At last, Jennifer Garner is addressing nannygate.
After maintain her silence for nearly a year, the Miracles From Heaven actress speaks candidly about the demise of her 10-year marriage to Ben Affleck in Vanity Fair's March 2016 issue. The exes announced plans to divorce in June 2015, after Violet Affleck, 10, Seraphina Affleck, 7, and Sam Affleck, 4, were finished with the school year. A month later, Ben was linked to his children's 28-year-old nanny, Christine Ouzounian; his rep adamantly denies they had an affair.
For the first time since the reports surfaced, Jennifer is sharing her side of the story. "Let me just tell you something. We had been separated for months before I ever heard about the nanny. She had nothing to do with our decision to divorce. She was not a part of the equation," she says. That said, she doesn't feel Christine was a good fit for her family. "Bad judgment? Yes. It's not great for your kids for [a nanny] to disappear from their lives." Months later, Jennifer is still picking up the pieces. "I have had to have conversations about the meaning of 'scandal.'"
By all accounts, the former couple remains on good terms. Unlike late-night hosts, for example, Jennifer is uninterested in trashing Ben—though she appreciates the public's concern. "People have pain—they do regrettable things, they feel shame, and shame equals pain," she says. "No one needs to hate him for me. I don't hate him. Certainly we don't have to beat the guy up. Don't worry—my eyes were wide open during the marriage. I'm taking good care of myself."
Victor Garber, who befriended Jennifer on the set of ABC's hit series Alias in 2001 and officiated her wedding to Ben in 2005, is proud of the progress she's made since the split. "She is becoming the person that I could see in her that she almost couldn't see in herself," the actor says. "Her strength, her fortitude. I think she went from someone that wanted to take care of everybody to be someone who said, 'In order to do that I have to really take care of myself.'"
To take care of herself, Jennifer exiled herself from the Internet.
"I turned on CNN one day, and there we were," she recalls. "I just won't do it anymore. I took a silent oath with myself last summer to really stay offline. I am totally clueless about all of it." Ben, however, paid more attention to how their breakup played out in the press. "Ben says, 'Oh, you just don't care,' and I say, 'No, it's the opposite.' It hurts me so much, and I care so much. I cannot be driven by the optics of this. I cannot let anger or hurt be my engine," Jennifer says. "I need to move with the big picture always on my mind, and the kids first and foremost."
While Jennifer faults herself as much as Ben for the breakup, she refuses to take responsibility for the rising phoenix tattoo that now covers his entire back. "You know what we would say in my hometown about that? 'Bless his heart.' A phoenix rising from the ashes. Am I the ashes in this scenario?" Jennifer tells Vanity Fair with a wink. "I take umbrage. I refuse to be the ashes."