When Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck first dated in the early 2000s, the attention they got was often “brutal,” the singer/actress now reveals. 

Gracing the cover of Rolling Stone’s “Icons & Influencers” issue, J.Lo opened up about her time reconnecting with the actor/director, and why their first go at dating didn’t work out. The backlash the couple received included South Park calling her a “mean spirited bitch,” and Conan O’Brien casting a cleaning lady to play her in a skit, all of which she doesn’t look back on fondly. 

“It was brutal. It was brutal,” Lopez said. “It’s one of those things that you bury very deeply so you can move on and get about your business. It’s funny because Ben and I were together, and we were so in love. It was one of the happiest times of my life.”

Lopez—who stars with Owen Wilson in the new film Marry Me—continued, sharing that “there was this other thing happening where we were being criticized,” which she says “really destroyed our relationship from the inside out.” She said they were “too young to understand” the more important things in life.

As for what’s making their partnership go so smoothly now, Lopez kept it to the point. 

“I won’t talk about it a lot. We’ve both grown. We’re the same, and we’re different. And that’s what’s nice,” she said. “Having a second chance at real love…yeah. Like I said, we learned a lot. We know what’s real, what’s not real. So it’s just—the game has changed. Again, I’m trying not to say too much.”

Affleck previously shared that media attention played a role in the initial breakup during an interview on the Howard Stern Show. Things are certainly looking up for the couple since they’ve reconnected, which the public became aware of when they were spotted together in late April of 2021. They made their relationship Instagram official in July, when J Lo posted a kissing photo on her 52nd birthday

“We feel like what we found again is so much more important, and how we protect that and how we live our lives—what to share, what not to share—is the balance that we have now, the benefit of experience and the wisdom that we gained over the years,” Lopez told Rolling Stone.

Check out a behind-the-scenes clip of Lopez’s cover shoot below.