It’s a Hollywood love story 19 years in the making. Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez rekindled Bennifer over a week in Montana this May, now that the stars have realigned and they’re both single at the same time … again. Over less than two years, from 2002 to 2004, their glamorous romance fueled early-tabloid culture, set the standard for ship names, then fizzled out faster than it began. Within a year, they were married to Jennifer Garner and Marc Anthony, respectively, occupying celebrity news with other people. Now, they’re back to their old Y2K ways. Their 2021 reunion has inspired endless gossip (bless the “sources”), not to mention several essays devoted to our nearly two-decade-long cultural obsession with this perfectly odd couple. Sorry to everything Ben Affleck stands for, but no film could begin to encompass the daily drama (and hilarity) of his real life. Catch up on Bennifer with this timeline of their relationship across the ages.
‘Co-stars’ and ‘friends’
Early 2002: Pop star Jennifer Lopez and Hollywood golden boy Ben Affleck meet on the set of Gigli while Lopez is married to her second husband, Cris Judd. Where else does Ben Affleck meet any of his girlfriends at this point? Raya doesn’t exist yet.
April 2002: Affleck takes out a full-page ad in trade magazines to compliment J.Lo, which doesn’t exactly say “bestie vibes only.” “It has been nothing but an honor and a pleasure to work with you,” it reads, in part. “I only wish I were lucky enough to be in all your movies.” Signed: “With love, respect, and gratitude, Ben Affleck.”
July 24, 2002: “Co-stars” and “friends” Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck are seen kissing and cuddling at a surprise-birthday party for the Leo superstar, one of the first events marking the start of their relationship with the tabloids.
July 26, 2002: J.Lo files for divorce from husband No. 2 after a month of separation (but that’s a story for a prequel timeline).
August 5, 2002: People magazine pays $75,000 for nine photos of J.Lo and Ben Affleck riding in a Bentley convertible, including one where they “lip-lock.”
November 5, 2002: MTV’s TRL premieres the music video for “Jenny From the Block,” a Y2K mood board starring Bennifer, combining J.Lo’s roots with her new movie-star lifestyle. Ben famously leans over and kisses her butt while they sun on a yacht (yes, this relationship explains his early 2000s tan), and nobody here can blame him, really.
November 2002: By November, they’re engaged. Within months of her separation, Ben proposed to Jen at his mother’s house in Boston. “It’s just a blanket, a quilt of rose petals, all over the whole entire house,” Lopez remembered in an ABC exclusive interview with Diane Sawyer, announcing their engagement. “So many candles, and vases, bouquets. And my song ‘Glad’ was playing … I walk in and I was just, like, overwhelmed. I wasn’t expecting it, and I was just like, ‘Oh my God.’” The ring, a pink diamond the size of Affleck’s head, would go down in pop-culture monogamy history.
March 2003: Affleck denies any notion that he acted on his feelings before J.Lo and Judd separated. “That is absolutely not true,” he tells Vanity Fair. “It goes against the fundamental code I believe in and live by: being honest, doing things with which I can live, rather than be ashamed of — doing esteemable things.” The couple never officially says when they got together, but they do emphasize their innocence.
July 17, 2003: Affleck reportedly pays a visit to a strip club in Vancouver, where he was recording Paycheck, hours after their intimate Dateline interview aired. The National Enquirer claimed he cheated on her with at least one woman and that the encounter might be on tape. Shortly after, reports start to suggest Lopez has stopped wearing her million-dollar ring. “What they put in the paper is not what happened, so it doesn’t matter,” she would tell W magazine later that summer, in an interview that came out in October. “But watching that get so blown out of proportion, I was like, Wow, so this is where we’re at: You can’t walk into a place and hang out with a couple of friends without it turning into a national scandal.” Ben himself denied cheating via a spokesperson and reportedly considered suing the Enquirer.
August 1, 2003: Gigli is dead on arrival — a box-office and critical bomb, with a worldwide gross of $7.7 million against a $75.6 million budget — and so are the vibes between the supposed “It” couple at the premiere, fueling suspicions that the romance is dying down.
September 13, 2003: The day before the highly anticipated nuptials — America’s version of a royal wedding before Kim Kardashian made it a regular occurrence — Bennifer releases a joint statement via a spokesperson postponing the wedding.
Due to the excessive media attention surrounding our wedding, we have decided to postpone the date. When we found ourselves seriously contemplating hiring three separate ‘decoy brides’ at three different locations, we realised that something was awry. We began to feel that the spirit of what should have been the happiest day of our lives could be compromised. We felt what should have been a joyful and sacred day could be spoiled for us, our families, and our friends.
September 14, 2003: A wedding for 400 in Santa Barbara, California, does not happen in spite of reports.
January 23, 2004: “Dumped,” reads the headline from the Chicago Tribune. Jennifer Lopez officially ends the discourse (and her relationship) in a statement to the Associated Press. “I am confirming the reports that Jennifer Lopez has ended her engagement to Ben Affleck,” a rep states. “At this difficult time, we ask that you respect her privacy.” That did not happen.
March 26, 2004: Jersey Girl, Bennifer’s second try at being a movie-star couple, directed by Kevin Smith, the man who now claims he gave them the nickname “Bennifer,” premieres. Though it’s mostly remembered for crashing and burning as hard as the relationship had, I can’t be the only 2000s kid straight-up traumatized by Gertie (Lopez) dying during childbirth??? And then they ask why millennials aren’t having babies.
June 5, 2004: J.Lo marries Marc Anthony, whom she first dated back in 1999 after they collaborated on “No Me Ames.” “We thought that this was where everything was supposed to lead, that we were meant to end up together,” wrote Lopez in her 2014 book, True Love. “All the heartache and pain of my recent breakup couldn’t have been for nothing, could it? Maybe I had to go through the bad so I could end up with the person I was meant to be with all along.”
October 23, 2004: Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner make their first public appearance as Bennifer: The Sequel at the World Series. They first met on the set of Pearl Harbor in 2000, but Affleck would later say they fell in love in 2002, on the set of Daredevil, while they were both in other relationships. (Again, that’s a timeline for another day.)
Two marriages and some babies
2005–2018: An entire decade and some change passes by in a Dunkin’ Donuts coffee-buzz haze. Affleck and Garner marry in 2005, then welcome three kids: Violet in December of that year, Seraphina in January 2009, and Samuel in February 2012. Meanwhile, J.Lo and Marc Anthony have twins, Emme and Maximilian, in 2008, and dramatically divorce three years later in 2011. Not to be outdone, Affleck and Garner go on to divorce in 2018 and Affleck rebounds with a massive dragon tattoo. Around 2017, J.Lo briefly has a thing with Drake, who himself boasts a cornucopia of famous exes that would derail this timeline. But, as J.Lo also told People in 2016 of her past relationship with Affleck, “I think different time, different thing, who knows what could’ve happened, but there was a genuine love there.” Interesting you would say that …
Bennifer, Back on the Block
April 30, 2021: The public gets its first glimpse of Bennifer in 17 years, as Affleck is seen going back and forth from her Los Angeles mansion. In that time, they’ve gotten hotter and richer, while the internet has gotten more adept at exposing celebrities. What could go wrong? For starters, their reunion comes with a big ol’ disclaimer that they’re friends. “They’ve never not been,” a source tells “Page Six.”
May 2, 2021: Ben and Jen spend the week in Montana, arriving back in L.A. on Saturday, May 8, sources tell anyone who would listen. “It’s natural between them, and the chemistry is unreal,” a J.Lo source told E!, also confirming that he reached out to her. “They picked up where they last left off and are enjoying each other’s company right now.” Aren’t we all?
May 19, 2021: “Jennifer is still very excited about how things are going,” an insider tells People, adding that Bennifer are “making plans to see each other” and are “in touch every day” while Lopez returns to Miami. And the cycle restarts!
May 23, 2021: Per TMZ, Ben Affleck arrives in Miami wearing several layers too many and is later seen smoking a cigarette on the balcony at the same waterfront mansion as J.Lo. On his wrist appears to be the watch he wore in “Jenny From the Block” way back when. Is this an Easter egg just for us?
Meanwhile, A-Rod is stepping “into a new beginning,” according to an new Instagram Story. “I am remaining patient and know that this new phase of my life is coming,” he posts. It’s a new dawn, a new day, and Bennifer is feeling good.
May 24, 2021: Ben and Jen both worked out at a Miami Beach gym on Monday, sharing a kiss in between separate private sessions, per In Touch. Apparently, no gym bros caught it in the background of their mirror selfies. Rude!
May 31, 2021: After meeting up with another ex, Marc Anthony, in Miami, J.Lo returned to Los Angeles and into the arms of Ben Affleck. The duo was photographed cuddling as they arrived at the Pendry Hotel in West Hollywood for dinner. Okay, now kiss …
June 13, 2021: After weeks of the world clinking their spoons to their glasses, they kissed! And what happens at Nobu, ends up in “Page Six.” Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck were photographed kissing again for the first time on Sunday at a function for her sister’s 50th birthday, sources say. In footage from the event, J.Lo’s 13-year-old twins, Max and Emme, could also be seen. According to People spies, Ben and J.Lo held hands under the table as well. “Ben and her kids seemed comfortable together,” the source told People. “The kids kept chatting with Ben. Ben seemed great. He was smiling and laughing. They ordered a lot of food to share. Ben had a Diet Coke.” Just like 20 years ago, Bennifer is going full speed.
July 24, 2021: Feliz Cumpleaños to the unaging Jennifer Lopez. She celebrated it just like she spent her b-day in 2002: by “kissing” Ben Affleck. The 52-year-old posted a slideshow of photos to Instagram, including one where she and Affleck are kissing. Bennifer is Instagram official, and it only took 19 years and the creation of the app.
July 25, 2021: And what would Bennifer 2 be without an encore ass rub? Y’all went online and begged for the sequel, so don’t be mad when they throw in a little fan service. Ben Affleck was once again snapped giving J.Lo’s ass a touch on a yacht in Monaco (not far from ex A-Rod), recreating a scene from the 2002 “Jenny From the Block” music video inadvertently or not. The on-the-nose ass grab seems to reveal a cog in the celebrity machine, shamelessly relying on nostalgia and boredom to stay relevant. If Bennifer 2.0 is just an act, at least they’re hitting their cues.
July 26, 2021: J.Lo wears a “Ben” necklace, in case it wasn’t clear. Almost wish Affleck started wearing a “Jen” necklace, just to confuse the tabloids.
September 10, 2021: Affleck and J.Lo end their summer of love at Venice Film Festival, making waves in the water taxis, on a balcony, and, finally, on their first red carpet since reuniting. Nineteen years since they first appeared as a couple at the Maid in Manhattan premiere, the couple arrived together for the premiere of Affleck’s The Last Duel and assumed those familiar positions on the red carpet, gazing deeply at one another and sharing kisses like we’re
not watching. Cameras flashed, time folded in on itself. Lopez comes directly for Oscar Isaac’s viral red-carpet flirtation earlier this fest with intense eye contact and the raw sexual magnitude of a nude lip. If this is Bennifer acting, it’s better than any movie either of them have been in.