“I’m a hopeless romantic,” Halle Berry admits. “Not having love is scarier than going through adversity.”

“I’m a hopeless romantic,” Halle Berry admits. \”Not having love is scarier than going through adversity.” April,2007 In love again after two bad marriages, Halle Berry says:
‘My Sights Are Set On Motherhood’ “I’m a hopeless romantic,” Halle Berry admits. “I want love. I’m a relationship-oriented person. So I keep trying, again and again. Not having love is scarier than going through adversity.”

Berry should know. She has had more than her fair share of romantic troubles. One boyfriend hit her so hard that she lost partial hearing. Her first marriage ended in a suicide attempt and her second fell apart because her husband was an alleged sex addict. It would drive a lesser woman to a nunnery. It drove Berry to take a long, hard look at herself.

“I’ve developed into someone who takes responsibility for my choices,” she says. “I’m able to say, ‘ I chose it, I screwed it up, and it’s my bad. I’m not going to take an ounce of your blame or put any of mine on you.’ It’s easier not to dwell on mistakes when you own them and learn the lesson. When I realized I had the power to change, it was eye-opening. It gave me a lot of hope.”

Sitting in a deserted Manhattan restaurant at 8:30 in the morning, swathed in a plush gray sweater and sipping decaf, Berry, 40, looks like an exceptionally pretty college kid. With luminous skin, loose hair falling to her shoulders and huge brown eyes, she speaks in a soft, whispery voice at odds with her powerful screen presence. Indeed, in movies like X2 and Die Another Day, she has played strong, resilient women, but her own nature may be closer to the fragile character that won her an Oscar in Monster’s Ball. In Perfect Stranger, due out April 13, she plays a reporter who adopts an online persona. “Everybody has a right to have secrets,” Berry says.

Confessing past mistakes has become something of a trademark for Berry. She has talked (and talked) about her tough upbringing, her disastrous marriages, the glories of newfound love—just before it all headed south yet again.

So why does she seem so convinced that this time will be different? And why should we believe her?

“I’ve been working to break old habits and change how I think about relationships,” she says. “For a while, I couldn’t accept what I was doing to myself—that I needed drama. I think I’ve been so successful professionally because I always thought positively: ‘Sure, I’m going to make money. Sure, I’m going to work as an actress,’” Berry explains. “But in my personal life, I have a lot of fears and negative thoughts.” Those fears became a self-fulfilling prophecy. “My goal is to change my thinking from ‘I don’t want to be hurt, I don’t want to be cheated on’ to ‘I want someone honest.’” Despite the fact that she has been down the road of romantic failure and redemption so repeatedly—and so publicly—in the past, you can’t help but root for her.

Both elements of Berry’s personality—the iron will to succeed and the vulnerable little girl—were present at an early age. Born in Cleveland to a white mother and a black father, she strove to excel while her home life disintegrated around her. Her father, an alcoholic who left when she was 4, was physically abusive to her mother and older sister. Berry’s response was to become a classic over-achiever: class president, prom queen, editor at the high school newspaper, Miss Teen All-American.

Berry has spoken out in the past about an early relationship that repeated the abusive behavior she witnessed as a girl. “It’s hard to change the patterns of childhood,” she says. “For every five years of that, you need 15 years to undo it.” In 1993, she married Atlanta Braves star David Justice. But what seemed like a storybook union ended after just three stormy years. Berry was so depressed, she attempted suicide.

“I was sitting in my car, and I knew the gas was coming, when I had an image of my mother finding me. She sacrificed so much for her children, and to end my life would be an incredibly selfish thing to do.” Her eyes well up. “It was all about a relationship. My sense of worth was so low. I had to reprogram myself to see the good in me. Because someone didn’t love me didn’t mean I was unlovable. I promised myself I would never be a coward again.”

Ending the cycle of bad romantic choices didn’t prove quite so easy. “I do something over and over until finally I get it. That’s been my path of breaking destructive patterns.”

Berry calls her second marriage, to singer Eric Benét, “really horrific. We were in sex rehab after one year. I wish I had left then, but I was putting everyone’s needs before mine,” she says. “ Still, I knew this time I had a right to set boundaries and say, ‘This isn’t OK for me.’ I knew that it wasn’t my fault.” Benét reportedly got help for sexual addiction, but the relationship ended after three years. “If I hadn’t gone through the first breakup and made that promise to myself,” Berry says, “this would have leveled me. I would have walked into moving traffic.”

Berry decided it was time to truly take stock of herself. Her mother had been a nurse in the psych ward of a VA hospital, and Berry has sought the help of therapy throughout her life. She credits it with helping her finally alter the course of her troubled love life. “As you get older, you realize you have a right to feel better,” she says. “I stink at 101 things—I stink at being told what to do. I stink at taking advice from other people. I stink at marriage,” she adds, laughing. “But I know that I’ve developed really good communication skills, and that’s a big part of me evolving and learning how to be in the world.”

For the past year, Berry has been dating Gabriel Aubry, a male model 10 years her junior. “It’s a lot of fun,” she admits, with the first truly mischievous grin of the morning lighting up her face. The two met while shooting a Versace ad together. “The molecules in the room changed,” she says. “I have a greater appreciation of honesty and being in a good communicative situation. I cherish it in a way that I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t gone through all those problems.

“I’ve accomplished things I never thought I would. Now my sights are set on a different chapter in my life, which is motherhood.” For the first time, a bit of the steely determination that she usually saves for acting is focused on her personal life. “That’s the goal I have very clearly set for myself.” At the height of her talent, in love (and lust, if the grin is any indication) and looking forward to the future, Berry smiles broadly. Then, suddenly nervous, she leans over and knocks on the wooden banquette. She’s been through too much to take anything for granted.
By Emily Listfield


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