Oprah Winfrey is opening up about her decades-long relationship with Stedman Graham.
In her latest “What I Know For Sure” column for O Mag‘s February issue, the 65-year-old media mogul recalls everything from their early days of dating to why she said “yes” to his proposal but never got married.
Winfrey began the column by explaining why she doesn’t make a big deal out of Valentine’s Day, something she’s been doing since she was a teenage contestant in the Miss Black America Pageant.
“I was Miss Black Tennessee. Many of the other girls were receiving flowers and gifts from their beaux. My boyfriend at the time, Bubba — yes, real name — sent me nothing,” she shared. “I felt bad about that and complained to another contestant. She laid this wisdom on me: ‘Girl, if your man has put a flower on your mind, you won’t need no flowers in a vase!'”
Then, in 1986, Winfrey kept seeing a particular man around town (Graham), but didn’t pay much attention to him since “he was always with the same girlfriend.” That is, until they both found themselves at the home of a mutual friend who had fallen ill.
“We left together, and I asked if he wanted to get a beer. (Yes, I drank a lot of beer then and wore cowboy boots every day.) He said he didn’t drink. (Still doesn’t—not one sip of nothin’ alcoholic since I’ve known him),” Winfrey remembered. “I thought he was nice enough, but I wasn’t that impressed. He was polite, yes, and kind. The sort of guy who sits with an ailing friend. Tall and handsome, for sure. But actually too handsome, I thought, to be interested in me.”
“I figured he must be a player,” she added. “So did all my producers. They warned me not to get involved with that Stedman guy.”
Winfrey admitted that she proceeded with caution, even as friends. She said she didn’t give Graham any serious thought until months later, when she learned he had broken up with his girlfriend and had been inquiring about her dating status. The rest, of course, is history.
“For years, there were hundreds of tabloid stories, weekly, on whether we would marry. In 1993, the moment after I said yes to his proposal, I had doubts,” she confessed. “I realized I didn’t actually want a marriage. I wanted to be asked. I wanted to know he felt I was worthy of being his missus, but I didn’t want the sacrifices, the compromises, the day-in-day-out commitment required to make a marriage work. My life with the show was my priority, and we both knew it.”
“He and I agree that had we tied the marital knot, we would not still be together,” she continued. “Our relationship works because he created an identity beyond being ‘Oprah’s man’ (he teaches Identity Leadership around the world and has written multiple books on the subject). And because we share all the values that matter (integrity being No. 1). And because we relish seeing the other fulfill and manifest their destiny and purpose.”
Winfrey concluded the column by saying it’s what spiritual teacher/author Gary Zukav calls a spiritual partnership: “partnership between equals for the purpose of spiritual growth.”
“I know for sure it’s the ultimate flower on my mind,” Winfrey gushed.
Winfrey’s been vocal about not wanting to be married in the past, telling Vogue in 2017 that “nobody believes it.”
“The only time I brought [marriage] up was when I said to Stedman, ‘What would have happened if we had actually gotten married?’ And the answer is: ‘We wouldn’t be together,'” she revealed. “We would not have stayed together, because marriage requires a different way of being in this world.”
“His interpretation of what it means to be a husband and what it would mean for me to be a wife would have been pretty traditional, and I would not have been able to fit into that,” she continued, instead suggesting that both partners “live life on your own terms.”
Winfrey also opened up about the exact moment she first realized she didn’t want to get married while speaking with Shonda Rhimes on a SuperSoul Sunday episode that aired in 2015.
“The moment he asked me to marry him, I was like ‘Oh, God! Now I actually have to get married?'” she shared, revealing that she and Graham agreed to postpone their wedding and then never spoke of it again. “But what I realized is, I don’t want to be married.”
Hear more in the video below.
More From ET: