The Truth About One Direction's Tumultuous Relationship With Each Other

Although One Direction had an unconventional start, their formation the result of their efforts on "The X Factor" in 2010, the British boy band nevertheless took the world by storm. 

Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, and Louis Tomlinson were just normal teenagers from the United Kingdom when record executive Simon Cowell had a vision to put them together as a group, and the rest, as they say, is history. They went on to sell 70 million records worldwide as of 2020 and garnered a huge fan base that survived the band's breakup, with many 1D supporters throwing their love behind the guys' solo careers as well.

While their five years in the band are remembered fondly, the members of One Direction had their fair share of public spats that left fans questioning their friendships. After the announcement of their hiatus in 2015, nearly all five men went on to make comments about how much they couldn't stand to be around each other during their time in the group. Let's take a look at One Direction's tumultuous relationships with one other.

Louis Tomlinson and Zayn Malik publicly fought on Twitter

Two months after leaving One Direction in a paragraph-long Facebook statement, Zayn Malik publicly lashed out at his former bandmate, Louis Tomlinson. On what started as a normal day, producer Naughty Boy tweeted a photo of himself and Malik in the studio. At the time, the two were working on Malik's highly anticipated solo debut, and fans blamed Naughty Boy for Malik's sudden departure from 1D.

Tomlinson then tweeted about the pic, mocking the duo: "Remember when you were 12 and you used to think those Mac filters for your pictures were cool haha! Some people still do HA!" Naughty Boy replied directly, "And some people can't even sing ... but who's complaining when there's auto tune eh." The two musicians tweeted insults back and forth until Malik interrupted the spat.

Malik defended Naughty Boy by tweeting at Tomlinson, "Remember when you had a life and stopped making b***hy comments about mine?" sending a shockwave through the Twitterverse. Malik and Naughty Boy were met with intense waves of backlash that took days to die down. Malik reportedly apologized to Tomlinson shortly after. "Zayn has spoken to Louis Tomlinson and the 1D boys in the past few weeks after realizing more and more that Naughty Boy was only out for himself," a source stated. "Zayn actually apologized to Louis for all the crap that went down. Zayn wanted to reach out and make sure they all knew he was still their brother."

Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson 'hated' each other

In 2019, Liam Payne admitted that he and Louis Tomlinson were not fond of each other in the early days. While still on "The X Factor," the two frequently butted heads, as Tomlinson was the oldest, while Payne — who had the reputation of "Daddy Direction" — was given the responsibility of looking after the others. 

In an interview with Hits Radio, Payne admitted, "When we were in the band it kind of felt like, because he was the oldest and because I'd been singing for quite a little bit of time, we both got put in a weird position." Payne had already auditioned for "The X Factor" once by the time One Direction was formed.

"He was wanting to be the leader and obviously I was doing my thing and wanted to. So at first we didn't get on at all. We absolutely hated each other, it was so funny. Really bad. We hid it well. ... It was crazy," Payne revealed, chuckling at the memory. "In the end, we kind of just settled that we both do different parts of what the thing was and now I feel like that's kind of followed through into life," Payne concluded, squashing all semblance of a feud. The two men have grown to be close friends now, and speak often. Payne finished the interview by giving praise to his former bandmate's latest single.

Zayn Malik's departure left sour feelings

Zayn Malik officially left One Direction on March 25, 2015, shocking fans and forever changing the trajectory of the group. The Facebook announcement came one week after the star left 1D's "On The Road Again" tour due to stress. Malik's departure immediately sparked rumors of drug use and a feud between the band members. While his former bandmates were quick to clarify they were not in a fight, Liam Payne didn't shy away from revealing how they truly felt when Malik left.

"At first, we were a little bit angry, obviously, we were surprised, but I think we all kind of knew the general vibe that Zayn was feeling," Payne admitted on "The Late Late Show With James Corden." "We were angry at first but then it was just a bit more disappointed. You know, we wish him the best of luck with whatever he gets up to."

Four years later, in an interview with GQ, Payne opened up a bit more about how he felt after Malik's leaving. "I think with Zayn's particular exit and the way he chose to go, we haven't really heard from him since he left. He didn't even say goodbye, if I am being honest. It was a really sordid scenario, from our side certainly. A bit strange. It's difficult." Now, it seems that Malik has severed ties with his former bandmates completely, despite there being no active feud amongst them.

Niall Horan got ghosted by Zayn Malik

Zayn Malik's sudden departure from One Direction caused quite the stir amongst the bandmates, and some of his relationships have seemingly never recovered. Most notably, in a 2017 interview with The Sun's Bizarre column, guitarist Niall Horan admitted he didn't even have Malik's phone number. He explained: "I haven't spoken to Zayn in a while."

"I spoke to him at Christmas then I spoke to him again a couple of months ago," Horan continued, "Zayn's Zayn, not a lot of people would be able to say that they get in touch with him. He's the hardest man to get in touch with. He is always changing his number." This confirmed rumors that the two were no longer friends. However, Horan insisted there was no bad blood between him and his former bandmate, clarifying that he supported Malik's musical endeavors.

In 2020, Horan confessed that Malik ghosts him and that he doesn't see them patching up their friendship. "I mean, if he's got something coming out or something I will text him. He might not reply but I'll give him a shout, but I don't know," he divulged. "After the band, he left for his reasons and then he never really spoke to us much afterwards." He continued: "I've got no bad blood with him at all but some things have a lifespan. I don't know. We will see what happens. Maybe one day we can reconvene at some point, but not right now."

Zayn Malik didn't support Louis Tomlinson when his mother died

Three days after Louis Tomlinson's mother died from cancer, the former members of One Direction reunited on "The X Factor" for an emotional performance. Tomlinson performed "Just Hold On" as Niall Horan, Liam Payne, and Harry Styles sat in the audience, while one former member was notably missing. On "The Dan Wootton Interview" podcast in 2019 (via The Sun), Tomlinson revealed that — despite promising to be there to support him during that difficult time — Zayn Malik failed to show.

Tomlinson shared: "I had a couple of calls with him after I lost my mum and all the boys had agreed to come to that performance and he didn't show so that really bugged me." This was devastating for Tomlinson, considering how close he and Malik used to be, even getting matching tattoos when the band was still together. However, it meant the world to Tomlinson that his other former bandmates traveled to be there to support him. "I've got goosebumps now," Tomlinson continued, remembering the performance. "It was just seeing everyone there — Harry, Niall and Liam — that was what I needed that night, that support."

Weeks after the performance, Malik cryptically tweeted (via The Sun): "I'd like [to] apologise for basically being a s**t person," before deleting the apology.

Zayn Malik revealed he and Harry Styles were never close

When Zayn Malik left One Direction, he certainly did not hold back in sharing his feelings about fame, One Direction's music, and his former bandmates. Shortly after quitting, Malik revealed he'd never spoken to bandmate Harry Styles in the five years One Direction was together.

"To be honest, I never really spoke to Harry even when I was in the band," Malik told Us Weekly. "So I didn't really expect that much of a relationship with him when I left. And I haven't [had one] to be honest." Ouch. Directioners worldwide mourned the perceived friendship, with some seeing Malik's harsh words as another attempt to distance himself, while others accepted that some friendships simply grow apart. In an interview with Apple Music Beats 1's "New Music Daily with Zane Lowe" (via ET), Styles admitted he didn't realize Malik was struggling as much as he was. "It was kind of like we were sad, obviously, that someone had left, but also sad that he was not enjoying it so much that he had to leave," Styles explained, still sounding hurt by the abrupt departure.

Despite his negative comments throughout the years, Malik isn't completely against the idea of a reunion. "Who knows? I've said it before: Never say never," he revealed. "If I wanted to come back in 10, 15 years time, then yeah, why not? I don't know. ... It just depends on how I'm feeling at that time."

Rumors of a relationship tore Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson apart

Anyone who is a fan of One Direction has heard the words "Larry Stylinson" at one point. So, who — or what — is it? It's the infamous portmanteau of Louis Tomlinson and Harry Styles. 

When 1D first got together, Tomlinson and Styles were super close, frequently seen embracing or teasing each other for laughs. These innocent interactions were interpreted as romantic by a number of fans and, before long, Directioners began speculating that Tomlinson and Styles were in a secret romantic relationship. "Larry Stylinson" became a huge deal, even affecting their real life relationships, like Tomlinson's partnership with Eleanor Calder. Despite them denying being in a relationship time and time again, the fans wouldn't let up, even going so far as to accuse Tomlinson's son of being a decoy doll for the "Larry Stylinson" relationship. Eventually, the two stopped showing affection altogether for fear of another conspiracy.

"It kind of happened naturally for me and Harry because a certain amount of the fans drew up this conspiracy," Tomlinson said in a 2017 interview with The Sun. "It created this atmosphere between the two of us where everyone was looking into everything we did. It took away the vibe you get off anyone. It made everything, I think on both fences, a little bit more unapproachable." Regardless of the "Larry" nonsense, Tomlinson maintained that he has always had a lot of respect for Styles and that they still keep in contact.

Liam Payne admitted it was a relief when the band broke up

Being in One Direction was reportedly not nearly as glamorous as it seemed. The glitz and glamor of teenage celebrity quickly faded as the years went on, and some band members struggled to keep it together in private. 

Different personalities caused tension, and Liam Payne, who privately struggled with substance abuse, admitted he was relieved when One Direction announced their permanent hiatus. The pressure of putting on a perfect image cracked the musicians little by little, and Payne confessed to Men's Health Australia (via CNN) that he was drunk during most 1D appearances. "It's almost like putting the Disney costume on before you step up on stage," Payne shared. "And underneath the Disney costume I was [drunk] quite a lot of the time because there was no other way to get your head around what was going on."

Payne also revealed that the boys had no control over their day-to-day schedules. It didn't matter if they were unhappy or unwell — they were forced to perform the same songs every single night in order to maintain their image. The public scrutiny and pressure to succeed took a toll on Payne, who admitted to The Guardian that it caused him to have suicidal ideation. When One Direction came to an end, Payne found himself able to refocus on himself and what was most important, like raising his young son, Bear.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Harry Styles shaded Zayn Malik on Saturday Night Live

In November 2019, Harry Styles hosted the famous sketch comedy show "Saturday Night Live." During the opening monologue, Styles discussed his musicianship, as well as teased a One Direction reunion, which turned out to be just a joke. 

While on the subject of his former band, Styles also threw some sly shade at his once-bandmate, Zayn Malik. "I love those guys, they're my brothers," Styles said, sitting at a grand piano. "Niall, Liam, Louis ... and, uhh Ringo. Yeah, that's it." Styles called Malik "Ringo" in reference to The Beatles' Ringo Starr, who was the first member to leave their group in 1968. The crowd exploded with laughter, gasps, and applause, and the internet went wild. Some fans laughed along with the joke, though others rushed to defend Malik. Shortly after his monologue, a source for Styles said that he had no regrets about the small dig.

"Harry knew what he was getting into when he was joking about Zayn," a source told HollywoodLife. "There has been issues with Zayn with all of the guys for a long time and this joke was simply innocent fun tinged with some reality. Zayn has always been difficult, so to do that joke was on purpose and Harry doesn't regret it."

Louis Tomlinson called Zayn Malik a 'hypocrite'

When Zayn Malik dropped "Good Years" in 2018, fans were quick to analyze the meaning of the record. Some concluded that its cryptic lyrics were about One Direction's break up, specifically pointing to the chorus: "Too much drugs and alcohol/ What the hell were we fighting for/I close my eyes and see a crowd of a thousand tears/I pray to God I didn't waste all my good years." Many fans interpreted these lyrics as frustration and regret on Malik's part for being in One Direction.

Shortly after the drop, former bandmate Louis Tomlinson tweeted: "Proper confused. What a hypocrite!" which many fans believed to be an insult directed at Malik. Since the two had previously aired their grievances toward one another on Twitter, it wasn't hard to believe Tomlinson could be throwing shade. 

While some fans were quick to send hate against Tomlinson in Malik's defense, others were willing to stand behind the "Two of Us" singer. "Only they know what happened," one fan tweeted, seemingly willing to give both parties the benefit of the doubt. All in all, the mysterious tweet caused quite the stir in the Twitterverse, and many fans were left wondering if Malik's and Tomlinson's feud had reignited.

Zayn Malik didn't make a single friend in 1D

In an interview with GQ, Zayn Malik admitted that trust issues caused him to keep his bandmates at arms length. Throughout his time in the group, Malik made little effort to befriend Louis Tomlinson, Liam Payne, Harry Styles, and Niall Horan. 

"I have always been a bit like that, though — always a bit of an island," Malik explained in an interview with Vogue. "I don't like to confer with too many people. ... I ain't spoke to any of them for a long time, to be honest with you," he shared, when asked if he still kept in touch with his former bandmates. "That's just the way it is. There's things that happen and things that were said after I left. ... Snide things. Small things that I would never have expected." His comments came as a huge surprise to fans who were under the impression that the five boys shared an unbreakable bond. In the Facebook post announcing his departure from the group, Malik even wrote that he had made "four friends for life" during his time in One Direction.

However, just because he isn't friends with the other boys doesn't mean he doesn't respect them. Speaking to SiriusXM in 2021, Malik confessed (via Cosmopolitan) that he had a favorite former bandmate: Horan. "Yeah, I will say that he makes better music than me. Yeah, I'm a Niall fan."

Zayn Malik didn't like 1D's music

Seven months after leaving One Direction, Zayn Malik gave a telling interview with The Fader that discussed his new image, his new music, and, of course, his thoughts on leaving the band. In the lengthy profile, Malik dove deep into his values and his thoughts of growing up in the spotlight, and touched on the added pressure of being the only member of color in the group. He frequently faced backlash for his race, religion, and political beliefs, but that was just the beginning of his problems with being in the band. Above all, Malik felt creatively stifled by One Direction's genre of music.

"There was never any room for me to experiment creatively in the band," he told The Fader. "If I would sing a hook or a verse slightly R&B, or slightly myself, it would always be recorded 50 times until there was a straight version that was pop, generic as f***, so they could use that version. Whenever I would suggest something, it was like it didn't fit us. ... I wasn't 100 percent behind the music. It wasn't me." 

One Direction's music was perfectly manufactured, but Malik preferred more of a jazzy, R&B style, and when it came down to it, he just didn't jive with their music. ​​"Would you listen to One Direction, sat at a party with your girl?" he questioned. "I wouldn't. To me, that's not an insult, that's me as a 22-year-old man."

Fame tore the guys apart

In a Vogue exclusive in 2018, Zayn Malik revealed what he was feeling right before leaving One Direction. He described a feeling of numbness that no amount of screaming fans could help, and said that the constant chaos was what eventually ripped the band apart.

"We went from theaters, to arenas, to stadiums — there was never any sort of bridge between," Malik stated. "Just boom, boom, boom. I guess that kind of progression to any mind — but especially when you're 17, 18 — it kind of affects you a little bit. People take it different ways — especially when there are five different personalities. The relationships had broken apart."

Malik said the actual feelings of being on stage — the adrenaline, the blood-curdling screams, the joy of sharing music — eventually faded away for all of them. When the numbness became their norm, Malik couldn't take it anymore. Though he shared that he never attended therapy, he said that he talked over the trauma of his 1D fame with his close family and friends, which helped him heal. The singer now shares a young daughter with model Gigi Hadid and lives a private life away from the public eye. Louis Tomlinson and Liam Payne have also embraced fatherhood since 1D's hiatus, though they still periodically release music. As for Harry Styles and Niall Horan, the two soloists seem to be enjoying their careers and basking in the limelight.