Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe were a picture-perfect couple in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, as their careers took off simultaneously and their romance bloomed. Unfortunately, things became messy and, after eight years of marriage, the couple divorced in 2007. 

Following their split, Phillippe blamed their young age — “I think more of the problem was age,” he told Larry King — while Witherspoon noted the importance of knowing yourself before jumping into a serious relationship. As she told ITV’s Lorraine in 2017, “I got married when I was 23 and I had two kids by the time I was 27. So I don’t know, you know, sometimes it’s good to know yourself.” 

Even though Witherspoon was quick to clarify that she has absolutely no regrets, the divorce must have been especially hard on her, as rumors circulated that Phillippe had been unfaithful. According to numerous reports, the actor had an affair with co-star Abbie Cornish on the set of Stop-Loss in 2006. 

It’s no surprise then that when love came knocking on Witherspoon’s door years later, she decided to do things a little differently. While her highly publicized marriage and split from Ryan Phillippe kept Reese Witherspoon in the news, her decade-long relationship with Jim Toth has been kept mostly under wraps. Far from prying eyes, the couple has managed to build a long-lasting bond and a modern-day family. 

Here’s what we can learn from Reese Witherspoon and Jim Toth’s relationship:

Sometimes, the universe drops love into your lap

As popular as dating apps may be, they’re not the only way to meet a partner. As Witherspoon proves, sometimes, the universe drops love right into your lap. The actress actually met her future husband the same way she had met Phillippe back in the ‘90s: at a good ol’ fashioned party. 

As she revealed to Elle in 2012, she definitely wasn’t expecting Toth to walk into her life, but he did just that when he tried to rescue her from his heartbroken but intoxicated friend. “This really drunk guy was hitting on me, making such an idiot of himself, yelling at me,” she recalled. “He was like, [slurring, scowling, pointing finger in her face] ‘You don’t know me.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, I know. I don’t know you!’” 

Cue her knight in shining armor.

Jim came over and said, ‘Please excuse my friend. He’s just broken up with someone. Jim was a really good friend, pulling him out of that situation. That’s just kind of who he is, a really good person.

Reese Witherspoon to Elle

He changed everything she thought she wanted

Once the pair did meet, they wasted no time getting to know each other. The couple reportedly began dating around January 2010 and as People reported that May, they had “gone from casual to full-throttle in just weeks.”

Witherspoon, who had split from Jake Gyllenhaal in December 2009 because she wasn’t ready to settle down — “She was ready to just date and have fun and be free,” a source told People — forgot all about her apprehensions when Toth showed up. 

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As it turns out, it wasn’t commitment that was stopping Witherspoon and Gyllenhaal’s relationship from progressing, but rather their connection. According to one source, Witherspoon actually liked that Toth was “more mature and in a place in his life where he’s ready to settle down.”

His perspective on love and commitment soon rubbed off on her and “the relationship happened very fast. I think for the first time in a very long time, she feels as if she’s with a grown-up,” the insider noted. 

In March 2010, Witherspoon introduced her new boyfriend to her closest friends and, after getting their stamp of approval, she was ready for him to meet her kids: daughter Ava and son Deacon. 

Speaking with People, a source admitted that “friends are very surprised how quickly she’s moved on from Jake and how fast things have progressed with Jim. Even she’s surprised at how fast she fell for him.” When you know, you know — right?

She changed his approach to dating

While Toth changed Witherspoon’s outlook on commitment, she did the same for him. Sure, he may have been ready to settle down, but it still took the right woman for him to take the plunge. As one of Toth’s longtime friends told People, “He used to be such a player, but he’s treating her like gold. He’ll do anything for Reese.”

Not only would he do anything for his new girlfriend, but just as importantly, he made sure she knew that. As Witherspoon told Elle, he made his feeling exceptionally clear.

Jim said ‘I’m gonna show you every day what a good partner is, what a good person is. I’m going to take care of you. I’m gonna do this so much that you’re gonna get used to it. I was like ‘What are you talking about?’ I’ve never had anybody like that in my life.

Reese Witherspoon to Elle

In addition to their strong bond and open communication about feelings, it also helped that Toth wasn’t famous like her exes. Despite being a talent agent at the Creative Artists Agency (CAA) and representing everyone from Matthew McConaughey to Scarlett Johansson, Toth himself isn’t a celebrity.

Because of that, Witherspoon was able to experience romance outside of the spotlight for the very first time, and it made all the difference. “She loves that he’s not a celebrity,” a friend of hers told People. “She always felt that she and Jake had so much heat on them from the press, but with Jim things have not been as crazy. They’ve been left alone to get to know each other in a more private way.” 

It’s alright to throw caution to the wind 

Despite the fact that they had dated for less than a year, Toth made the decision to propose in December 2010. They were married just as quickly, tying the knot in March 2011, and in March 2012, they confirmed they were expecting their first child together. Their son, Tennessee James Toth, was born on September 27, 2012. 

Despite their whirlwind romance, their bond is a lifelong one. First there’s the fact that she continues to be impressed by him. The Big Little Lies star told People in 2016, “He’s an incredible man, a wonderful organizer, a great leader. He knows how to get people together,” she gushed. “He’s very patient and funny with the kids. And he really encourages them to see the humor in life.”

Then there’s the fact that he pushes her to be her best self. Taking the leap from actress to producer, Witherspoon found success behind the camera working on projects like Wild, Gone Girl, and Big Little Lies, and it’s all thanks to her hubby.

Speaking with Harper’s Bazaar, she revealed just what an important role he played in pushing her career forward.

He said, ‘You should produce movies. You read more books than anybody I know. You should just buy some of them and turn them into films.’

Reese Witherspoon to Harper’s Bazaar

In that same interview, the Legally Blonde alum was asked for the secret to a successful marriage and although she assured “I don’t have the answer to that question,” she did share an invaluable lesson: “In a true partnership, people need to be appreciated for everything they bring to the table. I have a husband who supports my dreams and my ideas. He helps me with everything. I’m very lucky.”

Revealing just how supportive he is of her dreams, Witherspoon told Marie Claire, “He cares deeply about equality and always tells me, ‘Why wouldn’t you call the person in charge of a company and have a personal relationship with them?’ He’s encouraged me to be outspoken.”

A happily ever after is possible at any age

Despite meeting later in life and after a string of failed marriages and relationships, Reese Witherspoon and Jim Toth have proven that love doesn’t have a deadline. It also doesn’t have any one specific timeline. In their case, it was a fast-paced, whirlwind romance, and that’s okay. It didn’t make their love any less legitimate and, a decade later, they’re as happy as ever.

As Witherspoon enthused on their sixth wedding anniversary, “He makes me laugh everyday and supports me in everything I do.” In 2018, while celebrating their seventh anniversary, she gushed, “Happy Anniversary to my wonderful husband who keeps me smiling everyday!”

It’s important to remember that love can come into your life at any moment (in a variety of ways) and if you’re open to changing your own preconceptions about whether or not you’re ‘ready’ for it, great things can happen.

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