In addition to being a creative tour de force, Beyoncé’s new visual album, Lemonade is notable for essentially being an extended narrative about her husband Jay Z cheating on her. The album begins with vague references to “whispers,” but things become very clear very soon. Very clear as in Beyoncé asks “Are you cheating on me?” in an interlude before the second song.
As two of the most famous people in the world, Jay Z and Beyoncé have been the subject of more rumors than any sane person can keep track of. Over the past few years, however, many of these rumors have focused on the supposedly precarious state of their relationship. Lemonade makes it clear that there was some truth to the gossip, but Beyoncé is playing the game on her terms here. If you want to figure out which rumors were true and which were bullshit, you’ll have to (try to) do so on your own.
Or we can try and do it together. Here, I’ve pieced together, as best I could, a timeline of the couple’s relationship, the periods when infidelity allegations started to surface, and the apparent many, many times the couple almost divorced.
2002: The pair start dating after collaborating on “‘03 Bonnie & Clyde” for Jay Z’s The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse.
2005: Rumors swirl that Jay Z and Rihanna are hooking up. In late 2015, biographer J. Randy Taraborrelli claims that the rumors were faked in order to drum up Rihanna’s popularity. Still, Taraborrelli says that the couple split up during that time because Beyoncé wasn’t sure to think of the rumors.
September 2006: Beyoncé releases her second solo album, B’Day, which includes two songs about cheating: “Ring the Alarm,” which was supposedly about Rihanna, and “Resentment.”
August 2006: Beyoncé’s father and then-manager Matthew Knowles releases a statement denying that “Ring the Alarm” is about Rihanna.
April 2008: Jay Z and Beyoncé are married in a private ceremony.
January 2012: Beyoncé gives birth to their first child, Blue Ivy Carter.
January 2013: The first rumblings about an affair between Jay Z and new Roc Nation artist Rita Ora begin to emerge.
February 2013: Beyoncé’s documentary Life Is But a Dream is released on HBO. While things never get too deep, she does discuss her marriage and includes footage of them looking very much in love.
She also announces the Mrs. Carter World Tour, which began in April.
April 2013: The couple celebrates their fifth wedding anniversary in Cuba with their mothers.
June 2013: Jay Z teases the lyrics to his new single “Holy Grail” which includes a reference to a woman cheating on him. The obvious speculation is that that woman is Beyoncé.
Keep cheating on me /What I do / I took her back / Fool me twice / That’s my bad / I can’t even blame her for that
August 2013: Model and rapper Liv claims that Jay Z hit on her and asked for her number, but that she turned him down out of respect for Beyoncé. Liv goes on to not show much respect for Beyoncé by continuing to run her mouth about Jay Z being a cheater.
November 2013: There are multiple reports of Jay Z partying with a Belgian beauty queen named Claudia Scheelen after sending her a bottle of Ace of Spades champagne. Soon after the story breaks, Scheelen takes to Twitter to deny that anything inappropriate happened between them.
Rumors abound that the couple’s marriage is close to divorce, with Jay Z spending too much time away from the family and leaving Beyoncé to feel like a single mother. Sources say they are considering a trial separation.
December 13, 2013: Beyoncé releases her surprise self-titled album. It includes a number of references to Jay Z, love, their marriage and sex. The couple spends New Year’s Eve together in Miami.
January 2014: Beyoncé and Jay Z attend the Grammy’s together and perform “Drunk In Love.”
April 2014: Rita Ora appears on The Breakfast Club and slams rumors of a Jay Z affair. She tells the hosts not to disrespect Beyoncé by bringing up the rumors.
May 12, 2014: TMZ releases footage of Solange Knowles attacking brother-in-law Jay Z in a elevator while Beyoncé looks on. “Elevatorgate” stays in the news for weeks while the world speculates about what exactly went down. Most of the rumors center around Jay Z’s supposed flirtation (or affair) with Rachel Roy, the ex-wife of his ex-business partner and best friend, Dame Dash.
May 13, 2014: One day later Jay Z and Solange are spotted together shopping for jewelry. Beyoncé posts a picture on Instagram wearing a sweater with Aaliyah’s face on it—perhaps a jab at Rachel Roy, whose ex-husband Dame Dash dated the late singer.
May 15, 2014: Two days after that, Beyoncé, Jay Z and Solange release a cryptic statement saying that they’ve put the incident behind them.
May 18, 2014: Jay Z and Beyoncé release the trailer for their upcoming On the Run Tour which is scheduled to begin on June 25th.
May 19, 2014: Beyoncé posts a series of family photos on her website of Jay Z, Solange, Tina Knowles and Solange’s then-boyfriend Alan Ferguson, presumably to let the world know that they’re still one happy family.
June 2014: The summer of divorce rumors begins. Throughout the tour, rumors fly that the couple is fighting backstage and are headed for divorce. There are reports that Jay Z cheated with reality TV “star” Casey Cohen, which Cohen swiftly denies.
July 2014: The story of their marriage trouble picks up steam, with some saying that the relationship is merely a business arrangement—a story pushed by a blind item that pretty clearly refers to them. The rumors are bolstered when Beyoncé performs “Resentment” and changes the lyrics “Been ridin’ with you for six years” to say “12 years”—the length of her relationship with Jay Z. She is reportedly seen shopping for apartments. People guess they will split up after the tour is over.
August 2014: Beyoncé releases the remix for “Flawless” on August 3rd, which includes a line about the elevator fight. On August 5th, Jay Z’s would-be mistress Liv releases a song, “Sorry Mrs. Carter,” directed at Beyoncé.
At this point, the couple is reportedly “pulling out all the stops” to save their marriage.” Beyoncé visits a money manager, which creates speculation she’s getting her finances in order before the divorce. Tina Knowles is spotted by TMZ and denies any rumors of a breakup between the couple, saying that “everything’s perfect.” Matthew Knowles and others suggests that the rumors are being carefully managed to increase ticket sales for the tour.
On August 24, Beyoncé receives the Vanguard Award at the MTV Video Music Awards and performs a medley of her hits. Jay Z presents her with the award and in her acceptance speech, she thanks him, gushing: “My beloved, I love you.”
However, there are reports that the couple was seen fighting backstage during the show.
October 2014: The couple seems to be fine and are spotted around Paris and at Jay Z’s Made In America festival in September.
November 2014: Beyoncé releases “Ring Off,” which seems to be an ode to her mother and her divorce, with lyrics like “And then you had enough and you took that ring off.” Some also read this as a reference to Jay Z.
February 2015: Beyoncé is spotted yelling at Jay Z over dinner at an LA sushi restaurant. They later attend the Grammys together.
March 2015: The couple is again seen arguing in public.
May 2015: Rumors of a separation bubble up again. They attend the 2015 Met Gala one year after the infamous elevator fight.
September 2015: The couple is spotted looking very lovey and kissing in Italy. If you believe a body language expert, however, the shows of affection are being faked and divorce is again nigh. Beyoncé posts a picture on Instagram posing with a lemon.
February 2016: The couple is again headed for divorce (apparently) because of Jay Z’s cheating. They have reportedly finalized a post-nup in the event of their imminent divorce. In what’s reported as an attempt to save the marriage, Jay Z plans a series of romantic gestures, including sending her 10,000 roses before her Super Bowl performance.
March 2016: The couple is reportedly sleeping in separate bedrooms.
April 23, 2016: Beyoncé releases her sixth album, Lemonade, with songs that purport to reveal Jay Z’s infidelity and their ultimate reconciliation. One of Jay Z’s apparent side chicks, Rachel Roy, continues to be messy even though nobody even mentioned her name in the first place.
Image via Getty.