Oprah Winfrey, Queen of the Universe, has finally pulled back the curtain on what fans have wondered for decades: Why haven’t she and her boyfriend, Stedman Graham, ever married?
The answer is just about as fascinating as the woman herself. First, she shares in the February 2020 issue of the Oprah Magazine that, honestly, marriage didn’t really sound that … great. “For years, there were hundreds of tabloid stories, weekly, on whether we would marry. In 1993, the moment after I said yes to his proposal, I had doubts. I realized I didn’t actually want a marriage. I wanted to be asked. I wanted to know he felt I was worthy of being his missus, but I didn’t want the sacrifices, the compromises, the day-in-day-out commitment required to make a marriage work.” She added, “My life with the show was my priority, and we both knew it.”
Oprah went on to add, “He and I agree that had we tied the marital knot, we would not still be together. Our relationship works because he created an identity beyond being ‘Oprah’s man.'”
Oprah added that their relationship works because “we share all the values that matter (integrity being No. 1). And because we relish seeing the other fulfill and manifest their destiny and purpose.” It sounds like Oprah and Stedman chose to really focus on who they were and are, instead of what their relationship could be if they defined it based on marital status.
Back in 2017, Oprah explained a similar sentiment to Vogue. She said, “The only time I brought [marriage] up was when I said to Stedman, ‘What would have happened if we had actually gotten married?’ And the answer is: ‘We wouldn’t be together. We would not have stayed together, because marriage requires a different way of being in this world.'”
She went on, “His interpretation of what it means to be a husband and what it would mean for me to be a wife would have been pretty traditional, and I would not have been able to fit into that. ” She also added that for them, it’s important that both partners live their individual lives on their own terms.
Oprah actually began her February column by talking about Valentine’s Day, and specifically why she doesn’t make too big of a deal about the holiday. She said this goes back to when she was young: “I was Miss Black Tennessee. Many of the other girls were receiving flowers and gifts from their beaux. My boyfriend at the time, Bubba — yes, real name — sent me nothing.”
She went on to add, “I felt bad about that and complained to another contestant. She laid this wisdom on me: ‘Girl, if your man has put a flower on your mind, you won’t need no flowers in a vase!'”
She then moved on to talking about Stedman Graham and how she used to see him around town a lot in the late 1980s, but he was always with the same girlfriend. Somehow, one night they both found themselves in the home of a mutual friend, and sparks flew.
Oprah wrote, “We left together, and I asked if he wanted to get a beer. (Yes, I drank a lot of beer then and wore cowboy boots every day.) He said he didn’t drink. (Still doesn’t — not one sip of nothin’ alcoholic since I’ve known him).”
She also noted that he was cute, but she wasn’t sure. “I thought he was nice enough, but I wasn’t that impressed. He was polite, yes, and kind. The sort of guy who sits with an ailing friend. Tall and handsome, for sure. But actually too handsome, I thought, to be interested in me.”
By then, Oprah was already successful. She went on to say, “I figured he must be a player. So did all my producers. They warned me not to get involved with that Stedman guy.” So Oprah took her time and didn’t think about Stedman too seriously until she found out he had broken up with his girlfriend a few months later. The rest, as they say, is history.
In 2015, while speaking to Shonda Rhimes on an episode of Super Soul Sunday, she spoke a little about marriage and Stedman. “The moment he asked me to marry him, I was like ‘Oh, God! Now I actually have to get married?'” She added that the two agreed to postpone the wedding, and then it just never happened.
In the end, it all worked out. Oprah told Shonda, “But what I realized is, I don’t want to be married.” And that’s a pretty powerful thing for anyone to realize, let alone a woman in the 1980s. It’s great that Oprah and Stedman know what works for them, and that they stick to it.