The real reason Robert Downey Jr. and Sarah Jessica Parker split up

Robert Downey Jr. and Sarah Jessica Parker were the quintessential couple of the ’80s. The Hollywood stars met when they both starred in the 1984 movie Firstborn, per Vanity Fair, and from there, the couple’s romance blossomed. “I guess Sarah thought I looked scary enough to be interesting,” the Iron Man star told People in 1985 about how their relationship first started. It seems the two were smitten from the start as they moved in together eight weeks after they went on their first date. 

Despite both being in the spotlight, Downey Jr. explained that his connection with Parker actually helped both of their careers. “One can be so insecure as an actor,” he said. “If I hadn’t met Sarah. I don’t think I would have gotten a lot of the jobs that I did.”

In 1985, things were getting serious between Downey Jr. and Parker. They even joked about having “a Jewish wedding at Le Mondrian Hotel with flamenco dancers.” Clearly, Downey Jr. was thinking about his future with Parker. “I’m really happy with Sarah, and I don’t want to ruin it by planning too far ahead,” he revealed to People. “But the way I feel now, marriage looks like where we’re headed.”

But in 1991, the couple’s fairy-tale relationship was over, per US Weekly, and the two parted ways after about seven years together. So, what happened? We get to the bottom of it below.

Sarah Jessica Parker 'tried to help' Robert Downey Jr. get sober

In 1991, Sarah Jessica Parker and Robert Downey Jr. shocked the world when they announced they were no longer a couple after seven years together. How did the Hollywood stars go from moving in together after eight weeks to calling it quits? Unfortunately, Downey Jr. had a much different lifestyle than Parker, which eventually led to issues. “I liked to drink, and I had a drug problem, and that didn’t jibe with Sarah Jessica, because it is the furthest thing from what she is,” the actor told Parade magazine in 2008 (via People). “She provided me a home and understanding.”

The Sex and the City star reportedly “tried to help” Downey Jr., but, ultimately, she did as much as she could. “She was so miffed when I didn’t get my act together,” the actor said, adding, “I was in love with Sarah Jessica … and love clearly was not enough.”

Even though things didn’t work out, Parker — who admitted she “didn’t know” Downey Jr. had an addiction problem “for a long time” — “learned how to take care of [herself]” towards the end of their relationship. “There was a huge amount of time spent making sure he was okay,” she told People in 2018. “At a certain point, I had the courage to say, ‘I’m going to walk away and I’m just going to pray that you don’t die.'”

Sarah Jessica Parker says her relationship with Robert Downey Jr. was 'a really adventurous' time

Even though Sarah Jessica Parker and Robert Downey Jr. didn’t end up together, the actress has nothing but fond memories of her time with the Tropic Thunder alum. “It was a really adventurous, important eight years of my life,” Parker said during an interview with CenterStage in 2018.

Of course, the Divorce star reflected on pivotal moments throughout their relationship. “We were together for a long time, and, you know … [he] was the first person that I lived with,” she continued. “His career was really just beginning, and I was so proud to see his success and, you know, watch him grow professionally.”

Despite praising her ex, Parker noted there were some dark moments. “It’s, you know, no secret that he was struggling and I had not ever been exposed to that so I didn’t feel particularly equipped. I mean, I had to learn how to be with somebody who was, you know, dealing with addiction, so I think those were really important years,” she explained. “There’s a lot of good memories, but there’s also a lot of time spent learning about how we survive and at what point, you know, do you stop taking care of somebody? Those were pretty big lessons.”

Downey Jr. “got sober in 2002,” per People, and while things weren’t always smooth sailing with the Dolittle actor, Parker is grateful for their time together. “I will say. I don’t regret any of it,” she told People. “I don’t resent the time spent.”

Sarah Jessica Parker and Robert Downey Jr. are on good terms

More than two decades after Sarah Jessica Parker and Robert Downey Jr. broke up, the two reunited in New York City in 2015 to catch-up and prove they were on good terms. “You know how life goes on and so many things happen, particularly when you’re looking at the back nine and you’re not a kid anymore,” Downey Jr. told Howard Stern during an interview in April 2015 (via People). “You go, ‘You know, this trip to New York, as opposed to just doing what’s required of me I wanna check in with someone I shared a big part of my life with and say hi.'”

Of course, that person ended up being Parker. “We were able to spend some time together and it was really cool,” Downey Jr. said about their get-together. “Seeing her I was like, ‘She’s so great and so cool and so funny and so in-command.’ I got to meet her kids and I saw the way she and [her husband, Matthew Broderick] live and I respect both of them so much.”

For her part, Parker also gushed about their reconciliation. “It was really nice to see him,” she said in an interview with CenterStage in 2018. “I was fortunate in that I never felt that there were hard feelings. You know, we weren’t estranged. We had simply gone on with our lives.”

Sarah Jessica Parker and Robert Downey Jr. both moved on

Sarah Jessica Parker and Robert Downey Jr. called it quits in 1991, and since then, both Hollywood stars have moved on and found love with other people. Parker started dating Matthew Broderick not long after she split from the Sherlock Holmes actor. Parker’s brothers, Pippin and Toby, worked with Broderick and introduced the Sex and the City alum to the Ferris Bueller’s Day Off star in 1991, per Us Weekly. In 1997, Broderick and Parker tied the knot in New York and welcomed three kids later in life — son James and twin daughters Marion and Tabitha.

As for how Parker and Broderick make their marriage work after over 20 years together, the HBO star said the pair “talk[s] a lot”. “Keep talking I guess, I know how cliché that is. Too much silence is definitely not a good idea,” she said during an appearance on the Meredith Vieira Show in November 2014 (via Us Weekly).

Meanwhile, Downey Jr. got married to Deborah Falconer in 1992, per People, but called it quits in 2004. One year later, the actor married his second wife, film producer Susan Downey, in the Hamptons, per The Hollywood Reporter. “I think you just have to enjoy each other … it’s fun when things are working, it’s fun when you’re happy with each other,” Susan told Extra in January 2020 about their long-lasting relationship. “You get over the bumps quickly.”

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