Nothing is certain apart from death and taxes… and the inevitable rise and fall of the celebrity couple seemingly destined to be “the ones who make it.” Less common, however, is the resurrection of that couple. But—like a phoenix from the ashes—Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez’s love is ascendant once more. Hello, Bennifer.
First ensnaring the world’s undivided attention in 2002, the star-crossed celebrity pairing have danced in and out of each others’ orbits ever since. After a nasty breakup in 2004, though, they both moved on quickly, and that seemed to be that. Bennifer was dead in the water, possibly forever.
This year, however, marked the first instance in 19 years that both were single at the same time. Lo and behold, after a few dozen dating rumours and quotes from insider “sources,” Bennifer 2.0 is confirmed. How did we get here, and why are we still so enthralled? Read on to find out.
“Like a movie scene in the sweetest dream”
December 2001: Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck meet on the set of Gigli, where they play criminals entangled in a kidnapping plot. By March 2002, Affleck has taken out a full-page advertisement in Hollywood trade magazines to trumpet his “love, respect and gratitude” for Lopez to the world. “You have shown kindness, dedication, diligence, humility, graciousness of spirit, beauty in courage, great empathy, astonishing talent, real poise and true grace,” he writes. This raises eyebrows.
June 2002: Lopez separates from her second husband, Cris Judd, whom she married in September 2001. There’s no word on whether Affleck was a motivating factor, and he later denies he ever acted on his feelings before this point.
24 July, 2002: Affleck and Lopez are photographed snuggling up together at J.Lo’s 32nd birthday party. Two days later, Lopez files for divorce from Judd.
“Don’t be fooled by the rocks that I got”
October 2002: J.Lo is spotted wearing a massive pink diamond ring. There’s been no official engagement announcement yet, though. Instead, she’s quoted in the press dishing about her upcoming album, Love? Affleck is “definitely a big part” of her inspiration for it, she says. Perhaps prophetically, she also talks about her desire to give the album to her kids “20 years from now.”
5 November, 2002: The music video for Jenny from the Block debuts on MTV’s show TRL. In it, Lopez and Affleck lunch, drive around, sunbake, and swim in the ocean. (He also, infamously, kisses her butt.) The paparazzi chases them all the while, because art imitates life. The tabloids have been going crazy for “Bennifer,” as People magazine reportedly paid $75,000 for a series of photos of the couple back in August.
Mid-November 2002: They’re engaged! Lopez reveals to Diane Sawyer that Affleck proposed on an October trip to visit his family in Boston. Opening the door to his mom’s house, she saw “a quilt of rose petals, all over the entire house.” Candles and bouquets were everywhere. As her song Glad played, Affleck knelt down, read her a letter, and offered her the 6.1-carat pink Harry Winston ring. (Estimated value: between $1.2 million and $2.5 million.) The plan is to get married in September 2003.
26 November, 2002: This Is Me… Then, Lopez’s new album, is released. At the last second, she’s changed the title of track five, Perfect, to Dear Ben. On the disc jacket, she dedicates it to Affleck: “You are my life… my sole inspiration for every lyric, every emotion, every bit of feeling on this record.”
March 2003: Affleck is profiled in Vanity Fair off the back of being named People‘s ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ four months prior. In the story, he says, “[Getting married] is something I would do if Jen was a teacher and I was working construction in Boston. Jen and I want to get married for the reason everyone else does: we fell in love. I’m in love; I want to have a family, and she’s the only person I’ve ever met who made me entertain the thought of doing that.” That being said, he admits “there were a million reasons” not to get engaged so quickly.
July 2003: Affleck throws Lopez a lavish surprise birthday party, buying her a Rolls Royce Phantom and a gorgeous diamond and topaz ring. He also gives her a yo-yo, which, he says, “has lights inside that go on when it goes up and down.”
“Came and swept me off my feet, went nowhere but kept the ring”
13 September, 2003: The day before the wedding, the couple release a joint statement seemingly out of nowhere. They announce the postponement of their wedding “due to the excessive media attention surrounding” the event. “When we found ourselves seriously contemplating hiring three separate ‘decoy brides’ at three different locations,” it goes on, “we realised that something was awry.”
22 January, 2004: After months of buzz that the duo are trying to rekindle their relationship, Lopez’s rep releases a statement to the Associated Press. “I am confirming the reports that Jennifer Lopez has ended her engagement to Ben Affleck,” it reads. As America weeps, Affleck’s rep chimes to in say, “I am not going to confirm anything about his personal life. We don’t want to get dragged into quicksand.”
26 March, 2004: In the most awkwardly-timed move of all time, director Kevin Smith releases his movie Jersey Girl, a romantic dramedy starring none other than Affleck and Lopez. Smith reportedly cut a 12-second scene showing their characters getting married at the end of the film. Like Gigli, Jersey Girl bombs.
5 June, 2004: J.Lo and new beau, singer Marc Anthony, tie the knot. They had briefly dated back in 1999 after collaborating on No Me Ames. In her 2014 book True Love, Lopez writes, “Marc came back into my life three days after I should have been at the altar saying ‘I do’ to another man.” Though she notes that Affleck was “her first real heartbreak,” she’s quick to add, “Maybe I had to go through the bad so I could end up with the person I was meant to be with all along.”
29 June, 2005: Not to be outdone, Affleck weds actress Jennifer Garner. They first met in 2000, on the set of Pearl Harbor, and have been dating publicly since last October. They’ll go on to have three kids—Violet, Seraphina, and Samuel. J.Lo and Anthony will have twins, Emme and Maximilian. (People will reportedly pay $6 million for the first photos of them.)
“It’s time to be brave”
July 2011: Lopez and Anthony announce their amicable separation. J.Lo will later call their relationship “a Band-Aid on the cut” of the Affleck separation. They never had a decent relationship portmanteau, anyways, as “Marcifer” just isn’t as catchy.
June 2014: Lopez and Anthony finalise their divorce. Lopez dates her former backup dancer, Casper Smart, until 2016.
June 2015: Affleck and Garner announce their separation. Bizarrely, Affleck will continue to live in a guesthouse at the family home until 2017.
March 2016: Lopez tells People that when she first met Affleck, she “felt like… ‘Okay, this is it.'” Always the oracle, she adds, “I think different time, different thing, who knows what could’ve happened, but there was a genuine love there.”
February 2017: Lopez starts dating New York Yankees baseball player Alex Rodriguez. They first met in 2005.
“That voice inside says I’m gonna be alright”
October 2018: Affleck and Garner finalise their divorce. In 2020, he’ll describe the separation as “the biggest regret of my life.” But he does not, apparently, regret that massive phoenix back tattoo.
9 March, 2019: A-Rod proposes to J.Lo during a getaway in the Bahamas. A-Rod, a “nervous wreck” before the proposal, tells the press that he rehearsed popping question—and the giant emerald ring—with his assistant.
8 March, 2020: Affleck and actress Ana de Armas are romantically linked for the first time, taking a whirlwind trip to Cuba and quarantining together afterwards.
April 2020: Ana confirms their relationship on Instagram by posting photos of the two celebrating her 32nd birthday together. (Anybody else seeing a pattern?)
14 January, 2021: Affleck talks about his split from Lopez on the Awards Chatter podcast. “At first it was an infatuation, what an interesting couple,” he explains of the media attention. “And then there was a ton of resentment—ton of resentment against me, a ton of resentment against Jennifer… Sexist, racist, ugly vicious s–t was written about her in ways that if you wrote it now, you would literally be fired for saying those things.”
A life-sized cardboard cutout of Ana de Armas from inside Ben Affleck’s residence was seen being thrown out into a trash can. (January 18, 2021) pic.twitter.com/4bxxDC97WZ
— Ana de Armas Updates (@ArmasUpdates) January 19, 2021
18 January, 2021: People reports that Affleck and de Armas have split. The same day, a life-sized cardboard cutout of de Armas is thrown out in the bins outside Affleck’s house.
3 February, 2021: The tabloids pick up the scent of A-Rod reportedly cheating on J.Lo with television star Madison LeCroy. A hearty round of denials from all parties follows.
12 March, 2021: Page Six reports the dissolution of J-Rod, but two days later the couple deny it in—what else?—a joint statement that notes they “are working through some things.” Throughout March, A-Rod will fly back and forth between the States and the Dominican Republic, where Lopez is shooting a movie.
5 April, 2021: InStyle publishes an oral history of J.Lo’s career, quoting the star and her “friends and colleagues.” Affleck is quoted warmly (“She remains, to this day, the hardest-working person I’ve come across in this business”). Rodriguez is not quoted.
15 April, 2021: J-Rod are done. The couple release a statement, then reiterate on the Today show that they are “better as friends and look forward to remaining so.” One day later, Rodriguez will post a melancholy video to his Instagram story, looking at photos of himself and Lopez while listening to Coldplay. “Tears stream down your face,” indeed.
“Back to the beginning, now round two, try my luck with something new”
30 April, 2021: Page Six shares that Affleck and Lopez have been spotted “spending time together”—three times in a week. Each time, Affleck is surreptitiously picked up and dropped off in her white Escalade SUV. “They are friends,” says a source.
2-8 May, 2021: Lopez and Affleck take a trip to a private enclave in Montana, and it’s later reported that they were there to attend “a party.”
3 May, 2021: Model-comedian Nivine Jay goes viral by sharing a video Affleck sent her after she rejected him on celebrity dating app Raya. It’s not clear when this all originally happened, but Internet sleuths place it in 2019, prior to his relationship with de Armas.
11 May, 2021: TMZ reports that Affleck had started sending J.Lo “love letters” back in February, when she was in the Dominican Republic. A source shares that “The tone of the emails wasn’t just friendly… but more loving and longing for Jen.” The two reportedly stayed in touch via email until they met up in Los Angeles in April.
Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?
Ben Affleck and JLo were spotted together today in Miami.
Bennifer is back!! 🔥 pic.twitter.com/oWi5xxFR63
— bennifer tea (@jloaffleck) May 24, 2021
23 May, 2021: Affleck flies to Miami to join Lopez at her beachfront mansion. She’s renting the house from jewelry designer Paul Morelli; it has 10 bedrooms. They reportedly make use of at least one of them. Via an insider, E! reports that Affleck is “really making a huge effort. J.Lo thinks Ben has really stepped up and loves this version of him. It’s comforting to her and she is smitten. They are giddy together and you can tell she’s really happy.”
7 June, 2021: Affleck and Lopez are reportedly “telling friends that they’re together,” according to ET. The week prior, a source told People, “This is not a casual relationship. They are taking it seriously and want it to be long-lasting.”
9 June, 2021: Lopez officially moves to Los Angeles, where Affleck is based, for a “fresh start.” She starts looking for schools for Emme and Max. Around the same time, Affleck hangs out with Lopez’s mother, Guadalupe, in Vegas. The two apparently enjoy gambling together.
— New York Post (@nypost) June 14, 2021
13 June, 2021: Affleck and Lopez have dinner with Lopez’s kids. Bennifer 2.0 are also photographed kissing in public for the first time. A source sees fit to mention to People that Ben also “ordered a Diet Coke.”
19 June, 2021: Affleck takes his kids and his mother to Lopez’s house in Bel Air. It had been previously reported that Garner didn’t want Lopez meeting Violet, Sera, and Sam until she was sure the new couple were “serious.”
The future: Who’s to say? Perhaps Gigli 2 is on the horizon (probably not). Whether or not it was always in the stars that the two would reunite, though, it’s unlikely the press are going to leave them alone any more than the last time. Can they weather the storm? For now, it’s full steam ahead, and we’re obsessed.