After dealing with the speculation for nearly a decade, the "Lights" singer shut down the gossip in December by responding to a TikTok comment about the allegations with a simple declaration that it was all "False!!!!"
So, what led Goulding to address the matter after staying largely tight-lipped on the subject?
"I think I was really drunk when I wrote that, yeah," she told the Mail on Sunday's You Magazine in an interview published Feb. 19. "It's fascinating how many people are interested in that. It happened nine years ago."
Goulding, 36, and Sheeran, 32, sparked romance rumors after they were photographed holding hands at the 2013 MTV VMAs in New York. The "Love Me Like You Do" artist insisted on Twitter that they were just friends, but the "Shape of You" singer suggested in a radio interview weeks later that this wasn't the case.
The drama continued after Sheeran released his song "Don't" in 2014, which sparked rumors that Goulding allegedly cheated on Sheeran with Horan, whom she was also reportedly spotted out with in 2013. (Sheeran never confirmed who the song was about).
As You Magazine notes, Goulding maintains she never dated Sheeran but defends his right to draw inspiration for his songs as he chooses. Still, that doesn't mean dealing with the rumors has been easy.
"You know, completely honestly, it caused me a huge amount of… stress is not the word," she explained. "It caused me a lot of trauma, actually."
After all, not everyone has their life so publicly scrutinized. "How old were we, 23?" Goulding continued. "I envy the fact that my friends just spent their 20s having flings and one-night stands and what every 20-something goes through in private. But every single thing I did was written about. I was made to feel like a terrible person and I really struggled with that because I know I'm not."
In fact, this kind of intense attention reportedly led her to take a five-year hiatus between releasing her 2015 album Delirium and her 2020 album Brightest Blue—a move she said hurt her career.
"I can laugh about it now but it changed things for me," she added to the outlet. "I became kind of reclusive. I didn't want to perform. That's why I wrote that comment, because every day I get comments about this stupid teenage situation. It was nothing and it was private—and it caused me such a huge amount of grief and I resent it."
Besides, Goulding said she and Sheeran have talked about it. "Of course!" she replied when asked if they've discussed everything. "It is in the past and we're friends. We're adults."
Goulding had previously discussed the rumors involving Horan, who hasn't publicly addressed the speculation, and Sheeran in a 2015 interview with ELLE U.K. "I did go on a few dates with Niall but I was never in a relationship with Ed," she shared at the time. "I have absolutely no idea where that came from and why it was turned into such a big thing."