'He Is the Love of Her Life': A History of Demi Lovato and Wilmer Valderrama's Special Relationship

The stars split in 2016, but have never stopped caring for each other

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In her 2017 documentary Simply Complicated, Demi Lovato opened up about the moment she laid eyes on actor Wilmer Valderrama.

"I met him on January 11, 2010," she recalled. "I thought, 'I have to have him,' but I was only 17 and he was like, 'Get away from me'," as he was more than 12 years her senior. "When I turned 18 we started dating. I think it was love at first sight, we connected on a level that I've never connected with anybody before, he was just my rock, my everything."

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The couple took a break when Lovato entered treatment for physical and emotional issues in 2010, but reunited in November of 2011. They stayed tight-lipped about one another, but in March of 2015, Lovato publicly thanked her boyfriend for being her rock.

"I wish I could put into words how grateful I am for this man right here," she wrote on Instagram. "But my love has grown to a level that words could never possibly express how much this man completes me. He's loved me the way I never thought I deserved to be loved and with this day marking my 3rd year sober After sharing my ups, putting up with my downs and supporting my recovery he still never takes credit and I want the world to know how incredible his soul is."

She concluded with, "I really wouldn't be alive today without him. I love you Wilmer."

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Weeks later, Valderrama surprised Lovato at a benefit concert, joining her onstage and singing her praises to the crowd.

"It's been a long time since we've seen a role model like her," he said.

"It's been a long time to see somebody who has the courage to be exactly who she wants to be. If you're going to take away anything from tonight, walk away with the understanding that, from today, life will get better," he continued, then leading the crowd in singing "Happy Birthday" to toast Lovato's third year of sobriety.

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Wilmer Valderrama, Demi Lovato
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In the September 2015 issue of Cosmopolitan, Lovato said the stars "relate on a lot of levels. I've seen a lot of s—. S— people don't know about. He's seen a lot of stuff too."

That bond is what kept them so connected. "People told him, 'You should probably leave. She's on a spiral, and you're going to be sucked down with it,'" she continued. "But he was like, 'I'm not leaving. This is somebody I really care about.' "

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In June 2016, the pair jointly announced their split via Instagram.

"After almost 6 loving and wonderful years together, we have decided to end our relationship."

"This was an incredibly difficult decision for both of us, but we have realized more than anything that we are better as best friends," the message continued. "We will always be supportive of one another. Thank you to everyone who has offered us kindness and support over the years. With only love, Wilmer & Demi."

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Four months after their breakup, the pop star opened up to Glamour about what contributed to their relationship's demise — and how she was moving on.

"I think it's healthy to be able to start over with someone else. Being sick was always a part of my relationship with him; I always had something wrong with me. I needed to let go of that," she explained.

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In her 2017 documentary, Lovato talked more than ever about her former flame.

"The sparks never faded but there are issues that I haven't conquered yet that I know I won't conquer if I'm relying on somebody else to take care of the loneliness. I just wasn't ready and there was so much in my life that I hadn't explored yet … That was one of the reasons why we broke up because I've never been alone," she said. "It had nothing to do with falling out of love, we decided together we just probably are better as friends."

Not that she was completely closing the door. "I do have moments where it's late at night and I'm lonely and I wonder if I made the right decision because love is a gamble. I don't know if I'll lose him for the rest of my life," she said. "I think my heart is always with Wilmer, I think it was with Wilmer, I think it is with Wilmer, I think it will be. Because you don't share six years with somebody and not give them a piece of your heart and vice versa. I'm pretty sure that I'm not going to meet anybody that compares to him."

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In June of 2017, Lovato shared a sweet photo of herself cuddled up to Valderrama. She captioned the shot: "Best of friends no matter what."

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Lovato's mom Dianna De La Garza even spoke publicly of the couple, appearing on Millennial Hollywood with Dakota T. Jones in April of 2018 and sharing her own feelings about Valderrama.

At first she was wary of the relationship. "At one time I was like, 'You know, I like you, but I'm not sure I want you to be together,' you know?" she continued before adding: "[Of] course you can't not like him…he's so likable and just a lovely human being."

But one day De La Garza "had a realization" and decided she "wanted to go and get to know him better because … I thought they were going to get married."

"We had all hung out, but I hadn't really made that effort. And once I made that effort, I really came to really truly love him as a person — and as a person that I really wanted to be in our family," she explained.

"He was just so gracious and caring, and he still is to this day. I believe he loves her, and she loves him."

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Wilmer Valderrama and Demi Lovato. Kevin Mazur/VF16/WireImage

In another interview this spring, De La Garza again spoke of Lovato and Valderrama's romance. "I do like them together, I have to be honest," she said on Access Hollywood. "I would be happy if they were together forever."

"They're amazing friends," she added. "And hopefully one day it'll be more than that and if it's not, that will be up to her I guess. But I do like them together."

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When Lovato was hospitalized following an overdose in July 2018, Valderrama visited her in the hospital.

"He knew she was going through a tough time but he wasn't prepared for this," a source told PEOPLE. "He saw her through so many ups and downs and was her rock through some of her darkest moments. To see her back in such a sad and vulnerable place is heartbreaking for him."

The insider added Valderrama "always cared deeply for her and they truly remained friends after they broke up."

"Demi always hoped they would end up back together in the future," the source continued. "He's the love of her life and vice versa."

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2016 Billboard Music Awards - Backstage And Audience
Wilmer Valderrama and Demi Lovato. Jeff Kravitz/BBMA2016/FilmMagic

Sources close to Lovato have said the same. In February, one told PEOPLE the stars were "super, super close and have a crazy love for each other. They're extremely close friends but there's always potential they could give a romantic relationship another try."

The insider added that Lovato is "very vocal about the fact that he is the love of her life. A lot of their issues had to do with their age difference, but she's matured a lot even in the past year or so. At first, it was really fun for her to be single and date around, but now she's starting to see that the grass isn't always greener."

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