The love story is over. After six years, Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn have reportedly called it quits, shocking fans who were convinced they were either about to get married or had already secretly tied the knot. As the two part ways, here's a look back at their relationship and the songs it apparently inspired:
May 2016: Fans are convinced they met at the Met Gala
We still don't really know how Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn's relationship began, as neither has talked much about it. Fans, though, speculate they met at the 2016 Met Gala. Swift and Alwyn both attended the event in May 2016, and in her song "Dress," she sings, "Flashback when you met me / Your buzz cut / And my hair bleached." Her hair was bleached at the 2016 Met Gala, and he had a buzz cut.
Swift was dating Calvin Harris at the time, and she went on to date Tom Hiddleston — whom she also apparently met at the 2016 Met Gala — for about three months starting in June 2016.
October 2016: Swift and Alwyn's relationship seemingly begins
Swift and Alwyn, an English actor who has starred in films like Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk and shows like Conversations with Friends, seemingly start dating around October 2016.
In a January 2017 diary entry (revealed in a booklet released with the deluxe version of her album Lover), she writes, "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 three months now. I want it to stay that way because I don't want anything about this to change or become too complicated or intruded upon."
Fans later piece together that Swift and Alwyn appear to have attended the same party at the Bowery Hotel after a private Kings of Leon concert in October 2016. She also reportedly attended a screening of his movie Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk the following month.
May 2017: The relationship is revealed by 'The Sun'
News of Swift and Alwyn's romance is broken by The Sun, which reports in May 2017 that they had been together "for months" by that point. The report goes on to say that Swift "has been renting a house in North London while she has been seeing Joe" in the U.K., with a source saying, "She's been walking around with Joe in London using disguises, like scarves and hats, to keep her identity under wraps."
The Daily Mail also claims Swift's friend Emma Stone introduced her to Alwyn, whom she worked with on the movie The Favourite. In the following months, paparazzi photos of the two together begin to emerge.
November 2017: Songs on 'Reputation' appear to be about Alwyn
Swift releases her sixth studio album in November 2017, and fans believe numerous songs on it were inspired by her relationship with Alwyn. In "Call It What You Want," for example, she sings, "I want to wear his initial on a chain round my neck," seemingly in reference to a necklace she wore of the letter J. Swift features this necklace in the music video for "End Game," where she sings about how "I wanna be your endgame," and the music video for "...Ready For It?" includes the numbers 89 and 91, the years they were born, spray-painted on a wall.
The same month as Reputation's release, People cites a Swift insider who says, "It's a great relationship that everyone hopes will last. Joe could definitely be the one."
May 2018: Swift and Alwyn share Instagram photos from the same location
It wasn't exactly going Instagram official, but it was pretty darn close. In May 2018, Swift and Alwyn separately post photos of themselves in front of the exact same giant cactus on Instagram, implying they were there together. (Alwyn, though, later claims this "wasn't purposeful at all.")
July 2018: Swift and Alwyn are spotted on vacation together
As Swift and Alwyn continue keeping a tight lid on their romance, the two are spotted on vacation in Turks and Caicos for the Fourth of July in 2018. "They were very quiet and low-key their entire stay," a source tells E! News.
September 2018: Alwyn addresses the relationship for the first time
Alwyn breaks his silence about the relationship in a September 2018 interview with British Vogue, mostly to underline that he doesn't want to break his silence. "I think we have been successfully very private, and that has now sunk in for people," he says, adding, "I really prefer to talk about work." A few months later, Alwyn similarly tells Esquire he "shouldn't have to" share more about the relationship.
September 2018: Swift attends premiere of Alwyn's movie
Swift joins Alwyn at the premiere of his movie The Favourite at the New York Film Festival in September 2018. In November, she posts about him on her Instagram for the first time, urging fans to see the "absolutely phenomenal" film and tagging him in the post — though she also tags his co-star, Nicholas Hoult. They later attend numerous events together like the Golden Globes.
August 2019: Swift drops 'Lover,' which seems to have more songs inspired by Alwyn
Swift drops her seventh studio album, Lover, in August 2019. It appears to be heavily inspired by her romance with Alwyn, including the romantic title track that seemingly suggests she hopes to marry him. "I've loved you three summers now, honey, but I want them all," she sings, which would line up with their relationship beginning in 2016. In "London Boy," she sings, "You know I love a London boy / I enjoy walking Camden Market in the afternoon / He likes my American smile." Fans also speculate "Cruel Summer" is about how she developed feelings for Alwyn while still with Tom Hiddleston in the summer of 2016.
After the album's release, a fan theory emerges that Swift and Alwyn secretly got married already and that she's hinting at this on the album, especially in the song "Lover." Weeks earlier, though, E! News confirmed they are "not engaged." This same month, Swift tells The Guardian she doesn't want to talk about the relationship. "I've learned that if I do, people think it's up for discussion, and our relationship isn't up for discussion," she says.
January 2020: Swift describes 'falling in love' with Alwyn
Netflix drops a documentary about Swift, Miss Americana, in January 2020. In the film, she describes "falling in love with someone who had a really wonderfully normal, balanced, grounded life." But she notes that "we decided together that we wanted our relationship to be private." While Swift is saying this, the film shows footage of her that was apparently shot by Alwyn, including a clip of her playing the guitar and mouthing "I love you" to the person filming. The documentary also shows Swift and Alwyn embracing at one of her concerts.
July 2020: Alwyn is credited as a songwriter on 'Folklore'
Swift's next album, Folklore, drops in July 2020, and the songs "Exile" and "Betty" are credited to both Swift and someone named William Bowery. Fans immediately theorize this is a pseudonym for Alwyn.
Swift subsequently confirms Bowery is, in fact, Alwyn in the documentary Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions, explaining he wrote the "entire piano part" and "whole first verse" of "Exile." She also says she heard Alwyn singing "the entire, fully formed chorus" of "Betty" from "another room." When Folklore wins the Album of the Year Grammy, Swift thanks Alwyn, "who is the first person that I play every single song that I write, and I had the best time writing songs with you in quarantine."
Alwyn later tells Kelly Clarkson the name William Bowery was a combination of his great-grandfather William, a composer, and Bowery, the "area in New York that I spent a lot of time in when I first went over there." (Remember, they also attended that 2016 party together at the Bowery Hotel).
Folklore also includes multiple songs that appear to have been inspired by Alwyn, namely "Invisible String," in which Swift sings about realizing that, even before she started dating her lover, "All along there was some invisible string tying you to me." This song also includes the lyric "teal was the color of your shirt when you were sixteen at the yogurt shop," and Alwyn actually did work at a yogurt shop.
November 2020: Swift describes trying to maintain a private relationship
Speaking to Paul McCartney for Rolling Stone, Swift describes "how scary" it can be when you're a public figure and you "fall in love and you meet someone" who "has a very grounded, normal way of living." While not mentioning Alwyn by name, she notes she "cannot control if there are 20 photographers outside in the bushes and what they do and if they follow our car and if they interrupt our lives."
Swift adds, "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. Whether that's deciding where to live, who to hang out with, when to not take a picture — the idea of privacy feels so strange to try to explain, but it's really just trying to find bits of normalcy." She also confirms this inspired her song "Peace" on Folklore.
December 2020: Swift collaborates with Alwyn again on 'Evermore'
The following month, Swift drops her ninth album, Evermore, and fans believe the song "Long Story Short" is about Alwyn. "I fell from the pedestal / Right down the rabbit hole / Long story short, it was a bad time / Pushed from the precipice / Clung to the nearest lips / Long story short, it was the wrong guy / Now I'm all about you," she sings, possibly hinting she got with the wrong guy before her relationship with Alwyn.
Alwyn is also credited as a songwriter, again as William Bowery, on the tracks "Champagne Problems," "Coney Island," and "Evermore."
February 2022: Report claims Swift and Alwyn are engaged
A report from Life & Style in February 2022 claims Swift and Alwyn have secretly gotten engaged, though no confirmation follows in the coming days.
April 2022: Alwyn addresses the engagement rumors
Speaking with The Wall Street Journal, Alwyn addresses rumors that he's engaged to Swift but doesn't confirm or deny them. "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 says. "I mean, the truth is, if the answer was yes, I wouldn't say, and if the answer was no, I wouldn't say."
June 2022: Another report claims Swift and Alwyn are engaged
But The Sun further fuels engagement rumors in June 2022 by reporting the two "secretly got engaged," with a source telling the outlet, "They've actually been engaged for a few months but have only told their inner-inner circle — basically immediate family, and trusted, very old friends." However, this once again isn't confirmed by other entertainment outlets.
October 2022: 'Midnights' includes apparent references to Alwyn
Yet another new Swift album drops in October 2022 that appears to feature references to Alwyn. In "Karma," for example, she sings that "Karma is the guy on the screen coming straight home to me," likely referencing Alwyn's acting career. Swift also appears to address rumors of their engagement in "Lavender Haze" by singing, "All they keep asking me / Is if I'm gonna be your bride / The only kind of girl they see / Is a one-night or a wife."
Swift confirms on Instagram that "Lavender Haze" was inspired by how in "my relationship for six years, we've had to dodge weird rumors, tabloid stuff, and we just ignore it," adding, "This song is sort of about the act of ignoring that stuff to protect the real stuff."
Alwyn also gets another songwriting credit as William Bowery on the track "Sweet Nothing," which seems to be inspired by their relationship. Swift sings, "On the way home / I wrote a poem / You say, 'What a mind' / This happens all the time."
April 2023: Reports say Swift and Alwyn broke up 'weeks ago'
Over Easter weekend, Entertainment Tonight breaks the news that Swift and Alwyn have split after six years together. The report says "it was not dramatic" and that "the relationship had just run its course," which is why Alwyn hadn't been at any of her shows during the ongoing Eras Tour.
This report is subsequently confirmed by People, Page Six, and CNN. "Taylor and Joe broke up a few weeks ago," a source tells CNN. "They simply grew apart and plan to remain friends." People reports the breakup was mainly due to "differences in their personalities" that "have also become harder to ignore after years together." According to People, they had been "talking about marriage as recently as a few months ago," though Page Six reports that despite all those rumors, they never did secretly tie the knot.
Neither Swift nor Alwyn has commented on the reports. But fans noted that before the news broke, Swift replaced the romantic song "Invisible String" on her tour's set list with the breakup song "The 1," in which she sings, "If you wanted me, you really should've showed," and "it would've been fun if you would've been the one."