Real-life Bennifers find happy endings after years apart




Jennifer Lopez arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Feb. 24, 2019, left, and Ben Affleck appears at the premiere of "Justice League" in Los Angeles on Nov. 13, 2017. The A-listers rekindled their romance 17 years after they broke up in 2004. (AP Photo)

NEW YORK (AP) — They’re smooching on a yacht off Saint-Tropez. They’re cuddling on a walk in the Hamptons. They’re nuzzling over sushi at dinner in Malibu.

If PDA were an Olympic sport, Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck would be champs. But there’s something more that’s driving interest in Bennifer: the storybook nature of long-lost love requited.

The A-listers rekindled their romance 17 years after they broke up in 2004. It’s a familiar road to countless couples who came together years after coming apart.

The two stars spoke of intense tabloid pressure as a factor in calling off their engagement way back when, with Lopez telling People in 2016: “I think different time, different thing, who knows what could’ve happened? But there was a genuine love there.”

While the tabloids aren’t an issue for regular folk who have rekindled, the genuine love part is universal no matter what got in the way the first time around.

“She never left my thoughts. There was something about her, something about her soul, her spirit, that I felt like I was just drawn to even as I got older,” said 43-year-old Matt Escobar Sr. of his wife, Jessica.

The Merced, California, couple — he a youth center program director and she a nurse — met in eighth-grade math class after Escobar was sent to live with an uncle just outside Seattle to escape his troubled youth in New York.

They had their first kiss on a walk in the woods that year, but Escobar’s wayward behavior continued, including arrests for robbery and assault. He was expelled and sent back East, where he landed in a detention facility.

More trouble followed, including a stint on the streets, and the two lost contact for 15 years before Escobar tracked her down on Classmates.com in 2006. In between, there were marriages, children, moves and jobs, but Jessica also never forgot.

Her longtime best friend “would always say nobody could ever measure up to Matt. Even though he was troubled, you know, he was always very, very respectful and just very funny and very warm and very kind and not like what people might picture in their head about a kid who got into trouble,” she said.

They married in 2013 and have six children between them.

“It was such a blessing to have her back in my life again after all the hard stuff I had gone through,” Escobar said.

Meg Calkins, a 56-year-old college professor in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Steve Badger, a lawyer of the same age, became close friends in Indianapolis in fifth grade. They remained in the friend zone through high school but became college sweethearts junior year, just briefly.