A Timeline Of Charlize Theron's Relationships

Charlize Theron has high standards, and why wouldn't she? She's one of the world's biggest movie stars, leading buzzy projects like "The Old Guard" and "Mad Max: Fury Road," so anyone looking to date the actor-producer needs to be ready. "I'm in a place in my life where you gotta come with a lot of game," she told Drew Barrymore in 2020. "...'Cause I just won't accept anything less." The famously-single star has admitted that she's not sure she's even looking, joking to Howard Stern, "I don't know if I'll ever be able to live with somebody again. To be totally frank, they might have to buy the house next to me."

In the past, though, the South African superstar has been in a handful of high-profile relationships with famous men. Though she's rumored to have gone out with A-listers Brad Pitt and George Clooney, the thing to know about Theron's relationship history is that she loves making it red carpet official; because most of her confirmed relationships have been long, her roster is relatively short! Check out our timeline of Charlize Theron's relationship history.

She dated UnREAL actor Craig Bierko

The same year Charlize Theron got her big break (a small role in "Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest"), she started dating actor Craig Bierko, according to PureWow. When they first got together in 1995, Theron was only 19 years old, while Bierko was 30. He would go on to be best known for playing Max Baer in "Cinderella Man," and for his role as philandering television executive Chet on "UnREAL." Around the time of their relationship, though, Bierko had roles in films like "'Til There Was You" and "The Long Kiss Goodnight." Theron attended the latter's premiere, but she and Bierko walked the red carpet separately. Makes sense, because Bierko was one of the film's leads, while Theron had at that point, again, mostly just been in things like "Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest."

The two were not as high-profile at the time as they would both go on to be — Theron's star at this point having thoroughly eclipsed Bierko's — and so the end of their relationship doesn't seem to have made the press. At the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in 1998, though, Theron was pictured with Geena Davis, Bierko's co-star from "The Long Kiss Goodnight." It seems that after her relationship with Bierko ended, she was the one who got to keep the friends.

Charlize Theron led a semi-charmed life with Stephan Jenkins

After she broke up with Craig Bierko, Charlize Theron's next relationship was with the lead singer of Third Eye Blind, Stephan Jenkins. At the time, he was the more famous member of the couple; Theron wouldn't win her Oscar until years after they separated, while his band had had several major hits by that point. According to the Los Angeles Times, they first "met backstage after a concert in Hawaii." The couple attended the Oscars together in 1999, where Theron's film "Mighty Joe Young" had been nominated for best visual effects. The 15-foot gorilla that Theron acted with didn't net them the award, but Theron and her beau were all smiles anyway as they were photographed together at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party following the ceremony.

However, it seems that behind the scenes, the relationship was not a healthy one. An SFGate profile of Jenkins later described their relationship as "tumultuous," and the union was ultimately not to last; they reportedly split in 2001. A few years later, around the release of Third Eye Blind's third album, "Out of the Vein," a fan asked Jenkins in an Entertainment Weekly Q&A if his breakup with Theron had inspired any of the songs on the record. The "Jumper" singer replied, "Yes. Um...no, I think that...[pause] I think she was definitely a...[long pause] Um, what's the word...[longer pause] I think that's a good answer: Yes." 

Her Trapped co-star was Charlize Theron's longest relationship

Charlize Theron met actor Stuart Townsend on the set of "Trapped," a 2002 thriller where they played a couple whose daughter, played by Dakota Fanning, is kidnapped by Kevin Bacon and Courtney Love. A few years into their courtship, Theron — finally the more famous one in the relationship — expressed her sense that she'd gotten lucky with Townsend. "The lotto was scratched and I won," she told Diane Sawyer at ABC News. "I don't think I could have imagined a love like that."

Townsend was Theron's date to the 2004 Oscars, the ceremony where Theron picked up a golden statuette for her work in "Monster." Townsend told Irish America that the night was an enjoyable one, insisting that the difference in their level of fame didn't affect their relationship. "I had the best night ever," he said. "That's what was really nice about it. Celebrating my girlfriend winning an Oscar."​​

By 2007, Townsend told People that they were married in all but the official sense. "I didn't do a church wedding or anything," he said, "but we're married. We're husband and wife. We love each other and we want to spend our lives together." Perhaps it's for the best that the marriage wasn't officially recognized, which likely made their inevitable split easier, logistically speaking. According to sources in the Daily Mail, Theron dumped Townsend after a joint vacation gone wrong, and they went their separate ways in early 2010.

She dated Sean Penn and definitely didn't ghost him, okay?

A couple years after breaking up with Stuart Townsend, Charlize Theron dated actor Sean Penn, who coincidentally had won an Oscar the same year she did, back in 2004. They reconnected, and the "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" star directed Theron in "The Last Face," a film where Theron played an aid doctor in Africa. It was critically panned, to put it kindly, but the Theron/Penn relationship went well... at first. Penn accompanied her to the premiere of "Mad Max: Fury Road," and Us Weekly reported in 2014 that they were secretly engaged after a year of dating.

However, the following year, they split. Theron reportedly ghosted Penn, according to Us Weekly; sources told the magazine that she simply stopped returning his attempts at contact. "She just cut it off," the source said.

She denied the report, telling The Wall Street Journal that the truth was more nuanced than that. "There is this need to sensationalize things... the f***ing ghosting thing, like literally I still don't even know what it is," Theron protested. She added, "We were in a relationship and then it didn't work anymore. And we both decided to separate. That's it." Furthermore, years later, she denied that they were ever even engaged, telling Howard Stern (via People) that the rumor was "bulls**t." She explained, "We were definitely exclusive, but it was for barely a year. We never moved in. I was never going to marry him."

Charlize Theron is a single mother now, and happy

As of press time, Charlize Theron hasn't dated anyone since her relationship with Sean Penn ended in 2015. She told Howard Stern in 2020 that she isn't interested in getting married, and that she never finds herself wishing she had a guy around. "I've never wanted to get married. That's never been something that's important to me," she told the shock jock. She refuted Stern's claim that she was "lonely," saying, "I have never been lonely. I've never felt alone."

In other words, instead of finding a partner to settle down with, the "Atomic Blonde" actor has focused on raising two adopted children all on her own. She told People that her admirable willingness to adopt was inspired by growing up in South Africa and seeing orphanages. "I was always honest with my partners, that adoption was how my family would look one day. This was definitely not a second option for me. It was always my first," she revealed.

She adopted her daughter Jackson in 2012, between dating Stuart Townsend and Sean Penn, and she added August to her family in 2015, after she split from Penn. In fact, she told The Wall Street Journal that she had been up-front about her intention to adopt another child with Penn from the beginning. "We had a very clear understanding. He knew that I was thinking about filing for another adoption but that we weren't filing together," she said.