As one of Hollywood’s favorite female stars, Jennifer Garner has often been cast opposite some of the handsomest leading men in show business. Offscreen, the 43-year-old West Virginian’s love interests have been equally glamorous.
Before their joint divorce announcement Tuesday, Garner co-starred with Ben Affleck in the epitome of a high-powered celebrity match. And for much of their 10-year marriage, it seemed like a perfect union.
The pair first met on the set of 2001’s Pearl Harbor and later reunited in spandex – playing superheroes in the movie Daredevil, and their chemistry was instant. When Affleck was crowned PEOPLE’s Sexiest Man Alive in 2002, Garner praised her costar: “He’s your basic tall, dark and handsome. He’s it,” she said. “You want him to save you. I can’t imagine anyone the world would rather see swoop in and save the day than Ben.”
Like Affleck – whose exes include Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Lopez – Garner was no stranger to celebrity romance. Before finding love with the Good Will Hunting Oscar winner, the actress had been married to Scott Foley, whom she met in 1998, while guest-starring in his TV series Felicity.
The pair wed on Oct. 19, 2000. “I was definitely attracted to him at first sight,” she told PEOPLE. “But I didn’t realize I was going to marry him until a while in. It grew really gradually and sweetly – it was a real courtship.”
But when Garner’s star rose with a buzzed-about role in the J.J. Abrams series Alias and big-screen success quickly followed, the relationship foundered. The pair divorced amicably in 2003. “Just because you decide it’s best not to be married doesn’t mean you hate each other,” Foley told PEOPLE that November. “Forget me in the equation. What Jennifer went through [her sudden fame] was a one-in-a-million thing. We were up against pretty insurmountable odds.”
Foley retained custody of their two dogs and moved to New York City to do theater. Garner kept their cat and stayed in Los Angeles. For a time, she dated her Alias costar Michael Vartan, but that romance did not last long. In September 2004, Garner told an Australian radio station, “I am single. I am single and boring and home on Saturday night all by myself.”
But by that summer, Garner was dating her former costumed costar Affleck. The pair wed quietly in the Turks and Caicos in June, 2005 – in a ceremony so private that even their parents and siblings did not attend. Their first child, Violet Anne, was born six months later.
While both stars balanced busy careers, Garner threw herself into parenting, raising daughters Violet, 9, and Seraphina, 6, and son Sam, 3, in L.A. In 2010, she told Parade how she and Affleck made their marriage work. “You steal the time,” she said. “You steal a date; you steal a kiss; you steal a whisper. You sit next to each other on the couch with computers on your laps. After the kids are asleep you well, you know. Whatever it is. You slip away for a night, which we’ve only just now done for the first time.”
When Affleck won his second Oscar, for Argo, Garner was there to cheer him on. Accepting the Academy Award, the actor drew some criticism for an ode to his wife that was more practical than amorous. “I want to thank you for working on our marriage for 10 Christmases,” Affleck said. “It’s good. It is work, but it’s the best kind of work, and there’s no one I’d rather work with.”
Garner, however, knew exactly what he meant. “I know Ben. I knew he meant it as the hugest, warmest compliment in the world,” she told The Telegraph. “He was saying, ‘Look, what we have is really real, and I value it above all, and I’m in it with you, and I know you are in it with me.’ ”
But with the breakup of their marriage, both Garner and Affleck will have to find a way to go it alone.