Oprah Winfrey has been with her partner Stedman Graham for 32 years, but she doesn’t regret at all that they never tied the knot or had children.
The 65-year-old covers the new issue of People this week, and told the magazine that the longtime couple’s ‘untraditional’ relationship has stayed strong all these years precisely because she and Stedman, 68, never got married.
‘Both he and I now say, “If we had married, we would not be together,”‘ she said. ‘No question about it — we would not stay married, because of what that would have meant to him, and I would have had my own ideas about it.’
The two of us: Oprah, 65, and Stedman Graham, 65, have been together since 1986, and even got engaged in 1992 — but they never got married or had kids
Just the way it is: She said that if she had to play by the ‘rules’ of being a wife, their relationship would have changed. Stedman also never demanded things of her and she worked long hours
Perfect: She told People that she has no regrets about not marrying and having children
The media mogul met her longtime love in 1986, and they even got engaged in 1992 — but they never went through with a wedding.
‘I was working these 17-hour days, and so were my producers, and then I go home and I have my two dogs and I have Stedman, who’s letting me be who I need to be in the world,’ she explained.
Stedman never demanded things of her, like having dinner on the table — but Oprah thinks that would have changed had they married.
‘That’s why I had not just cold feet, I had two feet in a block of cement — because my feeling was, he is a traditional guy, but this is a completely untraditional relationship,’ she reflected.
‘If it remained a relationship, I can manage it. If I become the wife, now I’ve got to play by the rules of whatever that is, and that would not have been pretty.
Of course, not getting married doesn’t mean a couple can’t have kids, but Oprah ultimately decided that wasn’t a path she should go down.
There for each other: She admitted that her friend Gayle King warned her she’d regret it
Auntie: Gayle has two grown kids of her own (pictured on either side of her with Oprah, right, and Steadman in back)
‘Doing the Oprah show allowed me to see the depth of responsibility and sacrifice that is actually required to be a mother. I realized, “Whoa, I’m talking to a lot of messed-up people, and they are messed up because they had mothers and fathers who were not aware of hoe serious that job is,”‘ she said.
Getting married and starting a family weren’t always off the table. In fact, at one point while living in Chicago, Oprah even bought an additional apartment to make room for her family to grow.
But over time, her thoughts on the subject changed, even while best friend Gayle King — who has two kids — told her she’d regret it.
Still, Oprah said: ‘I have not had one regret about that.’
That’s partly because she gets to fulfill her maternal urges with the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa.
Love: She gets to fulfill her maternal urges with the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa
‘They just started calling me Mom Oprah. Which is really, really fine with me because I feel like they are my daughters. They’re the daughters I did not have,’ she said
Speaking in a video for People, Oprah, she refers to the girls there as her daughters, saying: ‘They just started calling me Mom Oprah. Which is really, really fine with me because I feel like they are my daughters. They’re the daughters I did not have.
‘This was how having children was supposed to manifest for me. And I never thought that that mothering instinct was something for me.
‘I like babies but I like them, like, “Hi baby! Now go over there,”‘ she says with a laugh.
‘I like children when they can actually speak to me and tell me what the problem is. And so, 12 years old is really good for that. So getting them at 12 years old was actually perfect for me. That I became a mom of 12-year-olds — so they’re just right for being led to the best parts of themselves.
This isn’t to say Oprah has no regrets in life. The star has been candid about mistakes she thinks she’s made, particularly an episode of her show she’s most ashamed of.
Flashback: She said a late-80s show in which a man revealed to his wife that his mistress was pregnant was ‘one of my greatest shames’
In 1989, just three seasons into her show, Oprah proclaimed she’d never to sensationalist or ‘trash’ TV after a guest on a live show took her by surprise.
They’d invited on a man, a wife, and his mistress, but the talk was more dramatic than she’d expected.
‘At the time, the producers thought this was one of the greatest bookings we could ever get. We thought, “He’s agreed to come on with his girlfriend? This is unbelievable.”’
‘Then there was a moment when the man says to his wife, “You know what? There’s nothing you can do about [the affair], because [my mistress] is pregnant.”
‘We were live and I didn’t know he was going to tell her, nor did the producers know,’ she went on.
‘It’s one of my greatest shames, but a shameful act that allowed me to make the shift, because I go, “Never again will I do that to somebody.” If I hadn’t, I would have been out of television much sooner.’