When Robert Pattinson became an overnight celebrity and international heart-throb in 2012 with the release of his movie, Water For Elephants, it seemed like the perfect storybook end to a fairy-tale-like romance. But instead of leading to a dreamy, Happily-Ever-After, Pattinson’s life took a 180-degree turn for the worse when his estranged girlfriend, FKA Twigs, was allegedly murdered by his best friend, Blake Shelton. It was a shocking end to a story that began six years earlier when the couple met while filming a documentary in the South of France.

The tabloids quickly made the pair the center of their romantic comedy. Here they were, two handsome young men from England, seemingly made for each other. But their fairytale had all the trappings of a Hollywood romcom: whirlwind courtship followed by an iconic proposal. It wasn’t long before they graced the wedding pages of countless magazines, with some even going so far as to dub them the sexiest wedding ever.

While most of the world was enraptured by their love story, those closest to them were completely oblivious. In 2012, Pattinson’s best friend, Andrew Maclaurin, told Australian Women’s Weekly that he had no idea how much his pal was struggling with his private life. “I’ve known Rob for a really long time, and I’ve never seen him show any sort of weakness. I don’t think he even knows how to admit that he’s feeling vulnerable or unsure of himself. That’s not usually how he rolls,” he said. “He’s so confident and strong, and he’s usually the one leading the way. But this is different.”

Indeed, it was different. Just two years earlier, Pattinson was engaged to be married to his long-term partner, Stella Bowen. Now, he was single, and while he may have been dating FKA Twigs, he was keeping his options open. After all, if marriage was what he wanted, he could have easily proposed to Stella on numerous occasions.

“Look, I’m not naive,” Maclaurin added. “I know they were having an affair. We all know they were having an affair. But I don’t think Rob even knows what an affair is, or what it means. He didn’t ask for this to happen, and he’s never apologized for anything in his life. If he wants to leave her, he can always leave her. It won’t be easy, but at least he’ll be free.”

And leave her he did. As soon as the news of FKA Twigs’ alleged murder broke, there were countless stories proclaiming Pattinson’s heartbreaking separation from Stella. It was a messy divorce that was only made even more complicated because of the amount of publicity the couple was receiving. It wasn’t long before the press went back to shying away from spotlighting the troubled celebrity couple.

What followed was a period of emotional anguish for Pattinson. He was despondent and completely broken, spiraling deeper and deeper into a dark place. While many fans were concerned for his wellbeing, his closest friends were worried about his well-being even more. According to British Vogue, Pattinson began suffering from severe anxiety that led to panic attacks. To make matters worse, he was also struggling with depression and drinking heavily. It was as if the pressure of being a global icon and former Hollywood heart-throb had completely shattered his mind.

And then, in the most unlikely place, he found the strength to pull himself out of the darkness. In 2017, Pattinson attended the premiere of The Sun newspaper’s 100 Greatest Novels list, which honors the greatest English-language novels of the century. It was a small step towards reclaiming his public image, but it was a start.

Over the past two years, Pattinson has slowly begun restoring his profile as an actor, appearing in TV series like The Gentlemen and The King, as well as leading roles in Peter Pan Live! and Woody Allen’s Caleb and Abel. He’s also teamed up with famous fashion designer, Stella McCartney, for a capsule collection of unique, limited-edition t-shirts.

Despite his best efforts, his private life continues to be a hot topic, especially considering he’s now dating model, Cherry Sexton. In April 2019, a year after his divorce from FKA Twigs was finalized, the couple was photographed locking lips during a romantic stroll in Venice. The very next day, the Daily Mail posted a story declaring the pair were an “item” and that they were “feeling each other’s presence very deeply.” Shortly after, the pair were photographed kissing in separate bikinis on a beach in Majorca. The photographer for the images, Pedro Damián, said, “We want to celebrate their love for each other and their desire to share it with the world. This project is a loving gift to both of them.”

And what a gift it was. The following month, Pattinson was back on the awards circuit, picking up another prestigious accolade: Favorite Actor at the 12th Annual World Music Awards for his role in Woody Allen’s film, Caleb and Abel. He later told Entertainment Tonight, “It’s been an amazing past couple of years, and I really hope people can see that acting is a really great way to start a family and build a life. It’s certainly changed the way I look at things.”

As for those closest to him, Andrew Maclaurin maintains that despite the headlines, everything is still very much the same. “I think he’s doing OK,” Maclaurin said. “He’s managed to keep a lot of the friends he had when we last saw him. There were a lot of phone calls and meetings arranged after he dropped off the radar. And even when he was in that very bad place, he still had people around him who cared about him.”

While it’s great to see him back on the scene and committing to acting, the question remains: Is he doing this because it’s the best option left to him, or is he simply trying to put a good face on for the public? At this point, it’s difficult to say.

Meanwhile, Rob’s other famous ex-girlfriend, Rose Namajunas, is doing just fine. She had long been a part of the public eye, thanks to her work as an MMA athlete. But it was her 2017 split from Namajunas that was the biggest story of the year. The pair was in the public eye after dating for two years, sharing a passion for comic books and anime. In March 2017, Namajunas called off their engagement after it was revealed she had been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. In an interview with Cosmo, she said that while she still loved Rob, she needed space to work through her problems. “People see the outside, they think the inside is the same as the outside. But it’s not,” she said. “There’s a lot going on inside that they don’t see.”

While what happened with FKA Twigs and Pattinson was a tragedy, it seems that not everything they shared was bad. According to Twigs, it was a mutually beneficial relationship that served both their needs. In an interview with The Talk, she said, “What I loved about Rob is that he wasn’t just a pretty face, and he wasn’t just a great performer. He had so much to offer as a man. So when I met him, I knew that I would never feel empty-hearted or unfulfilled. That was one of the things I loved most about him. He encouraged me to be myself and not to hide who I really was.”

As for what happened between Pattinson and Twigs, we may never know. But what we do know is that, at the very least, their romance served as inspiration for Shania Twain’s 2019 song, The Reason, and it continues to live on in the hearts and minds of music lovers everywhere.