Michael Kovac/Getty Sean Penn and Leila George in January 2020
The pair became romantically linked in 2016, and they wed in July 2020. George, an Australian actress, then filed for divorce in October 2021 after just over a year of marriage.
Speaking with the magazine Hollywood Authentic in support of his work in Ukraine amid the ongoing Russian invasion, Penn, 61, opened up about his relationship as well, including how he "f----d up the marriage" by being "very neglectful."
"There's a woman who I'm so in love with, Leila George, who I only see on a day-to-day basis now, because I f---ed up the marriage. We were married technically for one year, but for five years, I was a very neglectful guy," he said.
"I was not a f-----g cheat or any of that obvious s---, but I allowed myself to think that my place in so many other things was so important, and that included my place in being totally depressed and driven to alcohol and Ambien at 11 o'clock in the morning, by watching the news, by watching the Trump era, by watching it and just despairing," Penn said.
He added of George, 30, "And as it turns out — this is going to shock you — beautiful, incredibly kind, imaginative, talented young women who get married to a man quite senior to them in years, they don't actually love it when they get up from their peaceful night's sleep and their new husband is on the couch, having been up since 4, watching all of the crap that's going on in the world and has decided that 10:30 in the morning is a good time to neck a double vodka tonic and an Ambien and say, 'Good morning, honey. I'm going to pass out for a few hours and get away from all this s---.' "
"As it turns out, women as described, they don't love that," he said.
Getty Sean Penn and Leila George in March 2020
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Penn said he doesn't "know what's going to happen with us" — the pair have been photographed together after the divorce filing — but he added, "I know that this is my best friend in the world and definitely the most influential, inspiring person, outside of my own blood, that anybody could ask to have in their life."
He shared how he's changed himself to be able to prioritize his loved ones.
"Now, when I wash the dishes, I don't answer my phone. If I'm with my wife for a day, I don't have my phone on, even though I'm juggling a lot of things. I don't juggle them better by taking more calls," said the Oscar winner. "I can have my phone off and not watch the news for 12 hours now. And even when I'm stressed, I'm never stressed the way I used to be. Because we've all had our heart broken at some point."
He added, "Although I still need vodka and an Ambien to get to sleep at night, I don't use them to hide from the world now like I used to. I hope I've learned not to let everything overlap with me anymore. And that I really put priority in my family, in my wife, in my life, in ways that I can plan and control. That's the theory, anyway."
Though Penn and George have been together since 2016, a friend of the actress told PEOPLE in August 2020 that the pair had reunited earlier in 2020 after a stretch of being on and off.
"Leila has been in Sean's life for a while. They got together and then they broke up, and Sean won her back," the source said at the time. "He realized he had made a mistake and when he felt he might lose her, he worked hard to get her back."