"I remember her telling me Ben is her soul mate," Garner's childhood pal tells PEOPLE

By Patrick Gomez
Updated July 02, 2015 04:05 PM
Credit: David Fisher/Rex USA

Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck may be ending their marriage, but there was once a time when they were madly in love.

“I remember her telling me Ben is her soul mate,” Garner’s childhood pal Elizabeth Cary Lantz Brown told PEOPLE of the actress in 2012.

Garner was so in love with Affleck, for whom she fell on the set of 2003’s Daredevil, that she was hoping to spread the joy around, said Brown.

“She said, if your husband is truly your soul mate, you need to [have kids together,]” Brown recalled.

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And despite any strain in the marriage, Brown emphasized that Garner, 43, and Affleck, 42, have always prioritized being good parents to their three kids: Violet, 9, Seraphina, 6, and Samuel, 3.

“They’re really great parents. They’re really involved,” Brown said. “Our conversations weren’t centered on her life as a movie star but her life as a mom. She loves her work, but it’s nothing compared to her kids.”

This desire to put their children first is echoed in the joint statement released exclusively to PEOPLE by Garner and Affleck on Tuesday, just one day after their 10-year wedding anniversary.

“After much thought and careful consideration, we have made the difficult decision to divorce,” they said in the statement. “We go forward with love and friendship for one another and a commitment to co-parenting our children whose privacy we ask to be respected during this difficult time.”