Jennifer Lopez is grateful for her rekindled romance with Ben Affleck now that the two are in a much different place 18 years after their first relationship ended.
"I feel so lucky and happy and proud to be with him,” Lopez told People for the cover story of its latest issue. "It’s a beautiful love story that we got a second chance."
The former flames were first spotted together again at a Montana resort in May 2021, which came less than a month after Lopez and fiancé Alex Rodriguez announced in a statement to TODAY that their four-year romance and two-year engagement was over.
Lopez, 52, said that she and Affleck, 49, "had a little bit of fear" about reconnecting at first given the media frenzy surrounding their first relationship from 2002-04.
“Before, we kind of put (our relationship) out there and we were naïve and it got a little trampled," she said. "(This time) we both were like, ‘Wow, we’re so happy and we don’t want any of that to come into play again.’
"We’re older now, we’re smarter, we have more experience, we’re at different places in our lives, we have kids now, and we have to be very conscious of those things. We’re so protective because it is such a beautiful time for all of us.”
Lopez's comments echo ones made by Affleck in December when talking about getting back together.
"I can say that it’s definitely beautiful to me,” Affleck told WSJ. Magazine. “One of the things I really value across all facets of my life now is that it was handled in a way that reflected that. My life now reflects not just the person that I want to be, but the person that I really feel like I am — which is not perfect, but somebody who tries very hard and cares very much about being honest and authentic and accountable.
“It’s hard to say who benefits more, without going into gossipy detail," he continued. "I could just say that I feel great about being very healthy. And it is a good story. It’s a great story."
Lopez has twins Max and Emme, 13, with ex-husband Marc Anthony, while Affleck is raising Violet, 16, Seraphina, 12, and Samuel, 9, with ex-wife Jennifer Garner. They are in a much different place compared to the early 2000s when Affleck was People’s “Sexiest Man Alive” and popped up in Lopez’s hit video “Jenny from the Block.”
“I just feel very happy and lucky to be in a relationship that’s happy and loving, and I want to do everything I can to protect that and keep it safe," Lopez said. "It deserves that, it really does. ... We hold it sacred.
"It’s beautiful the way it feels very different than it was years ago. ... There’s more of an appreciation and a celebration for it, which is nice,” Lopez continued. “When you find somebody and you really, really love them and you get a second chance at that? That is a really rare, precious, beautiful thing and we don’t take it for granted.”
They also are aware of the tricky situation of integrating their children into a new relationship.
“I honestly believe that love rules all," she said. "Love always conquers everything — relationships, kids, work, work relationships. It’s all about how loving, open and accepting you can be. Not having an ego about things and just embracing all the good, always looking at the positive.
“When you’re in a good, healthy relationship, everybody benefits from that. Everybody.”
Lopez says she admires Affleck, who has had public struggles with sobriety in the hiatus between their relationships, for the work he has done to face his issues, which included multiple stints in alcohol rehab.
“I’m so proud of the him, I’m so proud of the man he’s become that I’ve watched from afar," she said. "Being honest with each other, being loving, that’s just the basis of everything. I feel like he’s at a place in his life where — just like how I feel about myself — it’s been a journey of learning yourself and figuring yourself out, getting to a place where you feel really good on your own and who you are so you can be in a happy, healthy relationship.
"To see the person, the human being, the man that he is today, the father that he is today, the partner that he is — he is so everything I always knew he was and wanted to be.”
Their careers are also both still going strong all these years later. Lopez's latest film, "Marry Me," comes out Feb. 11, while Affleck has the film "Deep Water" set to be released later this year.
“I’ve never been better,” Lopez said. “It’s just that we’re all in a very beautiful moment.”