Terry McMillan on Getting to Happy
Terry pursued Jonathan even though she was old enough to be his mother. "He said, 'But you're not my mother,'" she says. "I said, 'Would you like to sleep with me?' And he said yes."
Three months after Terry returned to California, she asked Jonathan—the inspiration for her best-seller How Stella Got Her Groove Back—to move into her multimillion-dollar home. In 1998, they married.
Six years into their marriage, Jonathan blindsided Terry with a shocking revelation—he was gay. He never gave any indication he was gay, she says. "I couldn't drive in a car without him holding my hands. He brushed my hair. Massaged me. All kinds of wonderful things."
In November 2005, their modern-day War of the Roses divorce continued to play out on The Oprah Show. "When I came on [the show], it was more to bring more attention to the kind of harm that living a double life can cause, because it caused me a great deal of harm," Terry says.
See what happened on that show
After the show, Terry slapped Jonathan with a $40 million lawsuit for emotional distress and ruining her reputation. Terry won a judgment for intentional infliction of emotional distress but withdrew the suit before the case went to trial. Jonathan was never ordered to pay.
Now, five years after their Oprah Show appearance, Terry and Jonathan are back to discuss the state of their relationship.
Terry says she decided to sue Jonathan to clear up misconceptions that surfaced during their contentious divorce proceedings. In particular, Terry says she wanted to dispute accusations of homophobia. "[Jonathan] had told lies about me that were in legal documents that were now on the Internet forever," she says. "I was never trying to sue him for his money. He didn't have any."
Terry says she withdrew the suit because she was tired of feeling the outrage. "Anger and bitterness, it's an emotional termite," she says. "You realize that it's your happiness and your joy that you are sabotaging and that the other person has absolutely nothing to do it."
Terry: When I was ready to run him over, it wasn't because he was gay. I never hated his guts because he was gay. ... And that was one reason why I sued, because I hated the idea of being known as a homophobe. Jonathan deep down inside knew I wasn't homophobic. I have too many gay and lesbian friends. Too many.
Oprah: We all know why you were upset. Any reasonable person knows you were upset because you were betrayed. He lied. You were lied to.
Terry: He lied.
Oprah: Have you forgiven him?
Terry: Oh, definitely.
Watch Terry relive the moment she let her anger go
Jonathan says he had a long way to go after his 2005 interview with Terry. "Now I'm a much better person. I've grown a lot through this whole experience," he says. "I try to be a better friend to my family, my friends, and if I ever have a boyfriend or a partner, I'd be a better person to them."
Today, Jonathan says he's comfortable in his own skin. "I came from a culture [where] you suppress your feelings and you're not open to seeing different orientations, different sexualities," he says. "Now I'm embracing my sexual honesty, my truth."
Jonathan also says he and Terry are in a better place. "She accepted me for who I am," he says. "We're not best friends, but we are friends."
Going forward, Terry says she's still able to trust men." As my mother would say, one bad apple doesn't spoil the whole tree."
After all the drama, Terry says she's living up to the title of her book. "I think I'm ducky," she says.
Read an excerpt of Getting to Happy