After so many years, Jennifer Aniston still remembered how, as a child, she walked into her house one day to find that her father had just gone without saying a word to her. Too young to fully understand what was going on, she didn’t realize her father actually left her and her mother. Being just about 9 when her parents split, she had no idea about when she would see her father again.
Shocked when her mother told her that he’d left, Aniston told Rolling Stone in a 1999 interview, “I went to a birthday party, and when I came back, she said, ‘Your father’s not going to be around here for a little while.’ She didn’t say he was gone forever. I don’t know if I blocked it, but I just remember sitting there, crying, not understanding that he was gone. I don’t know what I did later that night or the next day. I don’t remember anything other than it being odd that all of a sudden my father wasn’t there. And he was gone for a while.”
Aniston said that the reason her father, the longtime Days of Our Lives actor, John Aniston left was because is because “there was another woman. That was in November of 1979. Then, in the summer of 1980, there was the other conversation that my mom and I had in the car, which was, ‘Your father’s with someone else; he’s not coming back.'”
For about a year after he left them, Aniston didn’t hear from him at all until one day just out of the blue, her father asked if she wanted to meet.
“He just called one day and said, ‘Let’s go see The Fantastickes,” the actress recalled. “So we had a little dinner and saw the show. After that, I started seeing him on weekends, and this new way of life just unfolded.”
Having been abandoned once before, Aniston was afraid her father would walk out of her life again and she remembers trying to please him because she didn’t want to see him leave. “Pleasing, pleasing, pleasing, everything to please,” she said about the time.
Although it wasn’t the ideal situation for a father and daughter to have, Aniston and her father were able to reconnect and have even been seen together publicly after she became a star. She shared a photo in Christmas, 2019 of herself as a child in her father’s arms along with a more recent one of them both. “Christmas with one of my creators,” she captioned the image. “Love you, papa.”
While the troubles of her younger years may be over, she acknowledges that in some ways, they shaped her life into what it is today. When she looks back at her childhood, she believes that putting on a face for others might have been what pushed her to acting. “In retrospect, maybe, it was all I thought I could do. Maybe, because of my childhood, I was escaping, wanted to be a clown, be happy,” the FRIENDS star admitted.
Through her years of adulthood, Jennifer Aniston has had her share of heartbreaks and she believes that the insecure feelings from her childhood helped her overcome them.
When Sandra Bullock asked her, “What is it that allows you to stay buoyant and keep from getting discouraged when things don’t go the right way?” for Interview, Aniston replied: “I think that it comes from growing up in a household that was destabilized and felt unsafe, watching adults being unkind to each other, and witnessing certain things about human behavior that made me think: ‘I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to be that. I don’t want to experience this feeling I’m having in my body right now. I don’t want anyone else that I ever come in contact with ever to feel that.'”
What Aniston didn’t want to do was remain angry and dwell on her past. She described her father leaving her as the most painful time of her life, but she chose to forgive him for not being around and wanted to put that part of her past to rest. However, she did ask her father about why he left her and at first, he couldn’t explain it well.
“…He’s not a good communicator. Maybe if my parents had talked more. There were signs, but also, knowing my father, he probably didn’t say anything,” she told Rolling Stone. “But, as best he could, my dad explained and apologized, and it’s enough. We’ve made up. There’s still parts that are hard for me, but I’m an adult. I can’t blame my parents anymore.”
The bitterness she had about having to grow up faster than she had to, she let go of that, too. “The only resentment I have — and I’m letting go of this one, too — is that I felt, well… it’s a big responsibility to think you’re responsible for your parent’s happiness. And, lots of times, I felt like a middleman taking care of two children.”
As an adult, she believes that she didn’t learn about fatherhood from her father because “he wasn’t around to do that.” But from her mother, she learned, “love, love, love. Support. Love, love, love.”
Watching her father and mother also taught her an important life lesson. “Men shouldn’t be your whole life. That’s what I took from my childhood—that I will never depend on a man as much as my mom depended on my father,” she revealed. “I have a full life, he has a life of his own, and if we can merge, terrific. But a relationship isn’t going to make me survive. It’s the cherry on top.”
Aniston was adamant not to let her troubled childhood affect life. “You can have a crappy childhood and grow up to let it completely overwhelm you,” she said, “or you can choose to be a fighter and say, ‘I’m not going to let that happen.'” And she decided to live her life the second way and thrived.