Jane Fonda's 2005 memoir, My Life So Far
Photo: Random House
I yearned for the "source of deliciousness," in Rumi's words, which for me means emotional intimacy and soul connection. We got there on occasion, Ted [Turner] and I (I remember each time vividly, when he would look deeply into my eyes and I felt we were truly connecting), and sometimes when that happened I swear he'd get scared. It was as though emotional intimacy (as opposed to needy longings) had to be kept in check. Still, there were the lovemaking times when we would lock eyes and melt into one. There were the times when something would set us to laughing so hard we'd sink to the floor, like the night when our guffaws collapsed us at the foot of the Gone with the Wind staircase at his Avalon plantation and we had to crawl up to bed on hands and knees.

We had been going steady for almost two years when in 1991 we got married at Avalon on my fifty-fourth, winter solstice, birthday. Troy gave me away, and Vanessa was maid of honor.

A week later Ted was Time magazine's Person of the Year.

A month later I discovered he was sleeping with someone else.

Life had taught me that men, at least those I tended to go for, operate by the Fornicato, ergo sum (I f—, therefore I exist) principle, but since there'd been plenty of Versailles moments of lovemaking with Ted and me, I'd rarely be away from him for more than a few hours, and since I knew he loved me, why?

The discovery was pure fluke. I was sitting in our car in the motor lobby of the CNN Center waiting to go to the airport with him. I saw a woman step up to valet parking. I'd seen her from behind, walking into the hotel two hours earlier. This time I saw her face and realized I knew her, but when I called out her name, she foolishly hid behind a pillar. I knew. In my gut, I knew. I called Ted's office on the car phone, and when his assistant, Dee Woods, answered I put it to her straight: "He pulled a nooner today, didn't he." (This was Ted's term for lunchtime dalliances.) She stammered and denied it (probably thinking, Hey, Fonda, didn't I warn you?). She told me Ted was on his way down to meet me.

I remember sitting there, my heart pounding, my mind imploding. Ted was ashen when he got into the car, behind the wheel. That's when I began hitting him about the head and shoulders with the car phone. Simultaneously, part of me was thinking that I'd never seen anyone do this in a movie and what a good scene it would make. (Is it only actors who think this way?) Then I poured my water bottle over his head and, crying and shaking, said, "I sure hope it was a great f—, because you just blew it with me. I'm outta here." Hitting someone is not my style. But it also occurred to me that I'd never cared enough before to express this kind of balls-out rage. "Why did you do it? Haven't things been great with us?"

He stopped at a red light and put his face into his hands. "Yes. Yes. I love you madly and our sex is great. I don't know. I guess it's...it's like a tic"—that's actually the word he used—"something I've gotten used to doing. I've always needed a backup in case something happens between us." Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

"Well, you've succeeded in making sure something would happen and now you'll be stuck with your backup. I hope you're happy."

That evening I flew to Los Angeles, booked myself into the always calming Hotel Bel-Air, and holed up there for two weeks, telling no one where I was except Leni, the woman who had taught me the Workout and who had become my friend. Leni was Ted's gym trainer when we were in California. She knew him, and given her street smarts I intuited that she would be the one to best midwife me through the anguish, which was just what she did. She would come to my room every day, sit by the bed, give me hard Coffee Nips candies ("They're comforting"), and hold my hand while I cried and kvetched.

Ted suspected that Leni would know where I was and kept calling her, asking her to convince me to take him back. For two weeks I was determined that it was over. Then one day Leni came to my hotel room and said, "Think about it, Jane. If you don't give him a second chance, someday you may see him happy, with another woman on his arm, and you'll always wonder if that woman could have been you. He really wants you back. He says he'll do anything."

I called my former therapist (who was retired by then) and she recommended the people who had trained her, Beverly Kitaen Morse and Jack Rosenberg, who work with couples. I immediately made an appointment with them for a few days hence and asked Leni to arrange for Ted to come to Los Angeles and meet me in her apartment.

He flew from Atlanta the next day and came crawling into her living room on bended knee (which wasn't saying much, since this was his supplicant gesture of choice whenever he had apologies to make, often combined with kissing of shoe and/or head in hands).

"Oh, get up, for heaven's sake," I said. "You look foolish and I know that doesn't mean anything anyway. Half your business associates have seen you in that position at one time or another." I then told him I would give him another chance on three conditions: that he would never betray me again, would never see the woman again, and would go into counseling with me. He agreed to all of it, and the next day we spent six consecutive, life-altering hours with Jack and Beverly and continued to see them off and on for eight years whenever we were in Los Angeles. Make it better.

For seven of those years (there's that seven again) Ted kept his promise and never betrayed my trust, never went behind my back to exercise his "tic" (except for our last nine months together, when he sensed the marriage was doomed and was looking for a substitute). In fact, the day came when he said to someone who had heaped praise on him for something he'd done, "Stop, you're being too monogamous."

"Ted," I said, "don't you mean 'magnanimous'?"

"Oh yes," he replied proudly. "I didn't use to be able to say the word monogamous at all, but now I use it so much, I say it by mistake. Pretty cute, huh?"

Before this early crisis in our relationship, I would feel Ted leave me energetically if an especially inviting woman came around. At those moments I would imagine the testosterone washing through his frontal lobe and obliterating all else. After the crisis, I swear I could feel his antennae retracting.
Over the years, Ted and I were given many tools that helped smooth things out in our relationship. We developed better communication skills; we learned the importance of "skin time"—when we would lie together quietly, skin to skin, and have it not be about performing. I discovered that Ted abhorred being presented with faits accomplis, so I tried vigilantly to avoid presenting them. But, sadly, I learned that this was easier said than done. It was easy to consult and discuss things before doing them when the things were relatively insignificant and external, like moving a painting, changing dinnertime, buying a new saddle. But when later in the marriage they were decisions of critical importance to me—having to do with spiritual faith or with spending time with Vanessa when she was about to give birth—I would simply arrange to do what I felt I needed to do. I was accustomed to not having my feelings and needs respected by the men in my life, and I feared that if I opened up such decisions for discussion, I would be bullied out of them or they would be denied me outright—or love would be taken away. (As it turned out, my fears were well-founded.) Those times were very infrequent, but they ended up playing a role in the dissolution of our marriage.

While it was Ted's dalliance that brought us into the therapists' offices, I decided that in addition to our couples counseling, I wanted to work separately on my own issues. I sensed that my relationship with Ted, with all its challenges, was my opportunity to heal, and because I so wanted the marriage to work, I was willing to do the needed work on myself. Ted never did the same. Still, given how he was raised, it is extraordinary that he was willing to do as much as he did.

For those of us who harbor old ghosts (doesn't everybody?), it is in our relationships that they surface, and then we are confronted with a choice: Either we learn to manage the ghosts or we settle for distance or instability. Some can learn the managing part on their own; some, like me, need the help of a trained professional to put the pieces back together.

I believe that the moment I met Ted, I intuited that this man was the one my heart could finally, fully, open to. I thought that all the elements were there for the kind of deep soul-to-soul love that I had never really had with anyone before. Ironically, this was why I fled from him at first and was so skittish when we started going together: I was frightened of the vulnerability that comes with the heart's opening and was scared of being hurt and steamrolled. With Ted I was determined to put this fear behind me. I wanted us to be two fully authentic people meeting in mutual affection, communication, affirmation, and respect—and I assumed that's what he wanted as well. After all, he was constantly talking about wanting intimacy and reminding me that I was afraid of it. It never occurred to me that he was too ...well, not afraid of it so much as incapable of it.

The crisis with Ted was actually a blessing, because it had brought me to Beverly Morse, who turned out to be the perfect guide for the next part of my journey to...what shall I call it? Wholeness. Heartfulness. Authenticity. Integration? I had been living for so long in my head. What was essential for me now was to get back into my body, where I hadn't been since adolescence—to be reembodied. I have discovered that there are different degrees of embodiment, and certainly, with Ted's love, I made major forays in that direction. But Beverly's method of using breathing techniques and bodywork—"somatic therapy"—took me to a deeper level. Over the years, with her help and a lot of hard work on my part, I was able to gain confidence. I learned to forgive my mother and so was able to forgive myself for my shortcomings; to know that I had done the best I could with what I had at any given time, just as my mother had; that I was no longer the woman with little love to give. I was learning to love myself. Baby steps at first, a beginning.

More About Jane Fonda:
Jane's life now, her new love and passion for fitness
Jane's first interview with Ted since their divorce
Copyright © 2005 by Jane Fonda. From the book My Life So Far by Jane Fonda, published by Random House, an imprint of Random House Publishing, Inc. Reprinted with permission.


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