How Beyoncé and Jay-Z's Love Only Grew Stronger With Time

After 15 years of marriage, three kids, 56 Grammys and a few scandals spun into artistic gold, the house that Beyoncé and Jay-Z built is standing tall.

By Natalie Finn Apr 04, 2023 11:00 AMTags
Watch: Beyonce & Jay-Z Channel The Proud Family in New Halloween Pic

It's been 15 years since Beyoncé and Jay-Z craftily rolled up the partition between their private and public lives and told each other "I do" in front of an intimate audience of 40.

We won't lie and claim it feels as if their April 4, 2008, nuptials happened only yesterday because, to be quite honest, way too much has occurred between these two since then. Aside from which, they're parents of Blue Ivy Carter, 11, and 5-year-old twins Rumi and Sir. They're Mr. and Mrs. More Grammys Than Anyone Else. They're the most out-there-but-also-super-guarded celebrity couple we have.

So it feels more as if Bey and Jay have always been together—inevitable before they met and meant to be forever after.

Sure, there was that time when it seemed as if the empire might crumble, that perhaps the lemons were too sour to salvage. But while some scandals loom large for couples—often because their marriages end up crumbling under the strain—what these two weathered only strengthened their entire foundation. 

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From the beginning of their much-chronicled relationship, Beyoncé and Jay-Z were notable because they didn't give away too much—or anything at all—about their relationship. They couldn't help the presence of photographers who would eagerly greet them at events or follow them around on date nights, but their lips were sealed.

They first crossed paths when Beyoncé's father and manager Matthew Knowles arranged for the 18-year-old to appear on the 2000 track "I Got That" by Amil, who was on Jay-Z's Roc-A-Fella Records. They actually shared their first magazine cover (along with 10 other people) in 2001, posing for Vanity Fair's music issue. They weren't even on the same side of the fold.

Jay told VF in 2013 that he and his future wife "were just beginning to try to date each other" when the cover was shot.

Though Beyoncé, 41, has spent pretty much the entirety of her adult life devoted to the now 53-year-old rapper and business mogul born Shawn Carter, she had a non-famous longtime boyfriend she unsurprisingly grew apart from as Destiny's Child took off. And during her short window of singlehood she managed to be linked to everyone from Kobe Bryant to Mos Def to Nas, though she didn't actually date any of them. 

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

In October 2001, Destiny's Child and Jay-Z both played the post-9/11 Concert for New York City benefit at Madison Square Garden, and that's reportedly where they finally had a real, face-to-face conversation for the first time. He asked for her number and they spent a few months talking on the phone.

"He's nice," Beyoncé said, according to J. Randy Taraborrelli's 2015 biography Becoming Beyoncé, "but I don't know...I'm not feelin' him." Apparently it was mom Tina Knowles who encouraged her to at least give him a chance—one date and see what happens.

Jay brought a lengthier romantic history to the table, having reportedly dated the likes of Aaliyah and Rosario Dawson. But supposedly he was down for the count when he met Beyoncé.

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"There was no rush—no one expected me to run off and get married," Bey recalled to Seventeen in 2008. "I really don't believe that you will love the same thing when you're 20 as you do at 30. So that was my rule: Before the age of 25, I would never get married. I feel like you have to get to know yourself, know what you want, spend some time by yourself, and be proud of who you are before you can share that with someone else."

In 2002 they joined forces on "03 Bonnie and Clyde" (a precursor to their "On the Run" theme), which ended up on Jay's The Blueprint 2: The Gift and the Curse and Bey's debut solo album, Dangerously in Love, and Jay was on her tracks "Crazy in Love" and "That's How You Like It."

Jay told VF in 2005 that he first recruited Bey for "03 Bonnie and Clyde" "because I wanted a singer on the song, and I knew one who was exceptional." He said matter-of-factly that their collaboration was mutually beneficial. "We exchanged audiences," he said. "Her records are huge Top 40 records, and she helped 'Bonnie and Clyde' go to number one. What I gave her was a street credibility, a different edge."

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Parkwood Entertainment

Also a harbinger of things to come, both were effusive about how much they respected each other but had played coy about the extent of their involvement.

"I am trying to date, but there's no one special," Bey said in July 2002, according to Zack O'Malley Greenburg's Jay-Z biography Empire State of Mind. "The crazy thing is everyone tries to hook me up with somebody. I'm scared and I didn't want to go out with anybody for a long time."

Asked if they were dating in real life, Jay told Playboy in 2003, "She's beautiful. Who wouldn't wish she was their girlfriend? Maybe one day."

Meanwhile, they were photographed in the South of France, bringing toys to kids in need on Christmas, sitting courtside watching the Knicks, at the Vanity Fair Oscar party: They were an extraordinarily compelling yet simultaneously low-key couple from day one.

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They finally made their red carpet debut at the 2004 MTV Video Music Awards (seven years before Bey would memorably reveal her baby bump at the VMAs), confirming one of the lesser-kept secrets in Hollywood.

It really wasn't until 2005, speaking to Vanity Fair, that Bey talked much about her feelings for Jay. 

Asked if she was as head over heels as she seemed in the "Crazy in Love" video with the rapper, she said, "Yes, it was very real. And when we did that video, everybody [looking at her] was like, 'Who is that?' Because for the first time I danced all the way. I let go."

Beyoncé emphasized that their relationship was more than a mutually beneficial business partnership. "We give each other advice, but we respect each other's business, and we don't really get involved with that," she said. "When I'm not working, I don't want to talk about business. I don't want to think about it. I want to turn my phone off."

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At the time she was working on her 2006 album B'Day, which featured "Irreplaceable" and would tease the ultra-independent, nobody-will-ever-hold-me-down side of Beyoncé who would have her formal coming-out party on 2008's I Am... Sasha Fierce

All the while, there was speculation on any given day that Bey and Jay were engaged, secretly married or possibly expecting.

At the end of the day, "there's no way I can know every person in the world, and people just know you from what they read," Beyoncé told Vanity Fair. "When people meet me, they say they think I'm so normal...If someone says I'm married or engaged and I'm not, I don't pay attention to it. But when someone says something about my family, I don't like that."

In 2007, Jay-Z evaded all girlfriend questions during a Rolling Stone interview, only saying, "It's difficult enough to have a relationship with your relatives in­volved. To have millions of people involved—that's messed up!"

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When they did finally decide to get married, they kept their New York nuptials as private as possible. They didn't sell the pictures to a magazine. In fact, it would be about five years before Beyoncé decided to start sharing photos and videos from that night.

"What Jay and I have is real," she told Essence in 2009. "It's not about interviews or getting the right photo op. It's real." They opted for matching "IV" (4) tattoos on their fingers instead of wedding rings because "people put too much emphasis on that. It's just material, and it's just silly to me."

About the common problem that afflicts so many busy couples, the newlywed told Marie Claire, "We try to sync our calendars. I started working on my tour a year ago just to make sure that I had time at home. But you know, that's part of it. Any other woman who has to go to work and pick up the kids and make dinner—that's way harder than what I have to do. At least I can say I'm taking two weeks off and really take two weeks off."

Her first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage, which Beyoncé later called "the saddest thing I've ever been through." But they tried again and daughter Blue Ivy Carter was born on Jan. 7, 2012.

Becoming a mom only seemed to put Beyoncé more in touch with herself as an artist—and a woman with needs and desires. Her self-titled 2013 album not only made marriage sound as hot as any courtship, with the singer detailing more explicitly than ever what sort of activities helped keep the romance alive, but her unannounced surprise drop on Dec. 13 started a whole new industry trend.

But though the love and partnership on display was real, it turned out that life wasn't entirely a dream for either of them.

On 2013's "Mine," Bey sang, "Been having conversations about breakups and separations / I'm not feeling like myself since the baby / Are we gonna even make it?"

She was also asserting herself more in the political arena, speaking up about issues plaguing her fellow women aside from flaky, commitment-phobic, deadbeat men. In the 2013 HBO documentary Beyoncé: Life Is But a Dream, she says, "I truly believe that women should be financially independent from their men. And let's face it, money gives men the power to run the show. It gives men the power to define value. They define what's sexy. And men define what's feminine. It's ridiculous."

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Yet she and Jay-Z kicked off 2014 with a bang, opening the Grammys together in January with a sultry, swoon-worthy performance of "Drunk in Love," the question of whether Beyoncé meant to have wet hair or not the only lingering mystery.

So wasn't it shocking when, in the early morning hours of May 5, 2014, the thing in the elevator happened after the Met Gala

TMZ posted the security footage showing an apparent altercation between Jay-Z and his sister-in-law Solange Knowles while Bey stood by on May 12—two days after Bey and Jay had attended a Brooklyn Nets' home game at Barclays Center looking as if they didn't have a care in the world. And just hours after the story broke, throwing the Beyhive into a right frenzy, there they were again sitting courtside.

They remained silent at first.

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"As a result of the public release of the elevator security footage from Monday, May 5th, there has been a great deal of speculation about what triggered the unfortunate incident," Beyoncé, Jay-Z and Solange said in a joint statement released three days after the video went viral.

"But the most important thing is that our family has worked through it. Jay and Solange each assume their share of responsibility for what has occurred. They both acknowledge their role in this private matter that has played out in the public. They both have apologized to each other and we have moved forward as a united family."

It seemed unbelievable in the moment that whatever ailed them could've been cured so quickly, but they've left no breadcrumbs to the contrary. The whole Carter family was at Solange's wedding that November when she married Alan Ferguson, blood proving thicker than gossip.

"We had one disagreement ever. Before and after, we've been cool," Jay said of Solange in 2017 on the Rap Radar podcast. "She's like my sister. I will protect her. That's my sister, not my sister-in-law. My sister. Period." 

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Not to mention, Bey and Jay embarked on their 19-date On the Run Tour barely a month after the elevator incident.

However, one night on their $100 million-grossing odyssey resides in the collective memory.

Performing in Cincinnati, Ohio, on June 28, Beyoncé altered the lyrics to her 2006 song "Resentment." She changed "I'll always remember feeling like I was no good / Like I couldn't do it for you like your mistress could" to "I'll always remember feeling like I was no good / Like I couldn't do it for you like that wack bitch could." And then, she tweaked "I know she was attractive, but I was here first / Been ridin' with you for six years / Why did I deserve to be treated this way by you, you?" to "been ridin' with you for 12 years."

She capped it off with "I gotta look at her in her eyes and see she's had half of me / She ain't even half of me. That bitch will never be."


But whenever the rumors that the couple were on the verge of splitting up got a little too heated, Beyoncé would throw water on the fire by posting new family photos on her website, which became the go-to, must-check-every-day destination for updates on the lives of Bey, Jay and Blue.

In May 2015, a year after the Incident, Beyoncé attended the Met Gala in strategically sheer Givenchy, showing up late enough to make the splashiest entrance and command all the attention. Jay-Z was by her side. 

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February 2016 was "Formation" month, with Beyoncé stealing the Super Bowl 50 Halftime Show right out from under Coldplay. She announced plans for her Formation World Tour, and 2016 was shaping up to be a very good year.

But the shocking events of 2014 would come rushing back in a flood of intimate artistry in April 2016 when Beyoncé released Lemonade, first in short film form on HBO featuring a fever dream of symbolic imagery, fellow luminaries like Serena Williams, and an emotional tale of betrayal, sorrow, revenge and forgiveness.

But though the zeitgeist-consuming Lemonade set the whole vicious cycle in motion again of wondering how much longer Jay-Z and Beyoncé could last as a couple, anyone waiting for the other shoe to drop would continue to wait in vain. 

Every lyric on every track, from "Pray You Catch Me" to "Hold Up" to "Sand Castles," was analyzed for clues, and the consensus was that Jay-Z had cheated and she almost left him but ultimately chose to stay after a hell of a reckoning. And obviously there would be no follow-up interviews to clarify or further confirm whatever the album seemed to convey.


But there was no time for Beyoncé to rest on her complacency-rattling laurels. Her Formation World Tour started four days after Lemonade came out. It ran through that October and grossed more than $250 million, according to Billboard Boxscore.

And while Jay-Z's absence at the 2016 Met Gala, which Beyoncé attended solo, did not go unnoticed, he remained a reliably visible presence while she was on tour.

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Not long after her tour wrapped, it turned out that Beyoncé had another covert op in the works.

"We would like to share our love and happiness. We have been blessed two times over. We are incredibly grateful that our family will be growing by two, and we thank you for your well wishes. - The Carters"

So read Beyoncé's announcement that she was pregnant with twins, posted on Feb. 1, 2017. It no longer mattered in the slightest what had come before, because it is no exaggeration to say that her fans—and those who write about, make jokes about or otherwise pay attention to the life and times of Beyoncé—were overjoyed. Coming off of that long, bruising election season and tired of wondering if Bey's marriage was on the rocks, here was, finally, some unequivocally great news.

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Not long after the birth of daughter Rumi and son Sir Carter on June 13, 2017, our understanding of the Carter universe expanded exponentially.

"I just ran into this place and we built this big, beautiful mansion of a relationship that wasn't totally built on the 100 percent truth and it starts cracking," Jay-Z recalled in his "Footnotes for the Story of O.J." video that followed his confessional album 4:44, which dropped two weeks after the twins were born. "Things start happening that the public can see. Then we had to get to a point of 'OK, tear this down and let's start from the beginning.' It's the hardest thing I've ever done."

On the album's title track he raps, "Look, I apologize / Often womanize / Took for my child to be born to see through a woman's eyes / Took for these natural twins to believe in miracles."

Furthermore, he rapped on "Kill Jay-Z" (also bringing the hyphen back to his name after years of going without it), "You egged Solange on / Knowin' all along /All you had to say you was wrong." He further chided himself, "But you gotta do better, boy, you owe it to Blue / You had no father, you had the armor / But you got a daughter, gotta get softer."


Jay told the New York Times that he and his wife didn't sit down and expressly decide, OK, we're going to share our problems with the world in these two albums.

"It happened—we were using our art almost like a therapy session. And we started making music together," he said. "And then the music she was making at that time was further along. So her album came out as opposed to the joint album that we were working on. Um, we still have a lot of that music. And this is what it became. There was never a point where it was like, 'I'm making this album.' I was right there the entire time."

And yes, it was a painful process.

But, Jay-Z added, "the best place in the, you know, hurricane is like in the middle of it."

So that by the time their respective albums came out, it was more as if he and his wife were in the eye of the hurricane while the storm swirled around them.

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Parkwood Entertainment

"You know, most people walk away, and like divorce rate is like 50 percent or something 'cause most people can't see themselves," Jay said. "The hardest thing is seeing pain on someone's face that you caused, and then have to deal with yourself."

But instead of walking away, they've walked back toward each other every time.

And when thousands of fans packed arenas around the world in 2018 to witness the couple's On the Run II Tour, they witnessed a wife, husband, Lemonade, 4:44, all their issues, all the drama, the sheer force of their indomitable connection—all there, right on the stage.

Ever seen a crowd goin' apes--t?

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

And when she was accepting her history-making 32nd Grammy in February, making her the winningest person in history, Beyoncé thanked her "beautiful husband" (with whom she's tied for the all-time record for an individual at 88 Grammy nominations apiece) and their kids watching at home.

Because to every era an end, but the Carter renaissance continues.

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