In early January 2017, photos of Selena Gomez and The Weeknd making out in Santa Monica flooded the internet. Now, almost a year later, Gomez appears to have a new boyfriend (her old boyfriend), a new kidney, and is getting caught by the paparazzi on a brand new romance bender. The more things seem to change, the more you’re still dating Justin Bieber.
Of course, Jelena’s off-again, on-again relationship has always been a whirlwind—you can’t spell young love without rehab, Brazilian brothels, and an “egg-tossing” incident that resulted in a misdemeanor vandalism charge. For Selena and Justin, the course of true love has been marred by DUIs, cheating scandals, and that time Justin peed into a restaurant mop bucket while cursing out Bill Clinton.
But before the Biebs was a man who has been formally banned from performing in China, he was just a boy with an angelic voice and some controversial views on abortion.
Justin and Selena met in 2009—they were 16 and 18, respectively. The unfathomably famous teens went on a date to an IHOP in Philadelphia, and the rest is history. The pop star and Disney Channel alum made their red carpet debut and rented out the Staples Center to watch Titanic. Then, in 2012, Jelena broke up. In April 2013, they were back on, but by November of 2014, Justin had—wait for it—unfollowed Selena on Instagram.
The next few years were a mixed bag for Justin, both personally and professionally. His January 2014 DUI arrest eventually led to a petition, which requested that the troubled pop star be deported from the United States to his native Canada. Although the petition gained more than 270,000 signatures, the Obama administration ultimately did not comment on the proposal. Justin was just one maple syrup-based prank away from actually giving Canada a bad name. But then, like a phoenix rising from the ashes of a hotboxed private jet, Justin slowly but surely made a comeback the only way he knows how: by teaming up with Skrillex and Diplo and making some not-horrible EDM pop music.
In February 2015, Bieber dropped “Where Are Ü Now,” a single so good it’s worth teaching yourself how to do an umlaut for. The song, which is all about an absent ex, even featured Selena’s name in the music video. In the video for “What Do You Mean?”, Justin’s next single, “Selena” can be spotted on a graffiti wall. “What Do You Mean?” quickly became JB’s first No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 single, successfully ushering in the Purpose era. The new and improved Justin Bieber released banger after banger; he was so proud of his pop resurrection that he even teared up a bit.
Unfortunately, Justin’s return to form didn’t appear to impress Selena much.
In an October 2015 interview SG, who’s no stranger to top 40 success herself, told Refinery29, “There’s closure in a very good, healthy way. We’ve seen each other. I’m always encouraging and I am proud of his journey.” Reflecting further on Jelena, she added, “I think people are making it out to be something that is more tragic than it really was. We grew up together. We both made mistakes. That’s it.” Justin seemed entirely less over it, telling Billboard in November 2015 that, “When you love someone that much, even if something comes between you, it’s a love that never really dies.” He ramped up his seduction that holiday season, serenading Selena with “My Girl” at a hotel bar and posting pictures from their pubescent coupledom on his social media feeds.
Still, the sincerity of Justin Bieber’s various romantic declarations—and throwback Instagrams dedicated to Selena—has been routinely undermined by a revolving door of alleged and confirmed girlfriends. The summer of 2016 was a particularly busy one for the Biebs. While the rest of the world was conveniently distracted by Orlando Bloom’s paddle-boarding penis, Bieber managed to date and dump three separate blonde celebrity spawns. It was a hard summer for brunettes, a terrifying time for Lionel Richie, and doubtlessly a confusing season for Selena Gomez, who had to watch as her ex flaunted a series of interchangeable heiresses on his social media.
As the queen of closure, Selena should have let Justin’s antics play out in Bora Bora while she focused on her career. But for whatever reason, she had to get involved at the last second. When Bieber seemed to finally settle down for a moment, sharing pictures of the 17-year-old Sofia Richie on his Instagram, his fan base of 17-year-old girls were predictably irate. The Beliebers cyberbullied the couple, which led to the pop singer issuing a stern directive to “stop the hate.” And that’s when Selena decided to log on and give her two cents. Selena, who also happens to be the most followed person on Instagram, commented “If you can’t handle the hate then stop posting pictures of your girlfriend lol—it should be special between you two only.” The comment feud quickly devolved into Selena calling Justin out for cheating “multiple times,” with JB allegedly responding, “I cheated.. oh I forgot about You and Zayn?”
But Selena Gomez wasn’t going to stop living her life just because Justin Bieber fished a balled-up receipt out of the pockets of his Vetements sweatpants. The drama between Jelena—and any hope of a reunion—was quickly forgotten when Selena and The Weeknd made their couple debut. Naturally, the Biebs wasn’t too pleased with the rebound, telling TMZ, “Hell no I can’t listen to a Weeknd song. That shit’s wack.” Biebs was joined in the lonely hearts club by The Weeknd’s very recent ex-girlfriend, model/narc Bella Hadid. Hadid famously unfollowed Selena on Instagram once she and The Weeknd went public, and seemed resolved to only run into her ex when she was wearing lingerie.
Luckily for Bieber, God and/or Hillsong Church officials had a different plan for Selena Gomez.
In September, the pop star revealed that she had undergone a kidney transplant over the summer, a result of her ongoing struggle with lupus. Also last summer, Justin once again fell off the employment wagon, canceling the remainder of his Purpose tour quite possibly in order to “rededicate his life to Christ.” JB is a passionate congregant of Hillsong Church, a trendy Pentecostal outfit that’s adored by hipsters and celebrities. Justin and Selena reportedly rekindled their friendship in the wake of these major life events; Selena’s major surgery, and Justin’s decision to spend more time praying and/or dirt biking.
While the Biebs’ increased piety couldn’t stop him from immediately hitting a photographer with his truck, his commitment to Hillsong apparently deepened his relationship with his ex. Last Sunday, Selena and Justin were spotted attending church together. And on Monday, in an announcement that just can’t be unrelated, Selena and The Weeknd publicly ended their 10-month relationship. An “insider” swore to People that Jelena were not back together, explaining that she and The Weeknd blamed the breakup on grueling schedules that had allowed them to grow emotionally distant. “It’s been hard for them to come to the realization that this is the direction things were heading, but it’s been hard for months,” the insider concluded. Next, Selena and Justin were spotted biking together and sipping on iced coffees. Meaningful eye contact was made and heads were rested on shoulders. On Wednesday night, Selena went to Justin’s hockey game to cheer him on, and even left the arena wearing his hockey jersey (technically, they left together).
According to a very eager People source, “It seems their relationship now is very different. Justin is certainly a much better person. He would be a better boyfriend, too.”
Justin Bieber using his religious reformation to win back Selena Gomez wouldn’t be the weirdest or the worst thing that’s happened this year. Godspeed, Jelena!