What You Don't Know About Denzel Washington's Marriage

In 1977, a young Denzel Washington and an equally young Pauletta Pearson both starred in the television movie Wilma. They married in 1983, have had four children — John David, Katia, and twins Malcolm and Olivia — and have stayed together for decades in a time and place where that seems almost unheard of. How have they done it? According to them, it's a mix of faith, stability, and living that's allowed them to celebrate the ups, weather the downs, and make it through some potentially devastating scandals (via Aleteia).

They've been the target of numerous cheating and divorce scandals

In spite of — or perhaps because of — the Washingtons' long-term marriage, they're no stranger to rumors. In 2003, tabloids ran with a juicy bit of gossip that claimed Denzel was not only having an affair with his costar from Out of Time, but that she was pregnant with his child. It was still going three years later, and Sanaa Lathan was still denying the affair ever happened, telling Vibe (via Fox News), "[The rumor] got started because the movie had a love scene with Denzel, and people took that and translated it to real life. [...] It's frustrating. People are going to talk no matter what."

Things went to a whole new level in 2013, when photos proving Denzel was being unfaithful were supposedly being shopped to various media outlets — at least according to Radar Online. The photos never actually showed up, but a lack of proof didn't stop Celebrity Dirty Laundry from linking him with co-star Paula Patton.

The rumor mill got turning again in 2016, when Globe Magazine (via Bossip) claimed the pair were divorcing because she couldn't take his cheating anymore. It's not the first time that story's been kicking around, either, and in 2013 Denzel even went on television to say that there was no truth to any of the rumors (via Hollywood Life).

She said no… twice

Today, they're known for having one of Hollywood's most enduring marriages, but they both confessed to Access Hollywood that it almost didn't happen. They were at the premiere for 2013's 2 Guns when they admitted he'd had to ask her three times before finally getting a "yes" to his marriage offer. She said "no" the first two times, and while they didn't go into any details about just why she would reject his first two marriage proposals, it seems they're not holding any grudges over those particular incidents today.

"It's true," adds Pauletta. "I turned you down twice, and the third time, we did it!"

They did it again in 1995, when they renewed their wedding vows in a ceremony in South Africa. According to The Indiana News, the vow renewal was officiated by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

She picked up the tab on their first date — or at least some of it

While we might like to think of this — and other — Hollywood romances as being the stuff of movies, that's definitely not the case. In 2017, Denzel spent part of Valentine's Day on Jimmy Kimmel Live! (although the couple also hit a Lakers' game for the most romantic of holidays, Daily Mail was quick to point out). Most people might say they never forget their first date with "the one," but when Kimmel pitched a few questions his way, things were a little less clear. According to Denzel, he did the gentlemanly thing and paid for their first date, in spite of the fact that Pauletta — who was backstage — often said she was the one that paid. After a little goading, he admitted that he had intended to pay for her cab home as well as dinner, but ran out of money and left her to pick up the last tab of the night.

They roll with the punches

In 2017, Denzel explained to Jimmy Kimmel Live! that they are not a couple that gets ruffled too easily — which is probably why they've been able to endure all the drama without a major fallout.

He shared an anecdote about their wedding day, and while everyone might worry and stress about everything going exactly right, Denzel and Pauletta prove that if it doesn't all go right, it's not a big deal. They ended up running out of food at the reception, and they were so busy talking to their guests that they didn't even get the chance to eat and had to head out to a local diner afterwards.

"We had eggs or something," Denzel admitted. "True story."

They rely on faith to guide their marriage

Denzel Washington is one of Hollywood's famously religious stars, and it's evident in movies like his Book of Eli. It's not surprising, either, given that his father was a Pentecostal preacher. According to Christianity Today, he not only chooses roles that are in line with his values, but he prays and reads the Bible every morning.

He shares that faith with Pauletta, too, and the couple worked together on an audio version of the Bible called The Bible Experience. When they spoke to CBS News about just what it was that drew them to the project, they both spoke about their steadfast belief that any answer to any problem could be found in the pages of the Bible, and that participating in making an audio version of that was going to make it accessible to countless people. For Pauletta's part, she considered it not only a privilege to work on the project, but to do it with her husband.

"It's a love story, and it's a true story, and it's an outline, I thought, for the original design of marriage. It was an opportunity to express that love for your mate and for God in his original design," she said, adding that she hoped to be able to share their experiences with the Bible with others.

They know science can change the world

Many actors and actresses spend their time championing a chosen cause or two, and Denzel and Pauletta Washington are known for doing the same. They're making a difference together, though, and that says a lot about the quality of their relationship and an alliance of values.

The couple have established a scholarship fund at Cedar-Sinai, and the Pauletta and Denzel Washington Family Gifted Scholars Program in Neuroscience provides some valuable training opportunities for medical students that might just go on to change the world. It provides the financial means to partner young students with researchers in their particular field of interest, and also recognizes others with official commendations.

They know how to host a fundraiser

They work together for causes they believe in, and in 2016, they jointly hosted a fundraiser for the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture. Over prior years, about $55 million has been raised for the project, and they opened their Hollywood Hills home to sponsors — and raised a further $17 million. Not only did they host the evening, but Pauletta performed there, too. The entire thing sprang from a family trip they had taken to Israel.

"There was one room in the Holocaust museum that featured clothes, shoes, and other items of the children murdered there and it was very disturbing," Pauletta said (via Variety). "I asked my kids about it after we left and I could tell it haunted them, too. But it also made them think about their own history and they asked me where was a place that told our (African American) story. That hit me because I didn't know at the time this museum was in the making."

Their secret for a long-lasting relationship

Hollywood's famous for their scandals and short-term relationships, so when Denzel participated in a Reddit AMA and was asked about his beliefs in keeping up a long-term marriage, he responded with a candidness that everyone — no matter what kind of relationship they're in or what kind of life they lead — can relate to.

"[...] I just think that you have to work at it," he wrote. "Not give up on each other. It's a commitment. It's not all the honeymoon, it doesn't last forever, so you work at it. And hopefully you're good friends first, that might help! Sometimes people get married for the right reasons."

Only weeks after their 30th wedding anniversary, Ebony did a feature on the couple (via Huffington Post). They were the cover story in August 2013, and talked a bit about how they manage to create a stable family life for themselves and for their children amid the chaos of Hollywood. While Denzel said there's no single, magical secret to making a marriage last, Pauletta said it was stability that was key.

"I live with this man. I see the down part. I see the sad part. I see every part. He has and knows he has that stability in me as his wife. That gives him strength, regardless of if he misuses it. I can't dwell on that. But I do know that gives him a great platform to go and fly." An odd sort of statement, for sure, but when Denzel spoke with Oprah on the subject he made it clear they're no different than any other couple in many ways.

"It's a marathon, not a sprint," he said (via Black Doctor).