Jennifer Aniston's Relationship With Her Parents Explained

It's no secret that Jennifer Aniston didn't have the smoothest relationship with her parents, John Aniston and Nancy Dow. And that appears to be particularly true when it comes to her mom. The former "Friends" star's relationship with Dow has been highly publicized over the years with gossip columns regularly weighing in on what was supposedly going on behind the scenes with Jennifer and her mother, as both often spoke about the other in the media.

Dow has been open about the financial struggles of the Aniston family in the late 1960s and 1970s. However, she has always claimed that her daughter still had a great childhood. "Money was so tight that Jennifer didn't have any new clothing for the first few years of her life," Dow told National Post in 2000. "Broke as we were, Jenny was always dressed like a princess. Little Johnny was beginning to look a bit tattered. I felt bad when I saw his worn shoes and patched pants," she added, seemingly referring to her son, John Melick, who she shared with her first husband, Jack Melick.

But while Dow has always maintained that her daughter's childhood was rosy despite their financial difficulties, it seems like that was just the start of where Jennifer Aniston's relationship with her parents started to crumble.

Jennifer Aniston had to heal after her parents' divorce

Jennifer Aniston's parents divorced when she was nine years old, something the actor has never shied away from opening up about. Speaking to Esquire in 2007, she claimed Nancy Dow and John Aniston had a lot of tension in their marriage, which she'd try to diffuse by making them both laugh. "It's hard to recall now what those things were. Maybe I've blocked them out," she mused. "I guess I've learned to make a living doing what I did to try to heal myself as a kid." The actor spoke candidly about how she found out about her parent's divorce, disclosing that she came home from a friend's birthday party to find her dad was no longer living at home. "Divorce happens in a lot of families, and I don't want to break out the violins. But that was that," she shared.

In 2000, Dow spoke about the moment she told her young daughter about her split with John, recalling to National Post, "I watched a tear roll down Jennifer's cheek as confidence faded from her once trusting eyes." She then apparently told her mom, "Mommy, I can't believe I'm going to be one of those kids who grows up without a father."

Her dad, himself a successful actor, continued to be in Jennifer's life but he wasn't exactly supportive of her acting dreams. "My dad's advice has always been: 'Don't do it,'" she told The Hollywood Reporter in 2012. "... It compelled me to go for it even harder."

She claimed she had an 'unsafe' upbringing

In 2020, Jennifer Aniston claimed she didn't feel safe growing up. Speaking with pal, Sandra Bullock, for Interview, she explained how she was able to bounce back when things didn't go her way. "It comes from growing up in a household that was destabilized and felt unsafe," she said. "Watching adults being unkind to each other, and witnessing certain things about human behavior that made me think: 'I don't want to do that. I don't want to be that. I don't want to experience this feeling I'm having in my body right now. I don't want anyone else that I ever come in contact with ever to feel that.'" She then claimed she had her parents to thank for making her resilient, noting she chose to be happy and not dwell on the difficulties she'd faced.

Jennifer spoke about the divorce again to Allure in 2022, where she admitted she'd forgiven both her parents for the way she grew up. She added that she felt her mom was  deeply damaged by her first divorce from Jack Melick because therapy wasn't as prevalent at the time and there was little other support available. As for why Jennifer decided to move on, she explained, "It's toxic to have that resentment, that anger. I learned that by watching my mom never let go of it. I remember saying, 'Thank you for showing me what never to be.'"

Jennifer became estranged from her mom

Over the years, it's been pretty well-documented that Jennifer Aniston became estranged from her mom, as an adult. InTouch claimed the actor decided it was the last straw with Nancy Dow after she gave a detailed tell-all interview about her daughter with the TV show, "Hard Copy"  in 1996 — about two years after Jennifer found mega-success with "Friends." That fractured relationship between the mother and daughter is thought to have only grown frostier over the years that followed. Particularly so three years later when Dow released her memoir, titled, "From Mother and Daughter to Friends." Dow went by her married name, Nancy Aniston, for the book, and didn't hold back when it came to sharing her experiences of bringing up the now-major TV star.

In the year following the book's release, she opened up about her and her daughter's highly publicized falling out to National Post. "This has been extremely painful for me," she told the publication, reportedly with tears in her eyes. "You spend all this time raising a child, with a lot of good intentions, and you feel you have failed. It makes you feel very ashamed." She also confirmed that she and Jennifer were very much estranged and suggested they hadn't spoken in years after a row over the telephone. According to Dow, Jennifer was unhappy with the "Hard Copy" interview and claimed that her daughter slammed the phone down on her, shouting, "I will never forgive you!"

Nancy Dow made public pleas to her daughter

In the wake of Jennifer Aniston and Nancy Dow's estrangement, the latter made a number of public pleas urging her daughter to reach out so that they could reconcile. In 2000, she used an interview with the National Post as an attempt to issue a public apology to Aniston for getting angry during the notorious phone call that seemed to instigate their estrangement. "So I lost my temper. I'm sorry. I don't do it anymore. I've overcome that — I have. And I've forgiven other people. I've forgiven myself, too," she admitted. Later, she told the outlet, "I'm her mom. We have so much to share."

Despite years of family drama, in 2005, Aniston revealed that she was in a good place with both of her parents. Speaking with "Good Morning America," she explained that her recent divorce from Brad Pitt inspired the mending of their relationship. Describing the newfound family dynamic, she told the ABC breakfast show, "It's been really nice. It's crazy what, you know, your life kind of being turned upside down will lead you to." She explained that they all needed a bit of time to get them to a better place, noting, "It was going to happen when it was supposed to happen. So, this is good. It's baby steps."

Jennifer reportedly paid for her mom's healthcare

Despite Jennifer Aniston admitting she felt closer to her parents in the wake of her split with Brad Pitt, the family continued to have its ups and downs. In 2011, the Daily Mail reported that Nancy Dow had suffered a stroke and her daughter had rushed to her by her side. However, the outlet griped that the "Friends" star hadn't been seen publicly helping with her mother's transition from the hospital. Two years later, Radar Online claimed that amid Dow's ongoing health issues, Jennifer had paid for her mom to have caregivers assist her. A source also suggested that she had checked in with her mom on the phone a few times. 

In early 2015, Jennifer gave an update on the Aniston family, telling The Hollywood Reporter, "We're all fine." She also appeared to shed some light on the tense circumstances between the two that may have led to their estrangement. "She had a temper. I can't tolerate that. If I get upset, I will discuss [things]. I will never scream and get hysterical like that," she explained. "[But] I was never taught that I could scream. One time, I raised my voice to my mother, and I screamed at her, and she looked at me and burst out laughing. She was laughing at me [for] screaming back. And it was like a punch in my stomach."

Her mom was iced out of her wedding

Unfortunately, by the time Summer 2015 had rolled around, there was speculation the family may not have been on the best terms again. Radar reported that Nancy Dow didn't appear to be in attendance at Jennifer Aniston's wedding to her second husband, Justin Theroux. Dow seemingly confirmed the news to the outlet, stating that she didn't attend the event. Nonetheless, there appeared to be no ill will behind the decision, with Aniston's mom remaining supportive of the star and her son-in-law. When asked about their nuptials, she responded, "I think it's wonderful! Anything I say about Jennifer is super supportive."

Two years earlier, there had been rumors that Aniston never planned to invite her mom to her nuptials, suggesting her name being left off the guest list was no mistake — it was reportedly also not for the first time. "For her wedding to Brad [Pitt], she left her mom off the guest list, and a friend of Justin's said that it is going to happen again this summer," Marianne Garvey claimed on VH1's "The Gossip Table" (via Hollywood Life). "They are having a small, intimate wedding, and a lot of people have been left off, but Nancy's name is the first."

It's not clear if Jennifer's dad, John Aniston, attended the big day. However, People reported he was one of the first people the couple called when Theroux popped the question.

Jennifer Aniston continued to speak out against her mom

After leaving her mom off her wedding guest list, Jennifer Aniston continued to speak out about her childhood and what it was like growing up with her parents. In 2018, she told Elle that she'd worked hard to understand her mother and felt she behaved that way because of her own upbringing. "It wasn't her trying to be a b***h or knowing she would be making some deep wounds that I would then spend a lot of money to undo. She did it because that was what she grew up with," the actor explained. Jennifer also shared that she felt her mom did her best raising her, but that her issues were only exacerbated by her and John Aniston's financial difficulties.

Speaking to The Sunday Telegraph (via People), the "Horrible Bosses" star added that her relationship with Nancy Dow inspired her role as a superficial mom in the Netflix movie, "Dumplin'." "It was something that really resonated with me, this little girl just wanting to be seen and wanting to be loved by a mom who was too occupied with things that didn't quite matter," she shared. Aniston shared a similar sentiment to The Hollywood Reporter in 2015, claiming her mom would pick apart her appearance. "She was very critical of me. Because she was a model, she was gorgeous, stunning. I wasn't," she said. "... She was also very unforgiving. She would hold grudges that I just found so petty."

Jennifer Aniston had a better relationship with her dad

While drama seemed to shroud Jennifer Aniston's relationship with her mom, Nancy Dow, she always seemed to stay on better terms with her dad, John Aniston. In a 1990 E! News interview that resurfaced in 2022, John had nothing but praise for his daughter, despite initially discouraging her from becoming an actor. "Jennifer is a natural talent. There are certain things you can learn in this business, and there are certain things you can't learn. The comic instinct that she has in unerring. That's her greatest asset," he gushed.

In her adult years, Jennifer herself made no secret of the fact that she was always closer to her dad than her mom. She made that pretty clear in 2019 when she shared a Throwback Thursday post on Instagram. While one pic showed her and her father together when she was a child, the next was a sweet photo of them together more recently, featuring the caption, "Christmas with one of my creators. Then and now ... Love you, papa." 

Jennifer was also on hand to support her pops when John received the Daytime Emmys Lifetime Achievement Award in 2022. "This is truly a special moment for me. It's an opportunity to not only pay tribute to a true icon in the daytime television world, but it's also a chance to recognize the lifelong achievements of a great and well-respected actor, who also happens to be my dad," she gushed while presenting the award.

She paid tribute to her parents after their deaths

Despite admitting to not always having the best times growing up with her parents, Jennifer Aniston paid poignant tributes to both her mom and dad after their respective deaths. Nancy Dow passed away first in May 2016, with Jennifer confirming the news to People. A source also spoke to the outlet about how the star was feeling in the wake of her mother's passing, touching on their turbulent relationship. "No matter how complicated and difficult the relationship between Nancy and Jennifer may have been, it is heartbreaking for any daughter to lose her mother," they shared. "... Jennifer is grateful for the happy times they shared. She is pulling close to her husband and family and feels so supported by their love." InTouch reported the two had supposedly spent time together for the first time in five years mere days before Dow's death.

Six years later, Jennifer took to Instagram to mourn her dad, John Aniston, following his death in November 2022. The A-lister posted a series of old and newer photos, none of which featured Dow. "You were one of the most beautiful humans I ever knew. I am so grateful that you went soaring into the heavens in peace — and without pain ..." Jennifer captioned the touching post. "... I'll love you till the end of time ... Don't forget to visit."

Was Jennifer Aniston cut out of her mom's will?

Though Jennifer Aniston and her mom appeared to bury the hatchet just before she died, InTouch published a bombshell report after Nancy Dow's death which claimed she had supposedly left her daughter out of her will, having changed it about a year before her death. Radar also claimed Jennifer didn't have anything left to her by her mom, reporting that Dow's possessions supposedly went to her granddaughter and Eilish Melick, the daughter of Aniston's half-brother, John Melick, and other unnamed family members.

Despite rumors that Aniston did not inherit anything from her late mom, InTouch claimed that she and her then-husband, Justin Theroux, did attend her funeral to pay their respects, as did John Aniston. However, it sounds like things may sadly have remained turbulent between the mother and daughter even after Dow's passing. It was also reported Jennifer was supposedly offered her mom's ashes, but purportedly refused to take them home with her — though it's not clear if it was because of their past drama or something else entirely. "Someone tried to say that Jen thinks having the ashes around her home is morbid, that it's not her style," an insider claimed to InTouch (via The Sun). "... She was an absentee daughter and now, even with Nancy gone, it seems that she still doesn't want her mom around."