What We Know About Sarah Jessica Parker And Robert Downey Jr.'s Relationship

"Sex and the City" was one of the biggest shows of the late '90s and early 2000s (via Cosmopolitan). At its center was Sarah Jessica Parker, the actress who brought Carrie Bradshaw — along with her impressive collection of shoes — to life. Commenting on her most famous role to date, Parker told Oprah, "[Carrie's] a bit of a wreck, but she's a romantic and she's a writer and she's an observer, and she makes fantastic mistakes." Darren Star's show based on Candace Bushnell's column "Sex and the City" opened up conversations about sex, love, and work — specifically for women in their 30s and 40s. Rather than focusing on the ultimate goal of marriage, the show advertised themes of friendship and self-love (via Harper's Bazaar).

Years before dawning Carrie Bradshaw's heels, Sarah Jessica Parker dated "Iron Man" himself, Robert Downey Jr. The actor, who rose to fame in the 1980s as part of the so-called "Brat Pack," had a brief stint on SNL, starred alongside Anthony Michael Hall in a John Hughes classic, and even earned an academy award nod for "Chaplin" in 1992 (via Hollywood). In 2008, he launched the top-earning franchise in history, playing the quick-witted Tony Stark in "Iron Man." During the height of his 1980s "Brat Pack" notoriety, Downey Jr. was in a relationship with Sarah Jessica Parker.

Sarah Jessica Parker and Robert Downey Jr. met as teenagers

Sarah Jessica Parker and Robert Downey Jr. met in 1984 on the set of the psychological thriller, "Firstborn." Both were just 18 years old and immediately felt a connection. "I guess Sarah thought I looked scary enough to be interesting," Downey Jr. told People in a 1985 interview. In the early weeks of dating, the young couple decided to keep their relationship a secret. According to Parker, "we were almost embarrassed for anyone to know." The actors made sure to arrive separately to the set of "Firstborn," with Parker even exiting their shared car 100 yards early so as not to pique suspicion, per People. After filming ended, the pair eventually shared an LA home. Though often long-distance due to contradicting filming schedules — Downey Jr. worked on the high school comedy "Tuff Turf" shortly into their relationship — the young stars found a way to make it work. "We miss each other. But we realize that our first priority has to be our careers. Otherwise, we wouldn't be any good for each other," Downey Jr. explained to People.

The pair talked about marriage

Though young, the future Carrie Bradshaw and Avenger spoke often of marriage. As Downey told People in 1985 — when the pair was just 20 years old — "We want a Jewish wedding at Le Mondrian Hotel with flamenco dancers." Parker went on to joke about her dreams of "a band that's not half as good as Lawrence Welk and lots of balloons and bubbles and a nice linoleum floor that looks like marble." Ultimately, Downey Jr. was confident in their relationship, claiming that "marriage looks like where we're headed." The pair went on to date for over seven years, a time filled with just as much fun as there was hardship (via InStyle). The young couple was even known for throwing water balloons at their unsuspecting next-door neighbors, according to People. The pair eventually split in 1991, years before Season 1 of "Sex and the City" aired in 1998.

Robert Downey Jr. struggled with addiction

Robert Downey Jr.'s famous father, the now-deceased filmmaker Robert Downey Sr., saw Sarah Jessica Parker as a positive influence on his son. "I thank God for Sarah Jessica Parker," he told People in 1985, going on to add "Without her, Robert would go at 100 miles an hour into a brick wall." Though Downey Sr. predicted that his son "might become a gentleman" as a result of his association with Parker, the "Iron Man" star's dependence on alcohol and drugs worsened. In 1991, the relationship came to a close. "I liked to drink, and I had a drug problem, and that didn't jibe with Sarah Jessica," Robert Downey Jr. explained to Parade (and as later reported by People) in 2008. "She tried to help me. She was so miffed when I didn't get my act together."

Downey Jr.'s addiction was deeply-rooted; he began using drugs alongside his Hollywood father at just 8 years old, per HuffPost. After his breakup with Parker, the actor faced years of legal trouble. In 1996, he was arrested for possession of cocaine, heroin, and a pistol — and in 1999 the actor was sentenced to three years in prison, according to the Los Angeles Times. He ultimately served a year in a California treatment facility, American Addiction Centers noted. It wasn't until his final arrest in April of 2001 that Downey Jr. committed to sobriety (via Hollywood).

Sarah Jessica Parker learned major lessons from their relationship

Though her seven years with Robert Downey Jr. were often painful, Sarah Jessica Parker is grateful for the lessons they taught her. According to Vanity Fair (per People), the actress learned "how to love," coming to see "the difference between loving and taking care of people and what's necessary and what grown-ups should and shouldn't do for one another." Eventually, she built up the courage to leave the relationship. "At a certain point, I had the courage to say, 'I'm going to walk away and I'm just going to pray that you don't die,'" the actress recalled for People in 2018. Now, the "Sex and the City" star sees the similarities between caring for her teenage son and looking after a struggling partner explaining that "it taught me a little bit about being a parent, too," according to Vanity Fair. Parker noted that many of the things she did for Downey "were things that might be more suitable for a parent." Ultimately, both stars were able to move past their ill-fated romance, finding happiness with their current spouses.

Sarah Jessica Parker and Robert Downey Jr. both found long-term love

In 1997, Sarah Jessica Parker married fellow film (and broadway) star, Matthew Broderick, per People. As she told Oprah in 2004, "I have a fantastic husband. Here's the honeymoon part: I still think he's the funniest, wittiest, most clever man I've ever known." Together the pair has three children.

In 2005, Robert Downey Jr. married his second wife, Susan. "Before I met Mrs. Downey, I just didn't give a god—-. What changed is that I cared," he explained to People in 2008. "Instead of getting instant gratification by getting high, I push my nose as far into the grindstone as I can. The honey, the reward, is the feeling of well-being, the continuity, the sense that I am walking toward a place I want to go." Together, the pair have two children — Downey Jr. also has a son from his previous marriage with Deborah Falconer (via People).

In the 30-plus years since their split, both Parker's and Downey Jr.'s professional careers have only grown. As of 2022, the "Iron Man" star is one of the top-paid actors in Hollywood, according to Insider.