Why Austin Butler And Vanessa Hudgens Broke Up After So Many Years Together

Longtime couple Vanessa Hudgens and Austin Butler called it quits in January 2020, but it's still hard to process the fact that they're no longer together. Despite the fact that fans were rooting for Hudgens to end up with her High School Musical co-star and ex, Zac Efron, the way she fell into a relationship with Butler so quickly made it easy to root for them, too. But just when we were waiting to find out whether or not they were going to get engaged, it was over. What happened?

Until news of their split officially broke, it seemed like all was well between Hudgens and Butler, but obviously, behind the scenes, that wasn't the case — and since neither half of this former couple has explained what the last straw was that broke their relationship's back, fans have been left wondering ever since.

As of this writing, Butler and Hudgens are still apart, and it definitely doesn't seem like they're getting back together. So why did they break up? Butler and Hudgens have clearly moved on since their shocking split. Hudgens is engaged to MLB player Cole Tucker, while Butler has been dating model Kaia Gerber since the end of 2021. However, all these unanswered questions about why this former couple's almost decade-long romance went south is still lingering on everyone's mind. This is what we know about their split ... and what might have gone wrong.

How Vanessa Hudgens and Austin Butler fell in love

Less than a year after splitting from Zac Efron (and amid rumors that she was dating Josh Hutcherson), Vanessa Hudgens and Austin Butler were first seen spending time together. Reportedly, they met through Hudgens' BFF, Ashley Tisdale, who co-starred with Butler in her High School Musical follow-up, Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure, and it wasn't long before Hudgens and Butler were spotted hanging out at Tisdale's sister's birthday party in Hollywood in September 2011.

"They were together but in a large group. They were not doing anything to show that they were really together romantically but they were definitely hanging out and having fun," a source told People, adding that they went to hang out at Bob's Big Boy together afterwards.

They'd continue to be spotted out and about together for the next few years, with plenty of PDA to prove the relationship was full-on, but in 2014, Hudgens made her boldest public proclamation of love for Butler. "Yesterday was the love of my life's birthday. Happy birthday to the man with the kindest heart, beautiful soul, crazy talent and best looks I've ever seen," she wrote on Instagram on August 18, 2014, alongside a photo of the two of them together. "He never stops inspiring me in every aspect of life and always lifts those around him up higher. I thank god so greatly for blessing the world 23 years ago by creating Austin Butler."

After all those years, there was never an engagement

By the time 2017 rolled around, the pressure was on: People wanted to know when Vanessa Hudgens and Austin Butler were getting engaged. The rumors were everywhere, and why wouldn't they be when Hudgens and Butler had been together for so long and had seemed so in love? In fact, after Hudgens was seen wearing a ring on that finger toward the end of the year, she was forced to take to Twitter to shut down those rumors, because apparently, a sparkly diamond ring on her left hand didn't necessarily mean that she'd said yes to a marriage proposal from her longtime boo ... even though many of her fans assumed that it did.

"Guysssss. I'm not engaged! I posted a pic. Not to show off my ring that I happened to throw on that finger after a long day of filming but to show off my haircut Lol," she wrote. Okay, fine, but Hudgens had to know that a ring in such conspicuous place as going to set the internet ablaze, which is definitely not the best conversation starter for a talk about marriage. 

Vanessa Hudgens and Austin Butler's breakup was supposedly temporary

When Vanessa Hudgens and Austin Butler initially broke up, it may have been intended to be a break. Like a lot of couples who date for awhile, they might have just needed to take a breather before deciding whether or not they actually did want to spend the rest of their lives together, especially since living that long-distance relationship life seemed to be getting to both of them. In fact, a source insisted to E! that their split was "for now," and that "they have such a history and deep connection they could find their way back to one another," especially since their breakup had reportedly been so amicable.

It seemed like Hudgens had the same line of thinking. A later report from R Online claimed that she had always believed their breakup would be temporary, but the longer it went on, the more concerned she became. "She thought they would just be on a break and then he'd miss her and come back," the source claimed, adding, "But the more time passes, I think Vanessa is worried that he won't." Could that mean Butler was the one who initiated what ended up being a not-so-brief break-up? 

Was Vanessa Hudgens already signaling the end?

Just days before news of the couple's split went public, Vanessa Hudgens shared how much their relationship had meant to her while talking to Cosmopolitan UK — talk about awkward timing! The mag even describe the couple as "liv[ing] in harmony." Hudgens did also happen to mention, however, that doing long distance with Austin Butler was hard on her and their relationship, so it stands to reason that may have contributed to why they ultimately ended things.

"It's eight years this year – FaceTime, good communication, respect and trust [are what keep us going]. The longest we've been apart was four months. It sucks! You start hating hearing yourself say 'I miss you.' But if it's your person, you make it work," she told the outlet.

As it turned out, four months wasn't the longest they'd be apart ... little did she know, a much longer break was right around the corner.

Vanessa Hudgens and Austin Butler may have disagreed about marriage

We would assume that after eight years in a relationship, most couples would be on the same page about the future of their relationship, meaning it's time to make a choice about getting married or not. But apparently, not being on the same page on where they wanted things to go may have added to the distance between Vanessa Hudgens and Austin Butler. A source told People that they had been talking about marriage and engagement before their breakup, but "busy work schedules and travel definitely put a strain on the relationship." 

What's more is the fact that Hudgens herself may have never actually believed that marriage was necessary for the future. In a 2018 interview with ET, she said that she didn't feel "pressure" to marry Butler, even after being with him for so long, adding, "each couple has their own journey."

Is it just us, or does that sound like someone who doesn't want to get married?

Did Austin Butler's career ambitions get in the way?

Although Vanessa Hudgens repeatedly kept a light tone when talking about her relationship with Austin Butler over the years, sources close to the couple indicated things may have been getting more serious behind closed doors. On top of that, Butler's career was becoming a factor, and the young, rising star may have started to view his nearly decade-long relationship with Hudgens as an anchor around his neck at that point.

"Austin's career has really skyrocketed in the last year," an insider told R Online soon after their early 2020 split. "He appeared in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood and he's starring as Elvis [Presley], so for him he is just focusing on that and it really impacted his relationship with Vanessa."

Did Butler really end an eight year relationship to focus on his career? If true, that had to hurt — especially since it's not like Hudgens had seemed to expect him to put his career on pause for her. In fact, Hudgens encouraged Butler to go after the role of The King. But, we will get into more of that later.

Vanessa Hudgens wasted no time rebounding

If she was all broken up about leaving what she had with Austin Butler behind, Vanessa Hudgens didn't really show it. She did, however, jump into something brand new, just like many people do when they get out of a long-term relationship and need a way to help make the heartbreak hurt a little less — only she did it pretty quick. Just days after Hudgens and Butler's breakup went public, TMZ reported that Hudgens was hanging out in Brooklyn with NBA player Kyle Kuzma, and at that point, nobody knew if this was actually going to turn into something or not — or how Butler might end up feeling about it. Uh oh.

That relationship didn't end up going anywhere beyond a couple of dates and some social media flirtation, so it seems like it was definitely a rebound. As far as we can tell, Hudgens hasn't been with anyone since. The "High School Musical" star's love life seemed to slow down for the rest of 2020 until DailyMail captured photos of Hudgens with MLB player Cole Tucker in November 2020. The pair were seen cuddling and holding hands after a night out in LA.

Butler seemed to be playing the field, too

In July 2019, Austin Butler landed the role of a lifetime when it was announced that he would star as Elvis Presley in director Baz Luhrmann's much-talked-about biopic. However, before nabbing the part, Vanessa Hudgens recalled to Ryan Seacrest on "Live with Kelly and Ryan" how she pretty much inspired her former partner to look out for any Elvis roles way before they even knew about Luhrmann's film. "It's so crazy, because last December, we were driving along and we were listening to Christmas music, and then an Elvis Presley song came on," Hudgens said, adding, "He had just dyed his hair dark, and I was looking at him and he was singing along and I was like, 'Babe, you need to play Elvis.'" Lo and behold, Butler found himself portraying The King sooner than he thought he would.

However, Butler and Hudgens split once filming began in Australia in early 2020. At the same time, rumors were swirling that Butler was getting close to his "Elvis" co-star, Olivia DeJonge, who plays Elvis' wife, Priscilla Presley. The pair were spotted going to the movies in late January and it was alleged that the pair dated throughout their time filming. Towards the end of the year, Butler and DeJonge were seen soaking up the sun on an Australian beach.

Nothing more came out of their alleged romance. But, of course, Butler and DeJonge could have just been on friendly terms after spendng so much time together filming. 

They both have subtly talked about their split

Two years after Austin Butler and Vanessa Hudgens called it quits on their eight year romance, the pair briefly touched upon their relationship in separate interviews. Still, it wasn't much, but it gave fans some insight into why these two, who seemed like the perfect match, couldn't work. 

In May 2022, while speaking to GQ about "Elvis" and his rise to stardom, Butler was asked about his relationship with Hudgens. Not surprisingly, the actor did not divulge much and simply stated, "Life is full of changes, and you've got to find a way to constantly be evolving and growing." 

That September, Hudgens reflected on her past relationships, seemingly talking about her long-term romances with Zac Efron and Austin Butler to Nylon magazine. "The public only sees so much. I've also been through two very long life-changing relationships, and no one really knows what happened except for me. When I write my memoir, it'll be amazing," she said. Can someone tell Hudgens that she can start that memoir now? 

Butler and Hudgens have fully moved past their relationship

Vanessa Hudgens and Cole Tucker went Instagram official with their relationship on Valentine's Day in 2021. The actor posted a photo of the two kissing and captioned it, "It's you, it's me, it's us." In March, Hudgens attended Tucker's MLB spring training in Florida, and the two were able to make their romance work even though Tucker traveled for his baseball games throughout the year. Interestingly, distance didn't seem to tear these two apart.

Tucker got to see Hudgens' glamorous lifestyle when they made their red carpet debut as a couple in November 2021 for the premiere of "Tick Tick... BOOM!" The following month, the two celebrated their first anniversary. Tucker continued appearing on Hudgens' Instagram in 2022 from spending time together on Halloween and Christmas. Then, in February 2023, Hudgens revealed that the two were engaged. So much for not wanting to get married!

Will we hear engagement news between Butler and his beau, Kaia Gerber soon? The pair first sparked dating rumors in December 2021 and have been going strong ever since. The model has been by Butler's side during his many red carpet events for "Elvis," including attending the Cannes Film Festival premiere and stepping out at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in March 2023.

Butler thanked Hudgens for his Elvis role

Austin Butler's "Elvis" role put the star on the map. In 2023, he won the Golden Globe for best actor, and while thanking several people in his speech, including the film's director, Baz Luhrmann, the Presley family, and his own family, we couldn't help but wonder if he was also thinking about his ex, Vanessa Hudgens. Of course, she was the one to encourage the star to go after an Elvis role if one was ever to come about. 

During an interview with The Hollywood Reporter's Actors Roundtable in January 2023, Butler was asked how portraying Elvis was something on his mind even before learning about Luhrmann's film. Sharing a similar story like the one Hudgens recalled to Ryan Seacrest in 2019, it was clear that Butler was referring to his ex when he said, "I was with a friend of mine and I was singing along, and my friend kind of looked over at me and goes, 'You gotta play Elvis.'" Several people were displeased that Butler, who dated Hudgens for so many years, would not give her the proper credit she deserved. 

In fact, he cleared up any confusion about who that "friend" was when speaking to the Los Angeles Times a few weeks later. "I was with my partner at the time," the actor clarified, adding, "We'd been together for so long and she had this sort of clairvoyant moment and so I really, I owe her a lot for believing in me."

But, they aren't on friendly terms

Austin Butler and Vanessa Hudgens don't seem to be friendly exes. For the most part, Hudgens hasn't acknowledged Butler's Los Angeles Times interview for giving her props on the whole Elvis Presley thing, nor has she spoken out about his accomplishments for "Elvis."

The "Spring Breakers" actor did, however, make a one word comment on his Elvis impression that has stuck with Butler since filming the movie wrapped up. Hudgens replied with the word "crying" when an Instagram user poked fun of Butler's Elvis accent with the comment, "He went to the Lady Gaga school of Oscar campaign acting." 

In March 2023, both stars attended the Oscars, where Butler was nominated for best actor while Hudgens co-hosted a program on ABC before the event. After the show, the pair crossed paths while attending the Vanity Fair Oscar party. In a video clip by ET, Hudgens walks past her ex, who she notices before walking away. Butler, chatting with Sharon Stone, notices Hudgens as she walks by. The video speaks for itself about where these two stand.