They looked lovey-dovey in public, but Jennifer Lopez and Cris Judd had a secret: they called it quits a month ago

By Michelle Tauber
Updated June 24, 2002 12:00 PM

Partying with a group of 20 pals on June 6, Jennifer Lopez and her husband of nine months, Cris Judd, acted like most couples still enjoying their first year of marriage. “They looked very close,” says a guest at the dinner party, which was held at Manhattan’s swank eatery Thorn. “They were very warm and affectionate. Nobody sensed anything was wrong.”

Give those newlyweds a pair of Oscars: The following day news broke that Lopez and Judd, both 32, had privately and amicably called it quits one month earlier. Considering their very public displays of affection since then—including sightings of the two arm in arm in New York City, where Lopez is filming, and relaxing at an outdoor cafe in Miami Beach, where she recently purchased a $9.5 million mansion—the announcement caught many friends off guard. “I spoke to her two days ago, and she sounded great,” says one pal of the actress-singer-entrepreneur. Even Judd’s father, Larry, 58, a Niceville, Fla., restaurateur, seemed bushwhacked when asked about the news. “I won’t believe it until I hear it from Cris,” he said. “I’ve seen no indication of any sort of problems.”

But others note that from the beginning the relationship seemed to be a rebound worthy of the NBA. The pair, who first met at the MTV Europe Music Awards in November 2000, were engaged in May 2001—just three months after Lopez broke off her tumultuous three-year romance with rap impresario Sean “Puffy” Combs, 32. “I don’t know that [Lopez and Judd] should have been married,” says a source who is close to J.Lo. “They were two people who were great dating, and they probably should have stayed dating.”

So why didn’t they? Friends say that after her Versace-flashing, club-hopping relationship with the flamboyant Combs Lopez was eager to settle into a quieter, lower-profile pairing. “I think she needed to get away from Puffy, and [Judd] was great solid grounding for her,” says the source, who adds that Combs’s strong feelings for Lopez may have accelerated Lopez’s marital drive. “I think she got married as a way to say, ‘Let me go,’ ” says the source. “I think it was Puffy’s refusal to accept things that drove her to [Judd].”

Or perhaps the Bronx-born Lopez—who was divorced in 1998 from model and waiter Ojani Noa, 28, after just 13 months of marriage—simply has a weakness for weddings. “There is probably the Liz Taylor element,” says the source. “It’s like, ‘Do I need to marry every guy?’ ”

Not that Judd was Lopez’s Larry Fortensky. Good-natured and easygoing-he even coaxed his glamorous new wife into watching golf on TV-Judd’s lack of fame seemed the perfect antidote to Lopez’s increasingly hectic life. “He’s like my peace,” she told Oprah Winfrey in May, even as the pair were breaking up. “He just brings me stability in a way that I really needed it.”

So much for stability. For his part, friends say that Judd is taking the breakup hard. “He wanted this to work,” says a pal. “I’m sure he thought it would last. Marriage is a very sacred thing to him. He didn’t take it lightly or he wouldn’t have done it.” Chuck Gibson, 30, a pal who first met Judd when the two were dancers at Walt Disney World’s Pleasure Island in 1994, remembers Judd as “never the dumper, but always the dumpee. He would hold onto relationships that were obviously going nowhere. I think he hated the confrontation.”

Considering J.Lo’s remarkably friendly track record with her exes—Noa now manages her new Pasadena restaurant Madre’s, and Combs remains a pal—it seems that she too prizes peaceful partings. Which means, contrary to reports, no loud fights, no bad-mouthing and, say friends, absolutely no two-timing. “Their splitting up does not involve any other person, period,” says a friend of the couple’s. “It’s never been an issue. Jennifer is very monogamous.”

Accordingly, pals dismiss reports of a romantic link to Ben Affleck, her costar in the upcoming film Gigli. The actor raised eyebrows in March when he placed an ad in Variety extolling Lopez’s “graciousness of spirit, beauty and courage, great empathy, astonishing talent, real poise and true grace.” But, says a Lopez source, “they did a movie together. They’re not dating.”

Ditto Combs and Lopez. Although Combs’s newest hit single, “I Need a Girl,” has been interpreted by some as an ode to his famous ex (“But as long as you’re happy I’ma tell you this/ I love you girl and you’re the one that I will always miss”), the rapper says it isn’t so. “No, no, no,” he told Howard Stern last month. “Seriously, there are some references to the relationship in there. But it’s really references to all my relationships.” On June 10 Combs even issued a statement saying anyone who said he was dating Lopez didn’t know diddly: “Contrary to reports, Mr. Combs and Ms. Lopez are not together. However, he wishes her well during this difficult time.” Says a Combs pal: “They talk—not every day but frequently. They run in the same circles, always have. They have a lot of love between them.”

Although Lopez shrugged off the Affleck reports, friends say she was bothered by suggestions of a reunion with Combs. “The Puffy thing hurt more because she felt it might hurt Cris,” says a friend of the couple’s. “She goes out of her way not to hurt him.”

That protectiveness may explain why Lopez and Judd waited a month to reveal their split—with Lopez even gushing about the virtues of marriage to everyone from Oprah to Diane Sawyer during the publicity blitz for her recent film Enough. “They weren’t ready to talk about it,” says a source close to Lopez. “They were keeping it very private because it was not easy.”

Now renting a $16,000-a-month apartment in New York City, where she is filming the upcoming Cinderella story The Chambermaid with costar Ralph Fiennes, Lopez has been laying low, spending most of her time on the set or in the recording studio, working on her next album. Although Judd has been only an occasional visitor to the Chambermaid set, the pair were spotted there together as recently as May 30. “She was standing with Cris,” says an observer. “He had his hand around her waist. He was reaching under her arm to tickle her side.” He has also popped in at her four-bedroom Greenwich Village pad in recent weeks. “I’ve seen Cris here a lot,” says one resident. “He’s really nice.”

Last month the pair turned up in Miami Beach, where they were spotted sipping drinks at the Delano Hotel’s pool bar. Yet Lopez seemed to be without Judd during her stay at one of the hotel’s $2,000-a-night duplex bungalows. “She was relaxing and maintained a very low profile,” says a hotel employee. “Basically, she hung out in her room”—which came complete with 36 grapefruit-scented candles, per a request from Lopez’s manager. “Everything has to be perfect for her,” says the employee.

Alas, everything is not. Although a reconciliation is not out of the question, those close to Lopez say a divorce is on the horizon. Even if they did not have a prenuptial agreement, says veteran Beverly Hills attorney Sorrell Trope, who handled Nicole Kidman‘s divorce from Tom Cruise, the marriage was so brief that Judd is unlikely to get a huge settlement. Although the couple will have to divide up the property—an under-construction L.A. mansion as well as the Miami Beach villa—along with custody of their dogs, financially speaking the marriage “is meaningless,” says Trope. “They are young, and they have no kids.” In fact, the prospect of children may have sealed the relationship’s unhappy fate. “The realization hit before they had kids: ‘Is this who I want to be with?’ ” says a source close to Lopez. “Sometimes you have to make tough choices.”

And be able to bear the emotional fallout. But Lopez herself hinted last month that, when it comes to love, her approach is more c’est la vie than eternal monogamy. “You do what feels right at the time,” she told Oprah. “And I’ve always been the type of person that follows my heart and my gut. I still go with those instincts, because I feel like they’ve never steered me wrong.”

If the prospect of two divorces in less than five years hardly seems to ruffle Lopez, she is concerned about maintaining excellent relations with her soon-to-be ex. “I think she’ll be consistent with her past relationships,” says a friend of the couple’s. “I think they’re going to stay on very good terms. There’s no throw-in-the-mud type stuff.” And don’t be surprised if Lopez and Judd continue to seem more affectionate than plenty of still-married couples. “They are not gonna stop loving each other,” says a Lopez source. “A year and a half from now you’ll see them hugging.”

Michelle Tauber

Elizabeth McNeil, K.C. Baker, Bob Meadows and Natasha Stoynoff in New York City, Michael Cohen, Linda Marx, Lori Rozsa and Linda Trischitta in Miami Beach and Michael Fleeman, Elizabeth Leonard and Frank Swertlow in Los Angeles

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