Susan Sarandon is a five-time Oscar nominee (she won for best actress in a lead role for "Dead Man Walking" in 1996) with 162 acting credits to her name and an estimated net worth of $60 million, but while her career has been blessed, her personal life hasn’t been all smooth sailing. She’s made headlines for celebrity beefs, including a rumored feud with Julia Roberts, and when it became pretty clear that Sarandon can’t stand Ellen DeGeneres. She’s also had a number of high-profile relationships and splits, most notably in 2009 when she and Tim Robbins called it quits after 23 years and two kids together, per ABC News. While the two actors, who first met on the set of 1988’s "Bull Durham," kept quiet about the reason for their separation, Sarandon’s publicist shot down claims that she left Robbins to date a younger man.
So what did drive "one of Hollywood’s rare enduring couples" apart? From the very start, Sarandon called herself and Robbins "survivors," noting the difficulties of maintaining a successful long-term relationship. As she told The Guardian in 2006, "There’s no such thing as an ideal relationship. At some point you have to stop looking at who’s coming in through the door and try to make something work. That doesn’t make it easier," she conceded. And while the "Tammy" star has never shared the cause of their split outright, she has offered numerous clues. Here’s the real reason Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins went their separate ways.
Susan Sarandon was turned off marriage early on
Despite being together for 23 years, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins never tied the knot and the former’s (failed) marriage may explain why. It seems the "Thelma & Louise" star was turned off of the idea of matrimony long before she walked down the aisle with actor Chris Sarandon in 1967. As she told the "Divorced, Not Dead" podcast (via "Today") in March 2021, she wouldn’t even have married Sarandon if she’d had the choice. The pair as students at the Catholic University of America and it was circumstance that pushed them down the aisle. "I was in college at 17," Sarandon recalled. "We kind of eventually dated. Eventually, my first sexual experience. I was so grateful. I decided to get married, and only because we would’ve gotten kicked out of school," she revealed, admitting she "never wanted to get married the first time." After seven years of marriage, the pair "decided to mutually move on" in 1979, although she did keep his last name.
As the Oscar-winner further explained, per the Daily Mail, she quickly realized that a traditional union wasn’t right for her — "I wasn’t interested in it," she said of marriage — because "maybe it was a fear, you know, of losing your identity. When you become a couple [it’s] so easy to have happen," she conceded. Could it be that, after two decades with Robbins, Sarandon began to feel like she was losing herself again? It’s certainly possible.
Was jealousy to blame for Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins’ split?
After Susan and Chris Sarandon split in 1979, the Oscar-winner dated Sean Penn and David Bowie, then eventually had a daughter, Eva Amurri, with Italian director Franco Amurri. They dated from 1984 to 1988 but never married and, following their breakup, Sarandon got together with Tim Robbins whom she met on the set of 1988’s "Bull Durham." As she told the "Divorced, Not Dead" podcast, per "Today," her new boyfriend had no issues with her being a single mom. In fact, he "adored" Eva and treated her as "a bonus daughter" and they eventually had two kids of their own: sons Jack Henry and Miles Guthrie.
That’s when things began to change. Sarandon told the podcast that Robbins "was very jealous, really jealous of the boys," explaining, "Part of it was because he didn’t have a close relationship with his mom," so her close connection with their sons "drove him crazy." She also told The Guardian in 2014 that "relationships when you don’t have children can be very different from when you’re nesting and expect a partner to be there on certain other conditions."
Jealousy may also have come into play because they shared the same career. As Sarandon told The Guardian, fame can be a blessing or a curse when two actors date. Noting that it only works "assuming that they’re not competitive," she shared, "That’s the problem when two people are in the public eye. Do you feel bad when they come and ask you for an autograph and not him?"
Did Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins take each other for granted?
During her time with Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon was often asked about why she had chosen to forego convention and not get married. Speaking with The Guardian in 2006, she explained that it was all about being true to yourself and maintaining your individuality, no matter what. "I think one of the reasons I haven’t married Tim is that I hate that couples assumption — that once you’re committed to someone you stop treating each other as individuals," she proclaimed, saying, "I like getting up knowing I am choosing to be with that person."
In an earlier chat with The Times of London (via Us Weekly), Sarandon was a bit more tongue-in-cheek about her worries over legal matrimony. "I won’t marry [Robbins] because I am too afraid of taking him for granted or him taking me for granted — maybe it will be a good excuse for a party when I am 80," she quipped.
But it seems, despite her best efforts, that’s exactly what happened. Speaking with The Telegraph in 2010, following her split from Robbins, Sarandon shared that she hadn’t much changed her approach to love, but that refusing marriage wasn’t actually the key to unconditional appreciation. "I’ve always liked the idea of choosing to be with somebody," she said, adding, "I thought that if you didn’t get married you wouldn’t take each other for granted as easily. I don’t know if after twenty-something years that was still true."
Infidelity wasn’t a problem for Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins
We may never know exactly what went wrong between Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, but we can safely assume that infidelity was never an issue for the couple. Speaking about jealousy and cheating with The Guardian in 2006, the actor shared how "for the most part, I give Tim a lot of rope […] and he’s the same with me." Admitting that she does get "offers" for affairs, she said it’s never appealed to her because "what happens is that when I play through the reality of what that means — of telling the children, of hurting him… the ramifications are enough of a downer to take the excitement of the offer away."
Calling herself "a serial monogamist," Sarandon told PrideSource, "I haven’t really had a large dating career" and, in an interview with The Telegraph, she shared she "was never that wild," adding, "Throughout my life I’ve been with so few people." And even though she married Chris Sarandon "so young," she still "took it very seriously." Revealing "he was the first person I ever had sex with," she added, "I never had that kind of free-love 1960s. I was slow to lose my virginity."
It’s clear there’s no bad blood between Sarandon and Robbins. The exes have been publicly spotted many times since their split, including having lunch with son Jack in Venice, California in 2017.
A Broadway run inspired Susan Sarandon to want more
When AARP asked Susan Sarandon in 2014 about the reason behind her and Tim Robbins’ split, she once again refused to offer any one specific reason, but she did reveal that her 2009 Broadway stint in "Exit the King" was a definite a-ha moment and a turning point in their relationship.
As Playbill notes, the play, written by Eugene Ionesco, is an "absurdist drama [which] follows King Berenger I in the final day of his life, surrounded by a decaying kingdom, as he refuses to acknowledge death and slowly acquiesces to its reality." Starring in the comedic role, which tackles the idea of mortality, pushed the actress to confront her own biggest fear. As she told AARP, "The only thing I’m really afraid of is death. I still haven’t gotten to the point where I think that’s cool." By being cast in the production, she was forced to assess her own future and it was a game-changer. "You can’t do a meditation on death and stay in a situation that’s not authentic," she said, adding, "It made me examine where I was in my union and in my life, and to have discussions about making changes." Those discussions may, indeed, have been the catalyst that sparked Sarandon and Robbins’ to arrive at the conclusion that their relationship had run its course.
Age is just a number for Susan Sarandon
While it was reported that Susan Sarandon may have left Tim Robbins for a younger man, that doesn’t really seem to be the case. Not only did Sarandon’s publicist deny those claims, but the actress herself has shown through the years that it’s never been about age for her. "It’s the soul of a person that interests me," she told Hello! Magazine in 2014 (via the Daily Mail), adding, "When you are in love, the question of age, sex, color no longer hold any importance."
What’s more, Robbins is actually 12 years her junior and although her next boyfriend, screenwriter Jonathan Bricklin, is 31 years younger than her (they split in 2015 after five years of dating, per Page Six), Sarandon has made it clear that she doesn’t look for partners based on their age. Instead, she just searches for a true connection. Speaking with Australia’s Daily Telegraph in 2021, she explained, "I find it difficult now to find older guys who would be appropriate." Noting she likes to date men who are "curious and [who] wants to get on an adventure still," she continued, "I think I can only be with people who are really looking, interested and asking questions, which is much easier to find when you’re younger because nobody knows anything, and everything is new."
It sure sounds like Sarandon wouldn’t have put much weight on Robbins’ age, instead focusing on the union itself.
Susan Sarandon felt like a failure after splitting with Tim Robbins
Does Susan Sarandon think she could have done more to save her relationship with Tim Robbins? That’s what it sounded like when the actress told Reuters in 2012 that she felt "like a failure" after their split. What’s more, she also told The Telegraph back in 2010 that she hadn’t necessarily been happy to part ways with Robbins, recalling how "people were coming up to me in the street and saying, ‘I cried and cried when I heard.’ Well, I was sadder!" she declared. "I didn’t think it would ever happen, either."
That being said, Sarandon tried to use their breakup, as well as every other failed relationship, as "an opportunity to grow." In her interview with Reuters, the actor shared how she overcomes the end of a union, saying, "You need your girlfriends, you need to take long, long walks until you’re exhausted and no longer freaking out and you hold on until a new dawn. Then you get another chance." As for being newly single, she added, "It’s been a lot of different things. It’s traumatic and exhilarating. The one thing that’s been really clear to me is that you have to think of your own life and your relationship and everything as a living organism: It’s constantly moving, changing, growing," she told the outlet, concluding, "I think long-term relationships need to be constantly reevaluated and talked about." — a realization that may have come too late to save her relationship with Robbins.
Susan Sarandon thinks relationships ‘should be renewed every five years’
Susan Sarandon has often talked about the importance of regularly reevaluating long-term relationships, but based on a 2014 interview with The Guardian, it seems that she didn’t necessarily take her own advice and it may have resulted in her and Tim Robbins’ split. "The difficulty is growing with someone you pick at a certain point, through all those different stages," she began, explaining, "I always thought marriage contracts should be renewed every five years, so you get together and then there’s a no-guilt release clause after five years. Then, after the next five years, you talk about it again."
The "Blackbird" star went on to stress the importance of such a contract and in doing so, possibly showed us exactly what went wrong between her and her partner. "If you knew that the five-year deadline was coming, you’d be on good behavior; you’d work harder and maybe you wouldn’t take your partner for granted," she reasoned. "Maybe you’d help out a little, with the kids, because you could see that she’s getting worn down." Addressing "the built-in problem with long-term relationships," Sarandon said the biggest issue is "you get to a certain point and you try to hold on to that … You just try to maintain the status quo, and that doesn’t work because you can’t control anything or anybody," she continued, concluding, "You’re fighting a losing battle."
Tim Robbins has barely spoken about his split from Susan Sarandon
Tim Robbins has largely remained silent about his split from Susan Sarandon, but he did tell Traveling Boy that Bull Durham would forever be his favorite film, because "it’s where I met Susan and a family came out of that for me." However, in response to a general question about the high breakup rate in Hollywood, he was more reserved. "I can’t talk about a Hollywood marriage. Susan and I never had a Hollywood marriage," he said, adding, "One of the reasons we stayed together as long as we did was because we kind of didn’t talk about this stuff. You know, broad general ideas about what relationships are or how that is through the prism of our relationship." In what is one one of his only public sentiments on his split from Sarandon, Robbins concluded, "It’s an area that I’ve always refused to talk about because personally I don’t think it’s that interesting and I also just don’t think I know anything insightful about this subject."
The actor similarly told AARP that keeping his private life private has always been important and that his "secret to happiness" is not letting the outside world in. "The way to stay engaged is to disengage," he began, noting that "the most important thing is not to let outside forces determine your interests."
As if to prove his point, Robbins surprised fans in January 2021 with news that he was divorcing Gratiela Brancusi and, as Vanity Fair put it, ending "a marriage no one even knew had happened."