Bestselling author Terry McMillan

Author Terry McMillan based her book How Stella Got Her Groove Back in part on the intimate details of her own island romance with a man 23 years her junior. It started on vacation when 43-year-old Terry spotted 20-year-old Jonathan Plummer. Their affair blossomed quickly, but after five passion-filled days, the vacation ended and Terry flew back to California.

From there, Terry says she wrote Stella as a fantasy about continuing her affair with Jonathan, believing that she'd never see him again. Terry could not get the two-decades-younger Jonathan out of her head. They talked on the phone every day. After three months, she invited him to her home for a visit.

Jonathan's visit turned into three years of living with Terry. As the semi-fictional story in Stella was turning into reality, the book became a bestseller and was adapted into a blockbuster movie starring Angela Basset and Taye Diggs. Scores of lonely women suddenly considered finally taking that vacation to Jamaica.

"He was so sexy," Terry says of Jonathan. "I really do think I did see him as a work of art because I thought he was beautiful. I loved him to death. Jonathan was very sensual and a lot of times I think Jonathan was surprised how well he could please me."

Three years after they met, Jonathan and Terry were married. Then, after six years of marriage, Jonathan dropped the mother of all bombshells.
Terry McMillan and Oprah

By December 2004, Terry and Jonathan's marriage was already on shaky ground. "I had planned to divorce Jonathan," Terry says. "I wanted to finish my novel [The Interruption of Everything, before filing for divorce], and he knew it. I don't think he actually believed I was actually going to [file for divorce]. For two years I had been letting him know that this is where we were headed."

One night, Terry says, she asked Jonathan where he planned to live after they split up. He asked her to postpone the divorce until after the beginning of 2005. Terry says she then confronted Jonathan. "I said, 'Why can't you just tell the truth about something?' He said, 'You probably couldn't handle the truth.' I said, 'Try me.' And that's when he said, 'I'm confused about my sexuality. I think I might be gay.' Then he stood up and said, 'I am gay.' And I said, 'Well, finally you told the truth about something...and look what it turned out to be.'"

Terry says she was absolutely shocked to hear this news. "I always thought Jonathan was not the most masculine man that I'd been with, [but] all men aren't masculine. I mean, he wasn't effeminate, not to me. There were things he did that got on my nerves—he spent more time in the mirror than I did—but he was narcissistic, and I tried not to hold that against him."

Terry and Jonathan's breakup turned into a real life War of the Roses, beginning a volley of heated accusations delivered on live television during the summer of 2005. Jonathan went first, appearing on Good Morning America to announce his reasoning for seeking alimony from Terry.

Terry immediately fought back that night on The Tavis Smiley Show, and continued her response the next day on The Today Show.

What does Terry feel about that initial episode? Is she still angry?

"No, it's relief," Terry says. "It was very painful, but right now I don't feel that. I don't hate him."
Jonathan Plummer, Terry McMillan's gay ex-husband

Jonathan maintains that he wasn't intentionally lying about his sexuality when he was married to Terry, but agrees that he was repressing something. "I identified as heterosexual when I was 20," he says. "I may have thought about [being gay], but I didn't act on it. It was not the right thing to do at the time."

He says that in the final two years of his marriage to Terry, he began to have conflicting feelings about his orientation. "Sometimes [Terry] would, you know, bring it to my attention that guys were looking at me, especially gay guys...and women, too. But she would emphasize those guys are looking at me."

"And," Jonathan says, "I liked it."

Being honest about one's sexual orientation is important, Oprah tells Jonathan. "There are a lot of young boys and girls who are watching you right now who need the truth. And every time somebody tells the truth you free other people to also be truthful. There's no reason at this point to pretend anything. For every other gay guy out there who's repressing his feelings, at least honor who you are now."
Terry and Jonathan

Both Terry and Jonathan agree that the love they felt for each other during their marriage was real. "I think that Jonathan did love me," Terry says. "After all of this started happening, I kept replaying the movie [Stella] trying to figure can't fake this stuff."

"I want people to know that I did love her," Jonathan says. "And I still do...not to the extent that, you know, she wanted me to."

Despite their differences, both Terry and Jonathan say they've found closure after recently spending some quality time together. But neither Terry nor Jonathan plan to become romantically involved ever again. "It's not like we're rekindling what we lost," says Jonathan. "It's never going to happen again."

"I've already accepted you for who you are," Terry tells Jonathan. "But we're not gonna be kickin' it."
Jonathan and Terry

Jonathan admits that toward the end of his marriage, he explored his sexuality with other men. Was Terry more upset by the fact that Jonathan was gay or the fact that he was cheating on her? "Probably both," Terry says. "All I knew was that I didn't know what he was doing without my knowledge."

Terry feels Jonathan made excuses instead of accepting his homosexuality. "I think that in my heart I believe that you've known all your life that you had feelings towards men," she tells her ex-husband. "But you never have 'fessed up and said you had those feelings. I know you have had those feelings. Everybody has had those feelings. ... and maybe you just didn't address it."

But after Jonathan came out to Terry, she told him not to be ashamed of his sexual orientation—and that she knew how painful his admission must have been. "I have the utmost respect for any person who loves anybody," she explains. "And I don't have a problem with gay men."
Dr. Robin weighs in

Dr. Robin says that "fantasy" played a significant role in Terry and Jonathan's relationship. "A piece of this is about being ... swept off your feet. The thing is that when we get swept off our feet we're no longer on any firm foundation."

Now, Dr. Robin says, there are important questions both Terry and Jonathan must ask themselves. "I feel like your own story is sacred between the two of you ... and that's what Oprah is honoring. But for the audience, for the rest of the world who needs to find their own way: 'What do you both think that this was in your life to teach you?'"

"It taught me to try and be a better person," Jonathan says. "To be truthful despite how it may hurt the other person."

"I still believe in the love that I felt from Jonathan all those years—I'm going to hold on to that. Nobody can snatch that away from us."
Dr. Robin shares her hopes for Terry and Jonathan

Jonathan says he has his fair share of regrets. "I regret hurting her," Jonathan says.

"I do regret, you know, the whole divorce proceedings."

"I'm glad that he has discovered who he is," Terry says. "I'm just hoping that Jonathan will live a much more honest life."

Dr. Robin also shared the wish that Jonathan leads a truer life—as well as her hopes for Terry.

"It's also that you will learn to self-protect better," Dr. Robin tells Terry. "Because it's not just about him learning to be protective and honest—but it's also about you being selective and discriminating and using your wisdom and your brilliance to make other choices that benefit you. And that's an important lesson that I wouldn't want you to leave here today—or anybody who's watching—not having learned what it is in you that overtrusted, overinvested in a way, that ended up harming you and putting you at risk and jeopardy."