Jennifer Aniston has nothing to hide.
The Cake actress doesn't balk when asked about her former marriage to Brad Pitt, nor does she shy away from discussing her fragile relationship with her mother, Nancy Dow. Whether Aniston describes her dyslexia diagnosis or her procreation plans with fiancé Justin Theroux, she bravely and openly shares what she's learned in her 45 years. "I know I have a bigger purpose," the SAG Award nominee says in The Hollywood Reporter's Jan. 30 cover story. "It's a puzzle, and I haven't put it together yet."
As a child, Aniston struggled to relate to her mother. "She was critical. She was very critical of me," she recalls. "Because she was a model, she was gorgeous, stunning. I wasn't. I never was. I honestly still don't think of myself in that sort of light, which is fine." The two became estranged in 1999, after Dow published a memoir about their relationship. They have since reconciled, but it hasn't been easy. "She was also very unforgiving," the actress remembers. "She would hold grudges that I just found so petty."
Forgiveness has often taken a little time for Aniston, who has since made peace with her ex-husband, despite what tabloids claim. "We're not in daily communication. But we wish nothing but wonderful things for each other. Nobody did anything wrong. You know what I mean?" she says. "It was just like, sometimes things [happen]. If the world only could just stop with the stupid, soap-opera bulls--t. There's no story. I mean, at this point it's starting to become—please, give more credit to these human beings."
What else has Aniston learned since her marriage ended 10 years ago? "I always thought, if you're angry you just don't say anything. I would come out passive. Things would come out passively. But it doesn't have to be black or white. You don't have to be a hysterical human being and have veins popping out of your neck and turn bright red and terrify people—or else keep quiet and put your head in the sand," the Friends actress admits. "I used to loathe confrontation. Loathe it. It was absolute. I understood anger, but I didn't know that you should express it. Which has been something that I've really tried to work on."
In her early 20s, Aniston also had to work hard at overcoming her dyslexia. "The only reason I knew [that I had it] was because I went to get a prescription for glasses. I had to wear these Buddy Holly glasses," she says. "One had a blue lens and one had a red lens. And I had to read a paragraph, and they gave me a quiz, gave me 10 questions based on what I'd just read, and I think I got three right. Then they put a computer on my eyes, showing where my eyes went when I read. My eyes would jump four words and go back two words, and I also had a little bit of a lazy eye, like a crossed eye, which they always have to correct in photos. Prior to that, she recalls, "I thought I wasn't smart. I just couldn't retain anything. Now I had this great discovery. I felt like all of my childhood trauma-dies, tragedies, dramas were explained."
What else is she working hard to overcome?
"I'm a control freak. I like to be in charge of everything. My life was so out of control growing up. It's very important today for it to be in control," she confesses. "I have to bite my tongue sometimes if I'm on a movie, when I think I can figure out how to make this problem that they're having go smoothly." To stay grounded, she turns to meditation. "I'm on a really good personal strict regime. These days, I've been [doing it] every day," Aniston tells the publication. "I have a little place at home, and I do it for about 20 minutes, at different times, usually right after a cup of coffee and before the chaos starts."
Theroux has also helped Aniston find her center.
"He's the easiest guy to hang around. He was so completely in his skin," she says of her fiancé. "It was the first time I remember being so comfortable [with a romantic interest], like with all my gay friends."
Aniston insists they haven't set a wedding date, but adds, "I wouldn't tell you if we did."
For now, the Wanderlust co-stars seem slightly more interested in watching reality TV than planning a wedding. "Last year, [our friends] were saying, 'It's The Bachelor! It's premiering tonight! The Bachelor is premiering tonight!' And I was like, 'Oh, guys! Seriously? The Bachelor? That's been on for 15 years or something,'" she recalls. "Justin and I, just for fun, watched—and two hours later, we were addicted."
"It was like junk food," Aniston adds. "We were sad when it ended."
The couple's one-on-one time may be limited, though. While discussing the possibility of having kids, Aniston gets defensive, saying, "Listen, that's a topic that's so exhausted. I get nervous around that, just because it's very personal. Who knows if it's going to happen? It's been a want. We're doing our best."
To read Aniston's full Hollywood Reporter cover story, click here.