Turning up at fitness studio Burn 60 in L.A. on Nov. 25, Reese Witherspoon was in high spirits—and ready for a serious pre-Thanksgiving calorie blast. “She looked great,” says a source. “She seemed to be on top of the world.” But within days, the actress’s mood had dramatically changed. Over the holiday weekend, an upset Witherspoon told her close friends the news that she and her boyfriend of two years, Jake Gyllenhaal, had split. “Reese told a few people they had broken up,” says a source in Witherspoon’s circle. “She was pretty sad about it.”
Reps for both Witherspoon and Gyllenhaal, however, maintain that the two have not split, saying on Nov. 29, “they are still together.” Another source who knows Witherspoon says she and Gyllenhaal remain a couple. Did they break up last week? “Not officially,” says this source. The source who heard about the breakup says a reconciliation is always possible, but the pair aren’t likely to go through endless rounds of breakups and makeups. Aside from a brief split early on, says the source, “it was not a volatile relationship.” For now, they’re spending time on separate continents: On Nov. 29 Witherspoon, 33, was spotted dining—without Gyllenhaal—at Whiskey Kitchen in her hometown of Nashville before catching a flight to London to promote her work with Avon cosmetics. Gyllenhaal, 28, was an ocean away, busy shooting the upcoming drama Love and Other Drugs in Pittsburgh.
On the surface, the intensely private pair appeared to be one of Hollywood’s most devoted couples, sharing romantic trips to Europe, family outings with Witherspoon’s kids Ava, 10, and Deacon, 6, even jogging together in Santa Monica. But friends saw some signs of trouble, including tensions over whether to get married. “Jake would marry [Reese] tomorrow, but Reese doesn’t want to go there yet,” a friend of the couple’s told PEOPLE in the spring. “There’s a huge attraction between them, and they’ve become a team, but Jake can be a little overbearing at times, and Reese is really happy with life right now. Why screw that up?” Witherspoon has said her 2006 split from actor Ryan Phillippe, 35, left her wary of marriage. “I [had] a certain idea what I thought marriage gives, [but] sometimes it doesn’t work out that way,” she said last year. Asked if she would ever marry again, she replied, “I don’t know. I don’t think about it much.”
Witherspoon’s reluctance to commit to something serious caused the couple to break up once before. She and Gyllenhaal met on the set of their 2007 drama Rendition, shortly after Witherspoon’s seven-year marriage to Phillippe had fallen apart. “Jake went and introduced himself to Reese,” a source close to both told PEOPLE at the time. From there, “things slowly progressed … it was never something she thought would happen.” But three months later—and with Witherspoon’s divorce still pending—she and Gyllenhaal called things off. “Reese just got out of a divorce and was so concerned with her family, she just didn’t have the time for him—and he really demanded that,” a source who knows Witherspoon said then.
The breakup proved short-lived. By the end of September the pair had officially reconciled, taking in the Coachella music festival last spring and spending weekends at Witherspoon’s farmhouse in Ojai, Calif. (The usually preppy Witherspoon even began adopting her boyfriend’s casual style, with the two wearing matching his-and-hers knit caps.) “They hit a few bumps in the beginning, but once they plowed through, they were a good, solid, low-key couple,” says the source in Witherspoon’s circle. “They kept to themselves—they were not a Hollywood couple.” Even as work pulled them apart—Witherspoon had been shooting a still-untitled comedy in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., with Owen Wilson, while Gyllenhaal filmed three movies last year, including this month’s drama Brothers and the upcoming summer film Prince of Persia—they often criss-crossed the globe to carve out time together. At Pamela’s restaurant in Pittsburgh, the couple met up regularly in October. “They are so cute together,” says an observer. “You can see they have great chemistry. When she comes [to town] on the weekends, you can see they missed each other all week.”
Now friends are waiting to see whether they indeed go their separate ways or work out their differences. Just don’t look for Witherspoon to be down for long. “Reese is in a good place,” a friend told PEOPLE recently. “She’s doing things for her these days. She’s married to her kids right now, and they’re honestly her first love.”
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