind item” because I don’t think that’s how we should frame conversations about abuse and abusive relationships. But… I mean, Reese is saying this in a very careful way, and she’s definitely giving us some clues. She met Ryan Phillippe when they were both pretty young (I think she was like 19 or 20 when they met), and she got pregnant really quickly and then they got married. I don’t know if she dated anyone seriously before Ryan. Ryan has also been accused recently of physically abusing a girlfriend, Elsie Hewitt. His ex-fiancee Paulina Slagter seemed to indicate that she had some stories about him too. So… while I think Reese is being careful and she probably doesn’t want us to speculate about her ex-husband, I can’t help but think that Reese is referencing Ryan. I mean… it fits.


Photos courtesy of Ruven Afanador for O Magazine.

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80 Responses to “Reese Witherspoon carefully discusses the time she ‘left an abusive relationship’”

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  1. SM says:

    That was also my impression. I thought about Ryan instantly

  2. Rose says:

    Photoshop fail on Oprah’s head / body relationship!

    • Belle Epoch says:

      Thanks for going there! I agree. Plus – what happened to Reese’s face? Her pointy chin is gone and her teeth are all weird. I hope she didn’t have tragic plastic surgery.

      • Ib says:

        If you look at her teeth during the golden globes they were super weird -she suddenly has a gap between her two front teeth??? Why? I think the lack of pointy chin here is photoshop fail though.

      • Annabelle Bronstein says:

        I think it’s just terrible photoshop. Reese looks natural and the same as always IRL. Oprah’s retouchers apparently only know one face.

      • magnoliarose says:

        The photoshopping was taken to creepy levels here. They all look embalmed.

      • CeeCee says:

        I agree Reese doesn’t even look like Reese in these photos! Sheesh! Put down the photoshop pen!

    • Katie says:

      And Reese looks like a hobbit next to the other two in the second photo.

  3. jenna says:

    I don’t believe it was Ryan she was referring to, despite the recent police report about him. Also her emphasis that she was “very young” implies pre-Ryan, to be honest. Especially since they split when she was 30, and I’d hardly call that “very young”.

    It’s probably somebody non-famous. Off the top of my head I can’t actually remember her being with anyone famous besides Ryan and Jake Gyllenhaal, and then the CAA guy she married.

    I also don’t believe Reese would talk publicly like this about the father of her children, especially as, by all accounts, they all get along despite their divorce.

    • @BitingPanda says:


      Had she and Ryan split early, perhaps, but their time seemed to end because of wondering dick, if I remember correctly, not because she walked away at a very young age.

      She is probably referring to a first love, a teenage love, and it formed who she is a person to know she is the kind of girl that puts an end to those relationships, rather than stays and repeats the cycle.

      • MamaHoneyBadger says:

        “Wondering dick”? Probably a typo, but still, it fits!

      • Svea says:

        My recollection is she split from Ryan due to his alleged affair with Abby Cornish (which I don’t think helped her career too much). Simething about Reese getting a Blackberry message or finding a Blackberry message out of the blue. And that as it.

    • MandyMc says:

      Agree. While Ryan could still be abusive, I think she’s talking about someone pre-Ryan as well.

      Also- what is up with these photos?? They are pretty awful.

    • magnoliarose says:

      I believe it is Ryan and there is footage that has been scrubbed from the internet of him acting alarmingly nasty to her when she won an award. 19 is very young by any standard, and their breakup was sudden.
      He may be the father of her teenaged children but they know who their father is by now, and she hasn’t said anything terrible about him that has not been said about him for years.

    • lucy2 says:

      I’m assuming the same, and she’s chosen not to name him, so I don’t want to guess names.

    • Kosmos says:

      If it was not Ryan, perhaps she could have alluded to it not being him so that people do not now think negatively about him–I mean, most people will think it could possibly be Ryan, so she could have cleared his name for his sake. She could have said it was before my first marriage, etc.

  4. Talie says:

    I would be shocked if she was talking about Ryan, only because it doesn’t make sense why she would want to stir up something against him out of the blue? I mean, based on Instagram, her kids seem to adore both parents.

  5. Shelllley says:

    O’s photoshoppers are the worst.
    Poor Mindy. Look what they did to her beautiful face.

  6. T.Fanty says:

    Blind gossip had a list of her exes, including Stephen Dorff, Philippe, And Mark Wahlberg. I would believe that of any one of them. I had no idea Reese’s radar was so off.

  7. Myhairisfullofsecrets says:

    I don’t think she’s talking about Ryan. They have children together and I don’t think she would jeopardize their relationships with their father by implying that he abused her. That would take a huge toll on her children. I suspect it was someone she was with before Ryan.

  8. Snap Happy says:

    I don’t think it was Phillipe

  9. tcbc says:

    Well, I absolutely think it’s Ryan. Two public accusers? Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

    • Annie says:

      Of course it’s him. People just don’t want to believe it because he’s dreamy. But two previous exes accusing him of abuse says a lot. They both clearly drifted apart after she won the Oscar. Which means he’s probably the one who couldn’t take her success and ambitions.

      • Milla says:

        It’s not about his looks. I just think there are more candidates and my mind went to Marky Mark.

        It could be Ryan, but would she talk about him cos of their kids? No idea.

      • jenna says:

        You can’t really say that, Annie. Nobody hear is saying “he doesn’t abuse women”, people are saying that Reese likely isn’t talking about him here. That doesn’t mean the two accusers are liars or undeserving of being believed.

      • RestlessLegs says:

        Let’s not forget this gem about Reese and Ryan.

      • Kitten says:

        Yeah I really don’t get the focus on Wahlberg when Ryan is the one with a pattern of domestic violence.

      • magnoliarose says:

        I don’t think that is fair about Marky Mark either. She has hinted about it before, and there was several of his exes who talked about his horrible behavior. I have no idea why it would be assumed to him when clearly the one who had trouble with her success was Ryan. He is the one with the pattern.

      • EOA says:

        Not sure why so many here are in a rush to defend Philippe. Mark Wahlberg is a convenient deflection, since so many here hate him, but he’s never been accused of domestic abuse, as far as I know. Yes, obviously I know he has a history of violence in other ways but it matters that Philippe is the one who has had multiple women accuse him of abuse and Wahlberg hasn’t.

    • teacakes says:

      Plus I would not be surprised that he had a problem with Reese being way more successful than him after Legally Blonde.

      It could equally easily be Marky Mark but Ryan can’t in any way be ruled out based on what she said.

      • Bridget says:

        It’s generally a given that Phillippe had huge issues with Reese’s astronomical success, especially considering that his career misfired at the same time. Legally Blond was the start of that. They’re also known as one of those couples that was pressured to stay together for her Oscar campaign, despite the relationship being done at that point. Does this alone make him abusive? Not necessarily, but it does make him a dick.

      • Christin says:

        That’s where my mind went. Her career took off during the early part of their relationship, and that could have been the (unjustified) catalyst for verbal/emotional abuse.

  10. JeanGenie says:

    If she’s not talking about Ryan, then somewhere in the interview she should have said, “Before I was married.”
    They have kids together.
    She’s smart and media savvy, so this makes me think it is about him.

    • LadyT says:

      Excellent point. She’s a sharp lady. Either it is Ryan or she didn’t mind in the least that many would think it was.

  11. Lily says:

    Whatever you do, don’t read Dailymail comments about this article.

    Maybe it’s someone she dated in her teens?

  12. CooCooCatchoo says:

    I knew that she made movies with them, but had no idea she dated Markie Mark or Dorff. Then she followed that up with Ryan. She did love her some bad boys, didn’t she? Sounds like the relationship she’s describing was straight out of the movie, “Fear.” But I’m going to guess that Ryan was the abuser. It was during that marriage that her career continued to get bigger, while his, at the same time, started to flounder. He was the bigger star at first, but she eclipsed him in a major way. I remember hearing stories about him being a jerk about her success and taking his jealousy out on her. Plus, the wandering peen. He always seemed like an immature, passive-aggressive, pouty baby.

  13. Chaine says:

    Everyone in Pic #3 is so much more relaxed and natural looking than the photo they used for the cover! SMH.

  14. Kira says:

    Honestly, this speculation regarding who in her past is an abuser, and who abused her (when she does not make it public) makes me deeply uncomfortable. It is neither fodder for gossip, nor does it have something to add to the current conversation on sexual harassment and assault.
    Now as for the charges against Phillippe, and the stories that have come out against him, fair game. I believe the women who have accused him of abuse.

  15. kk2 says:

    Agree it’s probably Ryan. She was young when it started, not as young when she left. Their kids are old enough that if dad is an ahole, they probably already know that. A person can be a bad partner and an ok parent too.

  16. Texasho says:

    Absolutely agree it was Ryan. She said she had a “relationship” with the abuser. She may have dated Mark Wahlberg and Dorff, but this was a relationship she was referring to. And he just seems like a dick.

  17. deets says:

    Reese, talking about Ryan in 2011

    “I was so, so young. I was, like, ridiculously young. I learnt a lot, though. It was an excellent opportunity for me to really find out what it means to be a partner and to be in a marriage and it’s not anything that I thought it was.”

    FWIW she’s also said in other more recent she has no regrets about her relationship with Ryan.

  18. TaniaOG says:

    Pretty sure I had heard bad things about Dorff back in the day. But regardless, it’s a good story because she is all of us. We have all been with *someone* who thought they could hold us back. The key is recognizing that, saying “no, thank you” and moving on.

  19. Anastasia says:

    That last picture barely looks like Reese. It’s like those photos of celebs if they were normal people and didn’t have access to plastic surgery and all the best skin care and health care, etc.

  20. JustMyNamez says:

    My bet is on marky-mark. Ever read the stuff he said while his now-wife was pregnant? Doesn’t seem like the nicest guy. Plus, the woman left him for quite a while.

  21. Menlisa says:

    Mark Wahlberg

  22. Bridget says:

    I don’t think it matters who it is. And I find it ironic how people want to play the guessing game to figure out who Reese is referring to, but aren’t discussing the way she’s reviled for being an ambitious woman. When it’s an intimate partner it’s abuse, but when is in Comments sections on the internet it’s okay?

    • magnoliarose says:

      No snark but I don’t understand the last part of your statement. Can you clarify? I want to make sure I understand what you mean.

      • Bridget says:

        No problem clarifying there. I feel like I’ve been reading Snark for years about Reese that stems directly from the fact that she is ambitious and driven, including on this very site. Knowing that and then seeing how people jumped in like it was a Blind Item guessing game feels icky. Like the only item of note is who was the a-hole to her.

      • magnoliarose says:

        Oh ok, I see what you meant now. Reese used to rub me the wrong way, but it seems like she has matured into herself and is ok being seen as tough and no longer packages herself as the sweet southern blonde anymore. I know she was difficult, but in hindsight, I don’t think she was any more difficult than any actor. I just think women get more heat for their imperfections or for being demanding.
        She is doing good things with her career.

        As or speculating I can understand your feelings. Sometimes I feel like that too. In this case, I don’t, but I can respect that it can.

  23. Layla Love says:

    I can’t get past the face!

  24. Carrie1 says:

    All I can think about is Reese being married currently to an agent in Hollywood + Rose McGowan pointing out CAA facilitated a lot re: Weinstein + CAA funding Times Up and here is O featuring these women on the cover with her when Oprah is normally alone.

    Hollywood is burning men and look at this cover. Now that’s interesting.

    • BorderMollie says:

      There really needs to be a whole separate investigation into CAA at this point.

    • Bridget says:

      CAA is sketch, BUT I think it’s telling who is a part of Time’s Up with CAA. Hylda Qualls was hung out to dry by CAA in that Michelle Williams debacle. I have a feeling that the formation of Time’s Up is a direct response to CAA being shitty from the inside for the women that work there. The name that keeps coming up with CAA is Bryan Lourd, specifically. He’s the one who was actively helping to shield Weinstein.

      • msd says:

        Eh, no. Michelle Williams is with WME not CAA. She has been since 2014. And her agent is a guy called Brent Morley, who also reps Jake Gyllenhaal. Wahlberg is also with WME which is why there was added drama and why the agency wound up donating 2 million to Times Up. Hylda Queally is one of the biggest agents, and way more experienced than Morley. I doubt she would have let that situation happen without assurances that everyone else was working scale/free too.

  25. emma33 says:

    Are they all sitting on dirt? That is the weirdest background!

  26. Ozogirl says:

    It could be Ryan, but I don’t think it is because she said she was really young. She met Ryan when she was 21 and they didn’t divorce until she was in her 30’s. She could have had a serious relationship when she was a teenager.

  27. Lex says:

    Even if it *were* Ryan (which I don’t believe from how she phrased this) – I doubt that she would publicly malign the father of two of her teenage children who could be damaged by this. I don’t really ever recall her saying anything bad about him, no matter what might have gone down.

  28. Suki says:

    Speculating on this is gross but I don’t believe she is talking about Ryan. Reese and Ryan have often spoken in interviews about their friendship and respect for one another. The way they are together and the way they speak about each other does not tally with an abusive ex in my mind. I think she is referencing someone pre-Ryan.

  29. lemon says:

    I think she’s talking about Ryan. She has repeatedly talked about being SO young when she got married/had kids. I think that the not naming names thing she is doing is annoying when so many brave women are confronting their abusers. Reese is still “that happened to me one time” it made me so strong. She finds a way to stay on brand and on message no matter what. I wish someone would ask her about CAA.
    The CAA thing needs to be looked into. They tried to keep the Harvey story hidden. They told Ronan Farrow to stop.

  30. Jessica L says:

    Speculation on this isn’t a good look, but I find the “she wouldn’t hint this about Ryan because of the kids” line of thought really weird and unhelpful.

    First of all, if she was a victim of abuse or any kind of mistreatment, she shouldn’t be expected to conceal it for anyone’s sake. This is her truth. She doesn’t have to protect him. The kids are old enough that they know who Dad is at this point. It isn’t like she just dropped a tell-all book. She conveyed a brief, fairly nonspecific anecdote that most women can relate to in one way or the other. I doubt that will be more damaging to the kids than what actually transpired in the marriage and subsequent years. They know, for instance, that he dates women who are basically his daughter’s age or close enough, and they probably know the truth about whether or not he harmed those women, as they allege, and whether or not he’s capable of that behavior (I believe he did and is).

    Reese did not speak in terms that pointed directly at him or called him out, but for those who know their history, this is quite clear. He had major problems with her success/ambition and they were together at the time when her career skyrocketed. She’s spoken about the relationship in the past. Other women have accused him of abuse.

    I think some want it to be Mark because he’s already reviled in a way that Ryan isn’t, so that makes it more “comfortable” somehow, but…nah.

    Agree with those who’ve noted that we aren’t really addressing all the crap Reese and women generally are subjected to for being ambitious, so that we can play the guessing game about who she’s talking about. That’s sadly typical and it’s what women have been trained to do.

  31. Kim says:

    She’s right. The first time that you stand up and assert yourself to a person who tries to make you feel small, it’s scary and exhilarating. Good on her that she found the strength to do that early. She really strikes me as an over-achiever, a go-getter, etc. and I’ve always wondered about how much bullshit she’s really had to put up with, being America’s sweetheart and whatnot, while also being ambitious and hungry. Chances are, a lot.