The Oscar-nominated actress recently wed indie singer-songwriter Phil Elverum in a secret ceremony after being set up by a mutual friend. Williams spoke with Vanity Fair and gave a rare glimpse into her private world. “I never gave up on love,” she says, adding that she spent a decade looking for the “radical acceptance” from a partner that she had felt from Heath Ledger. The Dark Knight star passed away in 2008, and they had one daughter, Matilda, who is now 12.
“I always say to Matilda, ‘Your dad loved me before anybody thought I was talented, or pretty, or had nice clothes,’” Williams says. “Obviously I’ve never once in my life talked about a relationship, but Phil isn’t anyone else. And that’s worth something. Ultimately the way he loves me is the way I want to live my life on the whole. I work to be free inside of the moment. I parent to let Matilda feel free to be herself, and I am finally loved by someone who makes me feel free.”
Cue the waterworks. While Elverum — who also lost a partner and has a young daughter — is clearly “the one,” Williams has had a long journey to find her Prince Charming. Take a look back at the actress’s former flames.
Last we knew, Williams was still dating the New York financial consultant, and it seemed serious. In January, she brushed off engagement rumors, calling her new, heart-shaped diamond ring just “beautiful jewelry.” However, Us Weekly claimed the actress was indeed engaged to Youmans.
“She wants a good guy and a stable family life,” an insider said. Williams never confirmed or denied the report.
Williams, 37, and the 50-year-old consultant were first photographed showing PDA on the streets of Rome in July 2017. They never made an official public appearance together but were spotted vacationing in the Bahamas over New Year’s Eve with Matilda.
The four-time Oscar nominee is notoriously private about her personal life, so it’s unsurprising that we never found out she and the Harvard Business School grad split. Prior to Youmans, the actress was linked to novelist Jonathan Safran Foer. They were said to be seeing each other in 2015 but never publicly commented on a supposed romance.
Williams has had her fair share of low-key relationships and high-profile loves, most notably with Ledger.
Ledger died of an accidental prescription drug overdose 10 years ago, less than a year after splitting with Williams. The couple — who began dating in 2004 after meeting on the set of Brokeback Mountain — never wed. They welcomed Matilda Rose in November 2005.
In 2010, Williams said she was struggling to “find a meaning” in his passing. “I hope not to forget it. … In a strange way I miss that year,” she told ABC News. “Because all those possibilities that existed then are gone. It didn’t seem unlikely to me that he could walk through a door or could appear from behind a bush, it was a year of very magical thinking. In some ways I’m sad to be moving further and further away from it.”
Although Williams began to heal, his death just never seemed right.
“In all honesty, for pretty much everything else, I feel like I’m a believer in not fighting circumstances, accepting where you are and where you’ve been,” Williams told Porter magazine in 2016. “In pretty much all senses but one. I would be able to go totally down that line of thinking were it not for Matilda not having her dad. You know that’s just something that doesn’t … I mean, it just won’t ever be right.”
Seven months after Ledger’s shocking passing, Williams attempted to find love again.
The director, with whom she worked on the indie film Synecdoche, New York, was the first person Williams dated after Ledger’s death. They were in a relationship for about a year before breaking up.
“The timing was impossible,” she admitted to Vogue in September 2009. “I thought falling in love again was the only thing that was going to save me from the pain. This erroneous idea: It just makes things more complicated.”
Being a single mother didn’t make dating again easier, as the actress told the magazine, “I obviously don’t know how to do it.”
Williams didn’t have a public romance again until 2012, when she got together with Segel. The Forgetting Sarah Marshall star was often photographed hanging out with Williams and her daughter, and the public seemed to adore the Hollywood couple. “If people are happy about it, that makes me feel good. … Any kind sentiment that the world can feed back, well, I won’t turn it down,” Williams told InStyle in February 2013.
But after a year together, Segel and Williams split, with distance being to blame. “She cares a great deal for Jason but is not ready to make a commitment,” a source told People at the time. “Maybe if they were together day-to-day, she would have more confidence in a future. But not at this time.”
Despite not finding “the one,” Williams was never discouraged. In January 2017, the actress told WSJ Magazine that while being a single parent had its challenges, she didn’t feel pressured to get married just to do it.
”When you’ve been a parent for 11 years and you’ve done it alone, you don’t have romantic ideals, because you have a practical understanding that you can do it by yourself,” she shared. “The romantic idea of meeting your person and having a storybook family life that looks like the model you grew up with — that doesn’t really exist for me. It’s a little bit difficult to contend with a feeling of failure for not living up to a standard of normal. Sometimes it can feel alienating; at school functions, there’s only two of us single mothers. Everyone else has a partner, so we buddy up.”
Williams explained, “I’ve not gotten married because I have not had a person to whom I would — so I have not let my sense of conformity or duty override my instincts.”
Clearly, she’s found just that. This is Williams’s first marriage. Congrats to the newlyweds!
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