No disrespect to J.Lo, but I sometimes I miss the other Bennifer.
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The Only Bennifer I Have Room For In My Heart, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner
Credit: Getty Images/InStyle

It started as a whisper. You could feel a change in the air. After 17 years, it was actually happening: The return of Bennifer.

The reunion of Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez in the summer of 2021 made, well ... it made people lose their damn minds. As a nation, we needed something to bring us together — and perhaps it was always meant to be Bennifer: The Redux, something that at one point in time felt impossible. Though, when people around me rejoiced at the sight of Bennifer canoodling, or celebrated rumors of Jen house-hunting to be closer to Ben, or shared those with glee the butt caresses on yachts in Monaco, I twinged in pain. The whole debacle was reopening some wounds I thought long gone. Listen, I'm happy that Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck seem happy. Life is hard and people should enjoy being in love. But that doesn't change the fact that, if I'm being honest with myself, there can only be one Bennifer, and the only one I have room for in my heart now and forever is Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner. After their divorce in 2018, I thought I had moved on. Now, with every whisper of "Bennifer is back," I find myself asking, why not my Bennifer?

Looking back on it now, my deep attachment to The One True Ben and Jen was mostly because their union felt like something I had dreamed up in my middle school diary. I was in seventh grade when Good Will Hunting came out, and I was immediately obsessed with Ben Affleck. I don't mean obsessed as in I thought he was cute and I read his unauthorized biography; I mean obsessed as in I covered an entire wall of my bedroom with Ben Affleck movie posters and cutouts from magazines. I mean obsessed as in during our Language Arts unit on ballad poetry, I wrote a ballad about Ben Affleck and Matt Damon winning their Oscar. (I got an A.) I mean obsessed as in I saw Armageddon three times in theaters and yes, I owned an A.J. Frost action figure. I mean obsessed as in, when I went on family vacation, I would bring a framed photo of Ben with me to keep in whatever room I was staying in. And before you're all like lady, that's weird, know that I am well aware it was weird. Even my grandmother, a woman who was legally bound to love me unconditionally, told my mom it was weird. But I love deeply and I won't apologize for that.

The Only Bennifer I Have Room For In My Heart, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner
Credit: Getty Images

It wasn't until 2001 that I found my way to Jennifer Garner. This was surprising to me because up until that point I really only knew her as Hannah, Noel's ex-girlfriend on Felicity. But Alias was so good — and Garner so great as secret spy-with-daddy issues Sydney Bristow — that I forgot all about that she-devil pianist. Honestly, Alias was such a good show, I can't believe we aren't still talking about how good it was. It was on air twenty years ago, and still every time I see coffee ice cream (if you know, you know) I think about it. That's how good it was! So it's no surprise that I was super pumped in 2002 when it was announced that Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner would be co-starring in Daredevil. I do not remember one single thing that happened in that movie, but I do remember that I felt as if I alone had manifested that casting. It was a real win (for me). 

And then it happened. In the fall of 2004, Ben and Jen stepped out for their first public appearance as a couple at a Red Sox World Series Game. It was magic. Two of my favorite actors were together in real life and the power of their love ended the 86-year-old curse of the Bambino. Now, I don't "watch" "sports," but I think that was a big deal. More importantly, it felt like my childhood dreams were coming true. I watched as Ben and Jen fell in love that year. I watched as they got married in 2005. I watched as they started a beautiful little family together. 

The Only Bennifer I Have Room For In My Heart, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner
Credit: Getty Images

And then I watched as it all slowly fell apart. 

We flew too close to the sun, perhaps, because the two separated in 2015 and then officially divorced three years later. At the time, Ben and Jen's breakup seemed like a reminder that nothing good lasts. Very bleak!  But, with some distance, and especially seeing that both Ben and Jen seem to be thriving in 2021, maybe the end of their marriage simply means that not all childhood dreams are meant to come true. Maybe, sometimes, it's better when they don't. I mean, kids can be pretty dumb, you know? And yet, even though I know their breakup is for the best, I'll never hear the word Bennifer and not think about my Bennifer, and how we had it so good for a little while.

Breakups That Broke Us is a biweekly column about the failed celebrity relationships that convinced us love is dead.