Taylor Swift's Romance Timeline With Joe Alwyn Explained

Despite her massive level of fame, Taylor Swift has become one of Hollywood's most private celebrities. From the record-shattering musician's newest projects to her relationships, seemingly not a single bit of information about her life or career gets out without her express permission. As a result, we know next to nothing about certain aspects of her life these days, such as her romantic exploits — including her six-year relationship with actor Joe Alwyn.

Although they were together since 2016, the duo never walked a red carpet together or spoke directly about one another in interviews. They were also rarely photographed by paparazzi and preferred to support each other from the sidelines rather than center stage. What little we do know of them has only been gleaned through Swift's song lyrics and the occasional comment made by a member of one of their camps. This sort of information treasure hunt might be the type of thing die-hard fans are enchanted by, but more casual T-Swift lovers might not be ready for it.

So, dear reader, we've done the work for you, compiling some of the biggest moments in Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn's love story into a simple timeline. From their meet-cute to their devastating breakup, this is the story of them, if you will.

Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn's enchanted meet cute

While it's not certain where Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn first met, most fans believe it was at the 2016 Met Gala. The theory is based on Swift's 2017 song "Dress," which contains the lyric, "Flashback when you first met me, your buzzcut and my hair bleached." While the description may seem insignificant, it tracks with exactly how the pair looked on fashion's biggest night out.

Other songs perceived to be about Alwyn give us some insight into what that first meeting was like for Swift. In the 2019 song, "Paper Rings," she croons, "The moon is high like your friends were the night that we first met. Went home and tried to stalk you on the internet." Can't you just imagine the superstar curled up in bed in her Tribeca pad scrolling through Alwyn's Instagram and Twitter feeds? Meanwhile, in 2022's "Mastermind," Swift hints at the fact that their first meeting may not have been as accidental as we all assumed. "You and I ended up in the same room, at the same time ... What if I told you none of it was accidental? And the first night that you saw me, nothing was gonna stop me. I laid the groundwork, and then just like clockwork the dominoes cascaded in a line." 

If these lyrics are to be taken at face value, we might assume Swift initiated their introduction and pursued Alwyn just as much, if not more than he did her.

An undercover, newsworthy beginning

In May 2017, almost a full year after their apparent first meeting, news of Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn's relationship became public. While we can be pretty sure they didn't start dating immediately, as Swift was with Tom Hiddleston until September 2016, they had likely been seeing each other for several months before the gossip hit the headlines.

The Sun broke the story first, explaining how a smitten Swift had been living in London for months and had reportedly only been stepping out with her new beau while in disguise so they wouldn't be spotted. A source confirmed that the romance wasn't just a fling but something more significant, telling the outlet, "Taylor and Joe are the real deal, this is a very serious relationship."

Years later, one of the diary entries that was included with deluxe versions of Swift's album "Lover" corroborated The Sun's story. On a page dated January 3, 2017, the songstress wrote (via Insider), "I'm essentially based in London, hiding out trying to protect us from the nasty world that just wants to ruin things. We have been together and no one has found out for 3 months now. I want it to stay that way because I don't want anything about this to change or become too complicated or intrude upon."

Maintaining privacy in Taylor Swift's private jet

Unfortunately for Taylor Swift, it didn't take long for the paparazzi to hunt down the couple after The Sun published its exclusive story. In June 2017, the Daily Mail wrote that Joe Alwyn had been spotted flying home to England on his girlfriend's private jet (yep, the same jet that infamously had the highest carbon emissions levels of any private celebrity jet in 2021). While Swift wasn't along for this particular jaunt across the pond, Alwyn's usage of her aircraft seemed to indicate that there was more going on between the pair than just a casual friendship.

A few weeks later, E! News claimed that the pair had been spotted hanging out in Rhode Island. They reportedly went on double dates with pals, Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds and relaxed on the beach before returning to their love nest, aka Swift's NYC apartment. Still, if photos of these outings were any indication, then the couple certainly wasn't trying to flaunt their relationship as their faces were almost always covered by hats, hoodies, and hands.

Even by early 2023, Swift and Alwyn weren't often photographed out and about together. Whether it's because she was still sporting the disguises she utilized in the first days of their relationship or because they really didn't spend that much time in public together, we aren't totally sure. But whatever the reasoning, we do find it impressive that one of the most-discussed celebrity couples could manage to keep such a low profile.

Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn's very merry Christmas

The 2017 iHeartRadio Jingle Bell Ball was another major milestone for the couple. Taylor Swift performed several selections from her "Reputation" album, including a duet with her pal, Ed Sheeran. But it was what happened after she left the stage that really set tongues wagging.

Following Swift's set, eagle-eyed fans spotted the songstress slow dancing and making out with her new boyfriend, who had been waiting for her in the audience. While the videos of the sweet moment that circulated on Twitter were almost too grainy to be able to tell what was really going on, folks still went wild over the development. It was exactly the type of intimate behavior they had longed to see from the couple but had been denied thanks to the duo's fierce desire for privacy. Years later, it's remained one of the only times we've seen the pair indulge in any form of PDA.

The sighting also came just weeks after a friend of the couple told People that things were heating up between the pair. "It's a great relationship everyone hopes will last. Joe could definitely be the one," the source told the outlet. "Their relationship is very different from Taylor's past ones. They much prefer having dinner parties at home with friends than going out. Just like Taylor, Joe is a homebody. He loves being an actor but doesn't like the celebrity part of it. It's pretty special to find someone you're on the same page with."

The cactus that made them Instagram official

For several months after the Jingle Bell Ball, the new couple laid low, only stepping out in public together a handful of times. But then, in May 2018, Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn took their romance to the next level by making it Instagram official ... sort of.

Here's how it went down — the day before Swift was set to kick off her "Reputation" tour, she posted a photo of herself standing next to a giant cactus in the Arizona desert on Instagram. Minutes later, Alwyn posted a photo of himself in the exact same spot. It may not have been the loved-up social media debut that fans were hoping for, but the images reassured folks that the pair were still very much together and were going strong.

It turns out, the British actor wasn't just making a pit stop in Arizona, either. The following night, he was spotted at Swift's first show. According to fans who spoke to PopSugar, he was attempting to be incognito, dressed casually while electing not to sit center stage. The pop star, however, was having none of it, pointing him out and singing directly to him during "Gorgeous," a song that's allegedly about him.

The Baecation that broke the internet

A few months later, while on a mid-tour break, Taylor Swift was spotted getting some well-earned R&R in Turks & Caicos. And of course, Joe Alwyn was right there with her, soaking up the sun and splashing around in the ocean. There's no way to know if this was the pair's first vacation, but it was, at least, the first vacation captured by the paparazzi. Fans went nuts over the pictures, gushing over everything from Swift's vintage-inspired bathing suit to the couple's adorable body language.

Vacationers who were at the resort at the same time as Swift and Alwyn told Us Weekly, "They seemed genuinely happy. They were always smiling and close to each other, but kept to themselves." Another guest told People the couple was very lovey-dovey, and judging by the cute pictures, that certainly seemed to be true.

Swift and Alwyn's quality time didn't end with the close of their week at the resort, either. After flying home, the actor accompanied his girlfriend on the remainder of her tour dates. Unlike some of her previous boyfriends, he seemed to be just as supportive of her career as he was invested in his own. Who could ask for more?

Speaking out but saying nothing

Finally, in the fall of 2018, a whole year and a half after they started dating, Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn broke their silence on their relationship. For starters, Alwyn sat down with Vogue ahead of the release of four of his movies ("Mary Queen of Scots," "The Favorite," "Operation Finale," and "Boy Erased") for a very candid interview. Naturally, the magazine asked him about his headline-making relationship, and instead of sidestepping the questions like he normally would, Alwyn answered them a little more directly. "I'm aware people want to know about that side of things. I think we have been successfully very private, and that has now sunk in for people. ... But I really prefer to talk about work," he said.

Okay, so it's not much, but it's more than either party had ever said before. Especially when you consider that the interview also confirmed the pair had been living together on and off for several months. 

Swift reciprocated some of that energy by fawning over her boyfriend's film "The Favourite" on Instagram. The musician posted a clip of Alwyn's performance alongside a caption that read, "'The Favorite' is absolutely phenomenal, and it opens in NY and LA tomorrow." Sure, she didn't tag him or offer her thoughts on his talents directly like we would have liked to see, but it was the first time she had ever given him such a public shout-out.

Sneaking around during awards season

Given the sheer number of films Joe Alwyn appeared in throughout 2018, it was no surprise that he was also nominated for a slew of awards. When it came time for all the corresponding ceremonies in the first months of 2019, the actor didn't show up alone — Taylor Swift was constantly on hand to support her man. The couple didn't walk any of the red carpets together, but Swift was frequently spotted inside the events and at after-parties.

First up was the Golden Globes, where a source told ET that Swift made a beeline for Alwyn as soon as she arrived at the Fox after-party. She reportedly didn't leave his side the whole night and kept her arm around his waist as she was chatting with his co-stars and other mutual friends. Next was the BAFTAs, where Us Weekly claimed that Swift snuck in through a side door and met her boyfriend at his table. Just like at the Golden Globes, the pair apparently weren't shy about PDA even though they were shy in front of the paparazzi. On Instagram, Swift shared a snap of her Stella McCartney gown for the event and celebrated "The Favourite" winning seven BAFTA awards. 

Finally, Swift attended both pre- and post-Oscar parties with Alwyn, but once again elected to skip the red carpet, where her mere presence likely would have overshadowed his big night.

And then there was Lover

Taylor Swift is notorious for filling her song lyrics with details and allusions to her private life. "I feel like you can share enough about your life in your music to let people know what you're going through," she once told Glamour. So when "Lover" dropped in 2019, fans were quick to mine it for information about her relationship with Joe Alwyn — to their delight, there was plenty. For starters, the album's title track may be the clearest about her feelings for Alwyn. The line, "I've loved you three summers now, honey, but I want 'em all," references the length of time the pair had been together at that point and the length of time Swift hoped they'd remain together. 

In a since-deleted video recorded for the Nashville Songwriting Awards (via CapitalFM) she also explained that the song, at its core, was about choosing someone, saying, "I think that's a really beautiful thing when people choose to spend their life together. And so it's sort of a celebration of taking that very adult step of living with someone and deciding this is the path forward for you, walking alongside somebody else." Then there's the bridge, which mirrors wedding vows, leading fans to speculate that the couple was either engaged or secretly married (more on that later).

And how did Alwyn feel about being the subject of his girlfriend's album? He told The Sunday Times he didn't mind it at all but found it flattering that she wrote about him and their life together.

Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn doubled down on their privacy

"Lover" brought about a fresh wave of interest in Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn's relationship. Fans and journalists were speculating constantly about the couple's engagement status and were digging into their home life in a way they never had before. The increase in interest didn't turn up any new information about the pair (there was still no solid answer as to whether or not they were engaged, for example), but it did lead the duo to double down on their desire for privacy.

In an interview with The Guardian, Swift opened up about why she wouldn't talk about Alwyn at all. "I've learned that if I do, people think it's up for discussion, and our relationship isn't up for discussion," she proclaimed. "If you and I were having a glass of wine right now, we'd be talking about it — but it's just that it goes out into the world. That's where the boundary is, and that's where my life has become manageable. I really want to keep it feeling manageable."

Speaking with Paul McCartney for Rolling Stone, she elaborated on the importance of maintaining a sense of privacy. "I think that in knowing [Alwyn] and being in the relationship I am in now, I have definitely made decisions that have made my life feel more like a real life and less like just a storyline to be commented on in tabloids," Swift explained.

William Bowery entered the stage

Despite there being an obvious overlap in their careers and talents, Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn kept their professional paths entirely separate for the first three years of their relationship. But that all changed in July 2020, when Alwyn co-wrote two songs on Swift's eighth album "Folklore" under the pseudonym, William Bowery. It didn't take long for sleuthing fans to piece two and two together that this Bowery guy was actually the singer-songwriter's other half. 

Neither Swift nor Alwyn confirmed that this fan theory was correct for several months, until "Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions" was released on Disney+. In the documentary (via ET Canada), Swift finally cleared up the mystery while chatting with her collaborators, Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner. "There's been a lot of discussion about William Bowery and his identity because he's not a real person," she stated. "... William Bowery is Joe, as we know."

When "Folklore" went on to win the Grammy for album of the year, Swift gave her boyfriend a sweet shoutout in her acceptance speech, saying, "Joe, who is the first person that I play every single song that I write. I had the best time writing songs with you in quarantine." It seemed that the couple wasn't just compatible in their day-to-day lives but in their creative pursuits, as well. They didn't go on to collaborate on anything other than music, but Alwyn once told ET (via Twitter) he'd be open to acting with Swift if the opportunity arose.

Were Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn engaged?

Okay, back to those engagement rumors. Since "Lover" was released in 2019, ample speculation remained that Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn had gotten engaged or had already gotten married. Between lyrics from some of Swift's songs and the pair's sheer longevity for a couple in their industry, it's understandable that folks would wonder whether or not they'd taken that next step. Unfortunately for us, at the time, neither party would confirm or deny the rumors.

In the spring of 2022, Alwyn addressed the speculation by saying he'd never answer directly. "If I had a pound for every time I think I've been told I've been engaged, then I'd have a lot of pound coins," he told The Wall Street Journal. "I mean, the truth is, if the answer was yes, I wouldn't say, and if the answer was no, I wouldn't say." He explained to Elle that he had a fairly solid reason for not wanting to ever answer the question directly. "We live in a culture that is so increasingly intrusive," he reasoned. "The more you give — and frankly, even if you don't give it — something will be taken." Understandably, he wanted to preserve those parts of his life. 

For anyone who was concerned that their lack of confirmation was actually due to trouble in paradise, a source close to the couple told ET that Swift and Alwyn were very happy at this point, claiming, "They have spoken about their future together and feel very secure about their relationship."

A hazy, Midnights confession

In the lead-up to her 10th studio album "Midnights," Taylor Swift gave fans some rare insight into her relationship with Joe Alwyn. In a clip posted to Instagram, she discussed the inspiration behind the album's lead track, "Lavender Haze." Having first heard the phrase on an episode of "Mad Men," she later learned that it was a common expression in the '50s for being in the all-encompassing glow of love. As she explained, folks who are truly in the lavender haze will do anything to stay in it and protect it — a task made a lot harder for everyone due to the rise of social media. The more a relationship is out there, the more that people will feel comfortable expressing their opinion on it. "My relationship for six years, we've had to dodge weird rumors, tabloid stuff, and we just ignore it," she said. "This song is about ignoring that stuff to protect the real stuff."

The lyrics to "Lavender Haze" are pretty melancholy and describe how all the constant, occasionally negative press surrounding her relationship had a negative impact on it. It appears that Swift often questioned whether or not her relationship with Alwyn would be strong enough to withstand these sorts of external forces. Could they ever truly be happy while so many folks offered their unsolicited opinions on their romance? Even though Swift seemed to have found her fairytale ending, that doesn't mean things were always rosy.

The truth could be found in Swift's songs about Alwyn

Speaking of "Midnights," "Lavender Haze" wasn't the only track on the album to be inspired by Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn's relationship. Many fans also thought that "Sweet Nothings" was about the couple's love — a safe guess given the fact that the British actor (under his pseudonym, William Bowery) helped pen the lyrics. The romantic track is an ode to all of the little, intimate moments that a loving, long-term relationship is full of, like humming in the kitchen and basking in your partner's encouragement.

And it wasn't just her more recent works that had traces of Alwyn in them. Per People, there may be at least two dozen songs that have either been inspired by him or were written about him. They include everything from "End Game" on "Reputation," "London Boy" on "Lover," and "Peace" from "Folklore." If you're interested in the finer points of this former couple's relationship, we can't help but suggest you listen to every single one of these tracks — you're sure to uncover things we couldn't fit into the timeline!

Selfishly, we hoped Swift and Alwyn would stay together for years to come. Not only did we love to see this performer happy, but we're also obsessed with the direction her music had taken since these two made things official.

Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn's breakup

In April 2023, ET reported that Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn had quietly broken up several weeks earlier. According to a source who spoke to the outlet, the amicable decision to end things was drama-free. "The relationship had just run its course. It's why [Alwyn] hasn't been spotted at any shows," the unnamed individual explained.

In the immediate aftermath of the split, fans began looking for clues that there had been trouble in paradise. A change in the setlist for Swift's "Eras Tour" was tossed about as being the first sign that the singer's relationship status had changed. Initially, Swift included an optimistic track off of "Folklore" about how the road of relationships past led to meeting her soulmate ("Invisible String") in the latter half of the show. However, she eventually began playing "The 1" in its place, which is a much more melancholic song about a relationship that just didn't work despite both parties' best efforts. Additionally, eagle-eyed concertgoers pointed out that Swift had been spotted tearfully performing "Champagne Problems" off of "Evermore," which depicts an ill-fated marriage proposal.

For any Swifties holding out hope that these two are able to work things out, another source close to the pair told CNN that "they simply grew apart and plan to remain friends," seemingly leaving the door open for a potential reconciliation. But if these former lovers never get back together, at least we can rest assured that we'll get some incredible new music out of this next chapter of Taylor Swift's life.