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‘Call It What You Want’: A Full Timeline of Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn’s Relationship

The highly private couple reportedly broke up after six years together just before Swift launched her Eras tour

A Full Timeline of Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn's Relationship

Christopher Polk/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

Love is dead. Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn’s highly private relationship has reportedly ended after six years. The pair have kept a low but loving profile throughout their relationship, a true feat for someone as globally famous as Swift. Her music, however, became a place for the award-winning singer-songwriter to offer intimate glimpses into how their relationship had developed and grown over the years. They even wrote songs together during quarantine, with Alwyn credited as “William Bowery” on her acclaimed 2020 albums Folklore and Evermore.

As heartbroken fans ponder how they’ll never walk Cornelia Street again, here’s a look back at the pair’s romance.

May 2016: Met Gala

For the most part, the origins of Swift and Alwyn’s relationship has been shrouded in a lot of mystery. Neither has spoken publicly about how they officially met or the early days of their romance, so fans have pieced the story together through Swift’s lyrics. On the Reputation song “Dress,” Swift sang “Flashback to when you met me/Your buzzcut/And my hair bleached,” which points to the 2016 Met Gala, in which they both attended sporting those exact hairstyles. At the time, Swift was still dating Calvin Harris, who did not attend the event with her. They broke up a month later and Swift was soon spotted publicly around the globe with Tom Hiddleston, who also attended the Met Gala that year (notably without a buzzcut).

September 28, 2016: Their potential anniversary

All lyrical signs point to Swift and Alwyn growing closer during summer of 2016, as her fling with Hiddleston burnt out. (News that they’d broken up came on September 6, 2016.) During this period, Swift’s public reputation suffered some blows due to an ongoing feud with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, which made her seem like the villain in their interactions over his song “Famous.” (It was later revealed that the audio of a call Swift had with West over a lyric on the song that had been leaked by Kardashian had been heavily edited.)

Songs like “Delicate,” “Cornelia Street,” and “Cruel Summer,” off Reputation and Lover, point at a dramatic and rocky beginning as the pair got to know one another and tried to make things work.

Again, the official start of their relationship has been murky but Swift never goes too long without dropping a fun hint or “Easter egg” for her fans. In April 2018, she released a cover of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September” where she changed the date in the song to “the 28th of September,” seeming to give a nod to the official start of their six-year relationship. Later, when Swift released her Lover journals, an entry from January 3, 2017 revealed that she had been in a secret relationship for three months at the time, and that they had spent most of it hiding away in London.

Fall 2016: Secret dates

Alwyn was just beginning to break into acting the same year he met Swift, so his secret dates and appearance at events with Swift that year, including the Met Gala, never made anyone’s radar. That fall, she attended the premiere of his film debut Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk with her friends and mom. Fans later pieced together that they had attended the same Kings of Leon show as well.

May 2017: First reports emerge about their relationship

A year after they had allegedly first met and nine months after they made it official, the tabloids finally got wind of their ongoing romance. Swift had been reportedly seen wearing wigs and disguises around London during this time.

June 2017: First public sighting

Paps finally caught the pair on a date in Nashville. It was the first time they had been photographed together.

October 2017: Swift confirms new song “Gorgeous” is about Alwyn

Soon after her relationship was made public, Swift shifted gears to focus on the release of her sixth studio album Reputation. The album promotional cycle featured no press for Swift, which was unusual at that time for her. Lead single “Look What You Made Me Do” also seemed to indicate a lyrical focus on the Kimye feud as well as a series of alleged squad betrayals. Later, however, it would be clear that the majority of album’s tracks were love songs, primarily about a blossoming, hidden relationship in the midst of career and public image turmoil.

Though she wasn’t doing interviews, Swift still hosted “secret sessions” for fans to hear the album early. At one of them, she revealed to the attendees that the song “Gorgeous” was about “her angel boyfriend of one year.” In the lyrics, Swift details the feeling of pining for someone she can’t have just yet, while referencing her old boyfriend who is “in the club doing I don’t know what.”

December 2017: First public display of affection

Swift and Alwyn continued to maintain a low profile, even with a whole album of songs seemingly dedicated to their romance making waves. At Capital FM’s Jingle Bell Ball that winter, Stefflon Don caught them cuddling and singing along to Swift’s friend Ed Sheeran. Don also posted video of her partying in the audience with them to social media. Other fans tweeted about seeing them kissing and slow dancing during Sheeran’s set as well.

May 2018: Matching Instagram posts

The couple never played the game of making it “Instagram official” but posing with the same large cactus and sharing their solo shots was good enough for fans looking for confirmation. In an interview later that year, Alwyn admitted that the matching cactus photos were unplanned.

Fall 2018: Alwyn’s press tour

As Swift was wrapping up her Reputation tour, Alwyn started promoting the four feature films he appeared in, including The Favourite. During interviews with British Vogue and GQ, among other publications, the actor made it clear that he would rather discuss work than his personal life. Though he further confirmed that they had been together for a couple years, he remained mum on the details of their love story.

Meanwhile, Swift did post on Instagram in support of The Favourite, tagging the film, Alwyn and his co-star Nicholas Hoult.

Spring 2019: Engagement rumors

Swift and Alwyn began loosening up on their public appearances as the Reputation era died down. More paparazzi and fan shots caught them on strolls and dates around the globe. They even attended awards show after parties together that season. While filming Cats in London, rumors began to swirl that the two were thinking about marriage, though an engagement would never be confirmed by the pair.

August 2019: Lover is released

Everything about Swift’s seventh album indicated a focus on long-term romance. The lyrics were straightforward in addressing her relationship with Alwyn, offering a close look into their private lives together. Songs like “Paper Rings,” “London Boy” and “Daylight” saw Swift celebrating their love without holding back. During interviews for the album rollout, however, Swift made it clear that talking about Alwyn was off limits.  “I’ve learned that if I do, people think it’s up for discussion, and our relationship isn’t up for discussion,” she told The Guardian. “If you and I were having a glass of wine right now, we’d be talking about it — but it’s just that it goes out into the world. That’s where the boundary is, and that’s where my life has become manageable. I really want to keep it feeling manageable.”

January 2020: Miss Americana released

Swift opened about her life in the Netflix documentary Miss Americana, which offers some glimpses of her and Alwyn at home and backstage at her shows. She points out in the documentary that she had found someone with a “wonderfully normal, balanced life” who made her happy. In one scene, she serenades him with her song “Call It What You Want” as she records her playing for him.

After the world locked down due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Alwyn began posting about their time at home together on social media. Specifically, he shared images of Swift’s cats being adorable on his Instagram story.

Swift surprise released her eighth album that summer with less than a day’s notice. Fans began to speculate if the lyrics of single “Cardigan” were about Alwyn before they even heard the songs, due to an early merch drop on her official store. After it came out, it was clear that the focus of the album was largely other characters, like the fictional “teenage love triangle” that “Cardigan” focused on, and Rebekah Harkness, who had owned Swift’s Rhode Island home at one point. Still, songs like “Invisible String” and “Peace” would point to their fated and private love (Swift would confirm in a Rolling Stone interview with Paul McCartney a few months later that the latter was in fact about their relationship.)

November 2020: Identity of William Bowery is revealed

For months, listeners speculated on who mystery writer “William Bowery” was. The name appeared in the credits for Folklore, on songs “Exile” and “Betty” specifically. In the Disney+ film The Long Pond Sessions, Swift confirmed that Bowery was in fact Alwyn. He had been toying around on the piano and singing songs around their house that would appear on the songs and Swift requested the they work on them together. Alwyn would take home an Album of the Year Grammy alongside Swift for his contributions to the album.

December 2020: Evermore and more engagement rumors

Swift dropped another album that year, which featured more co-writing from “Bowery.” Swift spoke less about Evermore publicly, but many of the lyrics were focused on marriage stories, like the tracks “Ivy” and “Coney Island.” Around this time, engagement rumors revved up again, but Swift shut them down by referring to Alwyn as her boyfriend in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.

Fall 2022: Midnights

For the next couple years, Alwyn and Swift’s relationship continued to dance the line of extremely private and slightly public, as they continued to be spotted more frequently between their homes in the U.S. and U.K. as well as vacations. They still committed to their choice of not speaking about the relationship in depth, with Alwyn dodging questions about Swift while promoting Hulu’s Conversations With Friends in early 2022.

Once again, Swift’s songs provide the clearest window into her life with her then-partner, though even after two re-records she was still assessing some past heartaches. Midnights focused on “13 sleepless nights” throughout her life, so while most of the songs were not about Alwyn, she confirmed at least one was. On TikTok, she noted that opener “Lavender Haze” was inspired by a scene in Mad Men where the phrase was used to describe being in love. Swift added how the two have had to dodge “weird rumors” and “tabloid stuff,” which they have ignored to maintain the haze.

Listeners have also pointed to how “Mastermind” hits at how Swift may have long plotted to finally win her “Gorgeous” crush back in 2016.

March 2023: Swift kicks off Eras Tour

Swift’s highly anticipated tour began in March, and many noted that they had yet to spot Alwyn at any of the shows. Of course, it would not be unusual for Alwyn to possibly be in attendance but not visible to the thousands trying to find him in the crowd.

April 8, 2023: Swift and Alwyn reportedly end their six-year relationship

Entertainment Tonight broke the news in April that the couple had quietly called it quits after six years together, and nearly seven after they may have first met. According to ET, they split a few weeks prior to the news breaking as Swift had begun her tour. Fans later pointed out that Swift had recently swapped out love song “Invisible String” for break-up song “The 1” during the Folklore portion of the show. Others claimed that it looked like she was crying while singing “Champagne Problems,” about a bride who can’t commit, while at the piano during one of the shows.

A couple days later, sources in People claimed that the break up came after several rocky periods in their relationship and that their differences were becoming more apparent and harder to ignore. Plus, the notoriously private Alwyn reportedly could no longer handle the attention.

From Rolling Stone US