Reese Witherspoon Called Ryan Phillippe's Cheating and Their Divorce "Humiliating"

The Cruel Intentions co-stars split in 2006.

In the late '90s, Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe were one of the hottest young Hollywood couples. After meeting at her 21st birthday party, they began dating, got married, welcomed a child together, and co-starred in a movie, all within a couple of years. Their marriage reached a headline-making end in 2006, however, when it was reported that they broke up because Phillippe had been unfaithful. Both Witherspoon and Phillippe have since spoken out about their high-profile breakup, including in a 2009 interview in which Witherspoon called it "humiliating." Read on to find out more.

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Witherspoon and Phillippe got married in 1999.

Ryan Phillippe and Reese Witherspoon at the premiere of "Antitrust" in 2001
Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock

Witherspoon talked about making her interest in Phillippe known in a 1998 interview with Jane magazine.

"I met him at my 21st birthday party," she said of the 1997 event. "I don't know what came over me—maybe the seven Midori sours—but I told him, 'I think you're my birthday present.' He thought it was so flattering, and now that I think about it… how embarrassing!"

Two years after meeting, the couple got married in June 1999, only a couple of months after their movie Cruel Intentions was released. They welcomed their daughter, Ava Phillippe, in September 1999, and their son, Deacon Phillippe, in October 2003.

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They split up in 2006 amid rumors Phillippe was cheating.

Ryan Phillippe and Reese Witherspoon at the 2006 Golden Globe Awards
Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock

In October 2006, a representative for Witherspoon and Phillippe confirmed that they were separating. "We are saddened to announce that Reese and Ryan have decided to formally separate," the rep told People. "They remain committed to their family and we ask that you please respect their privacy and the safety of their children at this time."

Around this time, there were rumors circulating that Phillippe had cheated on Witherspoon with another actor. A CBS News report from 2006, cites claims that he had an affair with his Stop Loss co-star Abbie Cornish, as well as rumors that he was involved with two women while filming the movie.

Phillippe denied that he'd been unfaithful.

Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe at the 2002 SAG Awards
Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock

CBS News reported that Phillippe denied the allegations that he'd cheated on Witherspoon and that problems arose in their marriage because he was envious of her career.

"I'm not jealous of her, that's so far from the truth," he told In Touch in November 2006. "She's someone who's very talented and works hard. I've done well, too—that was never an issue." He added, "This is the hardest time of my life. I miss my family."

As reported by Us Weekly, Phillippe released a statement that same month in which he said, "I'm not a perfect person, but I'm not guilty of a lot of the things I have been accused of. My priority is and always has been the health and safety of my family."

Witherspoon called the breakup "humiliating."

Ryan Phillippe and Reese Witherspoon at the premiere of "Vanity Fair" in 2004
Everett Collection / Shutterstock

In a 2009 interview with Elle (via People), Witherspoon said that her divorce from Phillippe was "very humiliating and very isolating." But, she added, "If it's not painful, maybe it wasn't the right decision to marry to begin with. Those are the appropriate emotions."

She also talked about placing blame about the end of a relationship and not succumbing to it. "Blame, blame, blame. You know? And it's a really easy thing to do, and I'm certainly guilty of it," she said. "[You have to] look at yourself and go: 'What part of this do I need to own? Which part of this is my responsibility?' And that's the painful work that you have to go through to hopefully get some real-life knowledge out of it."

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Phillippe and Cornish publicly dated.

Ryan Phillippe and Abbie Cornish at a Calvin Klein event in 2010
Joe Seer / Shutterstock

Though it's still unclear exactly when they became involved, Phillippe did have a long-term relationship with Cornish that ended in 2010. As with his separation from Witherspoon, this came amid rumors that Phillippe had cheated. People reported that Cornish's representative confirmed the split but said "no comment" when asked about infidelity gossip.

According to Us Weekly, a couple of months after the breakup was reported, Phillippe said in an interview with Howard Stern that he didn't know it was going to be announced publicly. "I have a new rule: not to date anyone who has a publicist," the actor said. "Who announces a breakup? I don't understand that! There's no need for that." He continued, "I've been dumped on in the press for relationship stuff since Reese and I divorced … I'm tired of getting [expletive] on. I don't feel like I deserve it. Things happen!"

Witherspoon and Phillippe got to a better place in their relationship.

Ryan Phillippe and Reese Witherspoon at the 2006 SAG Awards
Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock

In that same 2010 interview with Stern, Phillippe said that he and Witherspoon were on good terms. "It's gotten to a place where we're great friends and great co-parents," he said, adding that she called him after he split up with Cornish, and he called her after she broke up with Jake Gyllenhaal.

Both actors have said that their ages played a role in their marriage ultimately not working out—Witherspoon was 23 when they tied the knot, and Phillippe was 24. "'I was so, so young. I was, like, ridiculously young," she told Elle UK in 2011 (via the Daily Mail). "I learnt a lot, though. It was an excellent opportunity for me to really find out what it means to be a partner and to be in a marriage and it's not anything that I thought it was."

While Phillippe never remarried, Witherspoon was married to talent agent Jim Toth from 2011 to 2023.

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Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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