What really happened with Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez's relationship had so many twists and turns during its bewildering almost decade-long course, it's nearly impossible to remember all the goss that went down. While some claim that the relationship between the singers was a publicity stunt set up by some clever music managers, we know that there was a lot more going on behind the tabloid covers.

Although their spats were sometimes known to be public, and they were each other's constant (albeit unflattering) inspiration for music, Jelena would somehow surprisingly always manage to come back together. When the pair finally decided to call it quits in March of 2018, fans were, of course, skeptical, although something seemed more finite this time. As a source close to the "Wolves" songstress told Us Weekly, "She obviously chose happiness and her friends and family ... She feels more empowered than ever and is looking forward to this next chapter."

Well, that chapter did indeed close. Now that the Biebs is happily married to Hailey Bieber, née Baldwin, and Selena Gomez is, well, living her best single life "chilling," it's easier to take a step back and piece together what exactly went wrong during their torrid romance. Let's take a trip down memory lane and see what really happened between Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber.

Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber initially had a play-date

2011 was truly a different time. The Biebs wasn't part of an egging lawsuit yet, Selena Gomez wasn't in the middle of feuding with her mother, and the pair was seemingly in total bliss. In fact, Gomez only had positive things to say about the "Baby" crooner when she appeared on David Letterman's The Late Show in March of that year, even though she stopped short of confirming that they were dating. Explaining how the pair initially met, the songstress revealed she's known Biebs for two years already. "Actually, his manager called my mom, who's my manager ... He's been in my life for so long, and it's just nice to have someone that understands what you're going through."

Although the pair was official that year, it's Ellen DeGeneres who playfully threw shade at The Dead Don't Die actress — a few days after her visit to Letterman's talk show. Going on Ellen, Gomez had to sit through an embarrassing flashback of her previous visit in 2010, where DeGeneres asked her if she was dating Bieber. "Oh brother," Gomez had exclaimed. "He's little! No, he's like my little brother!"

Well, sure enough, he wasn't like Gomez's little brother, and the initial stages of the duo's budding romance were filled with puppy-dog eyes and public appearances together.

Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez: Year One

From the announcement in March 2011 to April 2012, Jelena was publicly inseparable. They took tropical getaways together, Bieber wooed Gomez with what appeared to be the most epic date in the history of teen romances, and Beliebers everywhere were very public about their discontent that their sweetheart was a taken man. This was all fodder for the press amidst a barely hanging-on music career for the "One Less Lonely Girl" singer and his falling Disney star whose show was getting canceled. It certainly begged the question: Were their managers behind it all?

Nevertheless, Jelena kept going strong. In fact, Bieber even hinted about a future with his lady. "I really would love to be a young dad, and even if I have my first kid at 25, that still gives me lots of time to concentrate on my career," the teen heartthrob revealed to New! (via CafeMom). "Selena loves kids, she is really great with them." Um, what?

Bearing in mind that the pair wasn't even the legal drinking age yet, they took their relationship even further with rumors of getting married eventually! "One day, I will get engaged, when I have found the right person in five or 10 years," mused Biebs to French outlet, Le Parisien (via Press Party) in April of 2012. "It doesn't mean Selena is not the right person though! She's going to kill me if I say that!"

What caused Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber's first breakup?

Well, Selena Gomez definitely didn't kill Justin Bieber for his thoughts on the pair getting married — but they did break up. Making their split official in November 2012, an insider close to the songstress told Us Weekly, "Selena broke up with Justin about a week ago. It's been a really challenging experience over the last year because of their crazy schedules," adding that, "Selena definitely had some major trust issues with Justin."

There's no denying the difficulty that must come with dating a teen pop sensation. Gomez actually hinted at the couple's troubles back in March of 2011 regarding his diehard fan-base. "It's hard," she admitted to Z100 Radio (via E! News), "It hurts, it really does. I don't feel like I'm doing anything wrong. I've been best friends with him for a very long time. It does hurt my feelings a lot but I try not to focus on it."

Although the couple was seemingly done, the source that spoke to Us Weekly put it best: "They are [young] . . . it changes from day to day. Right now it is a break and tomorrow it could be back on knowing them . . . it's hard to say how they will end up."

Apres-ski with T

Selena Gomez's BFF came into the picture in December 2012 when the estranged couple was rumored to have joined Taylor Swift and then-BF Harry Styles on a couples ski retreat. As Us Weekly revealed, an apparently rekindled Jelena and Haylor (cringe-worthy nicknames, we know), hit the slopes in Park City, Utah, where they stayed in separate houses but "rendezvoused as a group" together.

Surprisingly enough, during their chalet adventure, Swift was still on good terms with Bieber, even though his relationship with her bestie was clearly shaky at best. To wit, by March 2013, Gomez returned to David Letterman's The Late Show, where, when she was asked about her relationship status with the Biebs, she revealed, "No, I'm single." As Letterman joked that he made her ex-boyfriend "cry" the last time he was on his show, the starlet quipped, "Well, then that makes two of us." Ouch!

If you missed that quick split, you weren't alone, because before everyone knew it, Jelena was reunited again at the 2013 Billboard Music Awards in May, where T-Swift made the now-famous "ew" face when her bestie was spotted catching up with her beau.

Instagram knows best, or does it?

Although Selena Gomez denied that she was back together with Justin Bieber on David Letterman's The Late Show in 2013, things got a little murky by the new year. As Seventeen reported at the time, J-Biebs kicked off 2014 with an Instagram photo that saw the lovebirds in an embrace with the caption, "Love the way you look at me." So, did it mean they got back together?

Well, not quite. By the end of January, Bieber was busted for a DUI in Miami and, according to Bradenton Herald, had a girl in his car with him that was not Gomez, but rather, model Chantel Jeffries. Shockingly a few days after his arrest, Gomez would be the one making headlines, having checked herself into rehab. Per RadarOnline, the "Hands to Myself" singer was "exhausted" and "broken-hearted," with some sources claiming it was her ex that was the "bad influence" in her life.

By February, People confirmed that Gomez only spent two weeks at the Arizona facility, and by then, she was already back on the A-list, gracing the top of Seventeen's Power List. So, was teasing the public with her and Biebs' relationship status all a big marketing ploy? Who's to say, but one thing was confirmed: by March the pair were yet again seen packing on the PDA.

Did Justin Bieber kall a Kardashian to make Selena Gomez jealous?

There's nothing like a Kardashian (or in this case, a Jenner) to save a story the public is bored to tears with. Kendall Jenner and her sis, Kylie Jenner, made their debut into Jelena's love life at Coachella in April of 2014. According to E! News, Gomez arrived with the Jenner siblings but quickly ditched them to stand backstage while her on-again beau, Justin Bieber performed. As an insider dished that the pair "seemed content" and held hands in public, fans were probably getting bored of a narrative that just didn't seem to die.

By the end of April, a love triangle was officially formed, and as Seventeen reported at the time, Kendall was seen making secret visits to the Biebs' recording studio, along with having dinner with him, too.

As Gomez unfollowed the Jenner sisters on Instagram (even a seemingly innocent Kylie), she upgrades to the next best thing: having her bestie Taylor Swift back in her life. Posting an Instagram video of the pair dancing and laughing at the Met Ball together, one thing was for certain: T-Swift was definitely helping Gomez shake off all the boy drama. 

Jelena's careers flourish thanks to one another

In the following few years, Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez learned that the press surrounding their long-dead relationship was just the fuel they needed to have their careers thrive. November of 2014 saw the starlet release the video for her new song, "The Heart Wants What It Wants," with the lyrics painfully obvious who it was about. "He [Justin] has seen the video ... It's something I'm willing to share with people," Gomez explained On Air with Ryan Seacrest, adding, "He thought it was beautiful."

By October 2015, the Texas native released her full-length album, Revival, along with an Elle cover story, where she revealed that the two exes "respect" each other "in a healthy manner." A month later, Biebs too released his own album, Purpose. He then quickly followed suit and mimicked exactly what Gomez did by taking the opportunity to talk to the press about his former relationship. "It was really tough. I don't know if I'm over it yet," the Canadian crooner told Access Hollywood. "[She] is someone I love dearly. I'm never going to stop loving her."

With the tabloids soaking up all the he-said, she-said, it looked like "Jelena reconciliation" rumors were abuzz — especially after Biebs serenaded Gomez at the end of November with a cover of The Temptations' "My Girl." Aww!

Hailey Baldwin's first appearance

Just when things couldn't get more confusing between Jelena, Justin Bieber decided to throw a curveball at the start of 2016 — by celebrating it with none other than his future wife, Hailey Baldwin. As TMZ reported at the time, "Justin and Hailey were making out for everyone to see at a New Year's Eve party ... at a villa in St. Barts." What's more, the outlet revealed that it wasn't the first time the pair locked lips, either.

As for Gomez? The "Wolves" crooner was too busy to care, and began 2016 dating her rumored new fling, Samuel Krost. Hmm, but what about that November serenade? "Well, I am sorry, first of all," the songstress told Rolling Stone (via Elle) of the moment. "And honestly, what I would love to be printed is that I am so beyond done with talking about that, and him."

Bieber echoed a similar sentiment to The Bert Show that same month. "We needed time to grow for ourselves and we were like, 'Maybe we'll come back together in the future,' and then it ended up being so long and we just grew apart and we're just not the same people anymore." A month later, in an interview with GQ where he discussed his collection of ink, the "Yummy" singer seemingly put the nail in the coffin when he revealed he tried covering up a tattoo of his ex-girlfriend on his arm. Awkward!

The time Selena Gomez epically trolled Justin Bieber

It looked like Justin Bieber's brief fling with Hailey Baldwin fizzled out as soon as it began, and after a brief reconciliation with Selena Gomez, he was back on the market again. Gomez, meanwhile, opened up to Marie Claire, revealing that she was sick of having her relationships define her career. "I would try to promote something that I loved, and the entire interview would be about my personal life. I would leave a room feeling defeated [and] feeling embarrassed."

Although the "Lose You To Love Me" crooner was allegedly over Bieber, he certainly decided to pour salt in the wound by going on vacation with a handful of models, have fresh batch of naked photos leak from his trip, and begin a new rumored relationship with a then-17-year-old Sofia Richie. Ooof.

Naturally, Selenators began wreaking havoc on the "Sorry" singer's Instagram page, to the point where he even posted a photo of himself and Richie with the caption: "I'm gonna make my Instagram private if you guys don't stop the hate this is getting out of hand, if you guys are really fans you wouldn't be so mean to people that I like." Gomez then jumped into the fray, roasting her ex by commenting, "If you can't handle the hate, then stop posting pictures of your girlfriend lol" (via People). It was a clapback that was heard globally.

Selena Gomez's health concerns brought her back with Justin Bieber

Finally deciding to put some proper distance between the two in September of 2016, Selena Gomez announced that she cut Justin Bieber off by changing her phone number, as per Us Weekly. What's more, the "Good For You" songstress also threw herself in a new high-profile relationship by January — this time with The Weeknd.

While things seemed to be looking up on the surface for Gomez finally, her health was slowly heading in the opposite direction. Per Billboard, in 2015, the singer announced she was battling lupus, and by 2017, things certainly weren't getting better. In September, Gomez revealed she had a kidney transplant "due to [her] lupus," which she revealed on Instagram. As sources told TMZ, it's around this time that the starlet started spending time with her ex again, and by the end of October, she announced that she wasn't with The Weeknd anymore.

By November of 2017, it looked like Jelena was back on, much to the dismay of Gomez's family. As an anonymous family member told TMZ, "Justin is a vile human." Yikes! Per TMZ, the drama got so intense, in fact, that Gomez's mom, Mandy Teefey, had to be admitted to a hospital after she found out her daughter was back with her ex again. By now it was December, and we have a feeling Biebs wasn't a part of any holiday festivities.

Jelena's final breakup, followed by a wedding

Surprise, surprise, Jelena's reunion wasn't long-lasting. By March 2018, it appeared there was trouble in the air for the pop star couple. As a source told E! News, at the start of the month, the pair decided to go on a "break," but by the end of March, it looked like things were over — for good. As an insider revealed to E! News, "Selena realized even though he's made some positive improvements, they just aren't a perfect match right now."

What happened next was the goss on everyone's lips: Justin Bieber got back together with Hailey Baldwin, and the two were a full-fledged item by June. By July, he had proposed to her, and a month later, the pair were legally married. As for Gomez, the starlet decided to take a break from social media in September — something that she announced on her Instagram page.

To make matters worse for the songstress, by October, she was hospitalized twice and finally decided to seek out mental health treatment. The news came as a shock for Bieber, who, as Us Weekly reported, was photographed crying. As a source dished to the outlet, "Justin still loves Selena a lot, but as a friend and is praying for her." Finally, a year after their breakup, Gomez deleted her last trace of Bieber from her Instagram page. It was a poignant moment in the saga that was Jelena.

Selena Gomez finally lets go of Justin Bieber

By the end of September 2019, Justin and Hailey Bieber finally tied the knot in a lavish, but somewhat odd ceremony before family and friends. According to Elle, on October 23rd, Selena Gomez released what was "her first public comment on her love life" since her final breakup from Bieber: a new song, "Lose You To Love Me." The next day, she told On Air With Ryan Seacrest, "I know there are thousands of people, men and women, who have felt this feeling," Gomez began, adding, "It doesn't matter if you're in my position or if you're in someone else's, because you're always going to somehow find this negative space ... It took me a long time to get through it, but now it's fine. I'm smiling."

Of course, all eyes focused on how the newlyweds took Gomez's latest music. "Justin has completely moved on from that chapter of his life and understands that Selena is allowed to reflect on the past in her own way," an insider revealed to E! News. "Justin and Hailey both want Selena to be happy and in a good place and aren't phased by it."

Gomez released her full-length album, Rare, in January 2020, and it looks the Jelena narrative has finally been put to bed, with a happy ending for all parties involved. "I would like to say that this is a fresh start," the starlet told Apple Music's Zane Lowe. "I started with this album, but I'm going to continue to just do better."