She tries to avoid the noise at all costs. Last year, Jennifer Garner admitted that she makes a concerted effort not to read any news stories that might involve herself or ex-husband Ben Affleck because it can mess with her headspace. “I really work hard not to see either of us in the press,” she explained. “It doesn’t make me feel good, even if it’s something nice about one of us.”

In recent months, it’s been hard to avoid it. In February, Ben’s wife of almost two years, Jennifer Lopez, fueled headlines with the release of not one, not two, but three projects inspired by her rekindled romance with Ben — an album, This Is Me… Now; a movie, This Is Me… Now: A Love Story; and a documentary, The Greatest Love Story Never Told. The trio further detailed her connection with the Oscar winner, which has spanned more than two decades. Including the 10-year period he was married to Jen.

Now, a source exclusively tells Life & Style that it’s Jen’s turn to talk. “Jen doesn’t think anyone knows the truth about her and Ben. Nobody knows what people go through — or how much she shielded Ben and their children,” explains the source. “Jen is finally opening up to some friends about how rough it really was.”

Painful Secrets

She’s shared precious little with the public. In 2016 — the year after Jen, 51, and Ben, also 51, announced their separation — Jen did shed some light on their split, though she was careful not to trash her ex. “He’s the most brilliant person in any room, the most charismatic, the most generous,” the actress gushed to Vanity Fair. “He’s just a complicated guy. I always say, ‘When his sun shines on you, you feel it. But when the sun is shining elsewhere, it’s cold.’ He can cast quite a shadow.”

In recent weeks, Jen and Ben have put up a united front. Both took son Samuel to Disneyland for his 12th birthday (they also share Violet, 18, and Seraphina, 15) in early March, and in February, it was reported that Jen was in negotiations to star opposite Ben’s best friend, Matt Damon, 53, in the crime thriller Animals, which Ben is directing.

Jennifer Garner 'Happier Than Ever' After Health Issue in 2021
BG004/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

Until just a few years ago, though, Ben was “making Jen’s life hell,” says the source of the disintegration of their marriage amid his escalating addiction issues. “Jen put up with a lot.”

Ben’s said he and Jen “grew apart,” but also admitted that his excessive drinking played a role in the demise of their relationship. “His addictions were worse than anyone knows. Jen’s explained how she had to deal with Ben during benders and blackouts and plenty of ugly arguments. Some pretty incomprehensible stuff,” says the source, adding that the couple could “go weeks without talking to each other” and would often sleep in separate bedrooms. Still, “Jen couldn’t just walk away. Not until he was better.”

Supportive Til the End

Ben sought treatment in 2001 and 2017. It didn’t stick until Jen, witnessing his agony as he hit rock bottom one scary night, convinced Ben to let her drive him to rehab once again in 2018, weeks before they finalized their divorce. “Relapse is embarrassing obviously,” the actor later said of Jen having to intervene. “I wish it didn’t happen.”

Two-and-a-half years later, Ben reunited with J. Lo, 54, “when he was sober,” says the source. “Jen had to deal with him at his worst. She put in the hard work, gave the unconditional love Ben needed at his lowest points, and J. Lo got the recovered, better Ben. It’s painful to think about, but Jen holds no grudges.”

As she herself put it, “I cannot let anger or hurt be my engine.” Especially when she’s had other big issues to contend with. In the summer of 2021, the same year Ben and J. Lo got back together, Jen faced a secret medical crisis, a second insider reveals to Life & Style. It has thankfully been resolved, and she’s healthy today.

In fact, Jen is “happier than ever,” says the first source, pointing out that she’s found love again, as well. “But she’s mostly just grateful that her kids will grow up with both of their parents still by their side.”

They have a bonus guardian, too. Though Jen and J. Lo — who praised the Yes Day star as “an amazing coparent” in 2022 — “aren’t best friends, they are in a better place” than they were a few years ago, says another source. “Jen realized that J. Lo isn’t as domineering as she assumed, and they both agree that the most important thing is the children’s happiness. They also are on the same page about a sober, happy and healthy Ben benefiting everybody.”