Wait, what year is it?
But if anything was going to make us feel as if it were still the early ’00s, it may as well be a resurgence of Bennifer. No matter that it’s been more than 17 years since Lopez’s rep unceremoniously confirmed the rumors that the couple’s engagement was, indeed, over, the $1.2 million pink diamond back in its box—just a few days after Affleck had curtly told the Associated Press at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, “Everything’s going along fine. We’re good.”
It seemingly hadn’t been great for awhile, though, the duo having previously called off their tentative plans for a September 2003 wedding.
Instead, Lopez became Mrs. Marc Anthony on June 5, 2004, her third trip down the aisle.
Still, she was admittedly “heartbroken” that it didn’t work out with Affleck, she reflected in the September 2011 issue of Vanity Fair. “I had a lot of hopes and dreams on it.” (By then her marriage to Anthony was on the rocks, Lopez admitting in the interview it was “getting increasingly harder” to balance their schedules. On July 15 they announced their split and she told the magazine on July 20, before the issue went to press, “This was the hardest decision I’ve ever had to face. I really wanted this family to work.”)
Talking to HuffPost Live in 2015, she referred to her and Affleck’s whirlwind romance as “a high-profile relationship that fell apart in a really bad way” amid a really low career point for her. And yet, Lopez also said, she had “no regrets. I would do it all over again, I think. I really would. Even the relationship part. I just feel like everything is part of your story and your journey and is meant to be and helps you grow if you’re willing to look at it, and I’m willing to look.”
Fast-forward six years and gosh darn it if she’s not doing it all over again!
And yet not quite. Because, with five children between them and a whole lot more mileage on the odometer of life, they’re older, wiser and giving zero f–ks about what the media might have to say about their romantic reunion. (Though, in case they’re wondering, the response so far has ranged from overjoyed to downright repentant, now that the press has been given another chance to not be, as Affleck has put it, “so f–king mean.”)
Of course, now there’s Twitter, but that’s a development they seem far more equipped to handle at this point than they would have been if it had existed when they were just a couple of paparazzi magnets chatting each other up on Motorola Razrs. (And we don’t envision the more private Affleck livestreaming their big fancy nights out, the way Lopez’s ex-fiancé Alex Rodriguez often took such pride in doing.)
And oh, the lessons that each of them have learned—about love, fidelity, family and, perhaps most importantly, themselves.
Lopez told Vanity Fair, talking about her third marriage, but also the road that led to it, “Things just happen, and you’re in the middle of it and you just try to navigate your way through it being a good person. Doing the best you can. Trying to learn from the ups and downs. When it comes to love and relationships, what I’ve learned now is that the the most important relationship is with myself. And it took me a long time to get to that place. But I finally feel that I understand that. It wasn’t anyone else’s fault, but I couldn’t be right in any relationship until I got more in touch with who I was, and what I needed and what I wanted.
“And getting to that place for me has been the real journey, the real task,” Lopez continued, “where I realize that the main relationship I needed to have and the real love had to be with myself.”
Still, even now with another decade of experience under her belt, the “Love Don’t Cost a Thing” singer is risking a lot in returning to a scene that previously resulted in sorrow, her “first real heartbreak,” she said on Today in 2014.
But if anyone has done some work on himself over the years, it’s Ben Affleck.
“The biggest regret of my life is this divorce,” he told The New York Times in a February 2020 interview, referring to his 2015 split from Jennifer Garner after 10 years of marriage. “Shame is really toxic. There is no positive byproduct of shame. It’s just stewing in a toxic, hideous feeling of low self-worth and self-loathing. It’s not particularly healthy for me to obsess over the failures— the relapses—and beat myself up.
“I have certainly made mistakes. I have certainly done things that I regret. But you’ve got to pick yourself up, learn from it, learn some more, try to move forward.”
And he’s as psyched for this second chance at happiness with Lopez as she is.
“He’s really making a huge effort,” a source told E! News toward the end of May, about a month after the first sighting of Affleck visiting Lopez’s house in Los Angeles sent Twitter into a frenzy (social media not realizing it had just been waiting for Bennifer all along…) The insider added, “J.Lo thinks Ben has really stepped up and loves this version of him.”
Though he was already an Oscar-winning screenwriter, “this version” of Affleck is also an award-winning director and producer, a member of the Justice League, a devoted father of three and a 48-year-old man who’s dedicated a lot of time in recent years to maintaining his sobriety, having checked into treatment for a third time in 2018 with the support of his ex-wife. (Who, so long as Affleck maintains all his parental responsibilities, does not involve herself in his personal life whatsoever, a source assured E! News.)
The Boston-bred actor also has, like, five movies coming out in the next couple years—including The Last Duel, which he and Matt Damon also wrote and produced, and Deep Water, the film that brought him and Ana de Armas together for some months before their January breakup.
Lopez has cycled through a few career incarnations as well, reviving the world’s affection for her with a successful stint as a judge on American Idol (that, OMG, began 10 years ago). After which came more producing, including the critically beloved ABC Family/Freeform series The Fosters and the competition World of Dance, her starring role on the gritty cop drama Shades of Blue, a Las Vegas residency and her Golden Globe-nominated turn in Hustlers. At the most radiant 50 years old you could imagine, she co-headlined the 2020 Super Bowl Halftime Show with Shakira, and this year she performed at President Joe Biden‘s inauguration.
So, she’s having a bit of a run.
Of course, all that busyness on both ends could lead to complications for even the most committed of couples, and Affleck and Lopez know they’ll have to log some air miles to make it work. They’ve already managed to squeeze in a week-long getaway to Montana last month and spent some quality time in Miami, as well as in Los Angeles when Lopez had a break in her schedule.
A source exclusively told E! News this past week that Lopez plans to spend more time at her home in L.A. and is looking for the right school for 13-year-old twins Max and Emme. She’s “excited about a fresh start and pursuing things with Ben,” the insider said.
Moreover, a source close to Lopez previously told E! News that “she’s crazy about Ben” and “in it for the long term and sees her future with him.” (But as a source said last month, “both are focused on family first,” and that hasn’t changed.)
They first rekindled the flame when Affleck reached out to check in and see if she wanted to have dinner. Which turned into another dinner, and another. And while it’s not as if they didn’t speak or see each other at all for 17 years, a source close to Lopez told E! News in May, “It’s all very new and exciting, even though they have known each other forever. It’s been fun to get to know each other all over again.” Furthermore, a Lopez insider said after their trip to Montana, “It’s natural between them and the chemistry is unreal.”
Slipping right back into their comfortable rhythm, they’ve already been out with Lopez’s ride-or-die manager Benny Medina and Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, who produced Hustlers, and Affleck was spotted in Vegas this week with Lopez’s mom, Guadalupe Rodríguez, who went out special to see him there.
“Guadalupe loves Ben and is happy that he is back in Jennifer’s life,” a source close to Affleck told E! News.
In the meantime, he and Lopez have always had kind things to say about each other, if not about that time in their lives when they first dated. Affleck has been especially complimentary (which can’t possibly have hurt his chances), telling InStyle earlier this year that she was the “hardest-working person I’ve come across in this business.” And so, they remained friendly, and even in touch occasionally here and there.
“We don’t have the kind of relationship where she relies on me for advice,” Affleck told The Hollywood Reporter in 2012 (eight years after their breakup and yet still nine years ago). “But we do have the kind of relationship where there’ll be an e-mail saying, ‘Oh, your movie looks great.’ I remember when she got American Idol. I said, ‘This was really smart. Good luck.’ I touch base. I respect her. I like her. She’s put up with some stuff that was unfair in her life, and I’m really pleased to see her successful.”
And back at him! After Affleck’s movie Argo—which he directed, starred in and produced—won the Oscar for Best Picture, Lopez told Ellen DeGeneres she was glad to see it happen.
“They were really hard on us in the press when we dated back in the day, on movies and things like that,” she recalled. “So it was a nice moment. It was nice to see him have that moment. I was really happy for him.”
We’re not gonna lie, it’s also nice to see them have this moment.