Beyoncé and Jay-Z‘s relationship hasn’t exactly been flawless. But no matter what rumors they faced, they always convinced the public they were still crazy in love. Then, in 2014, things took a turn and their picture perfect image started to crack.
In May of that year, the duo made headlines after Solange Knowles attacked Jay-Z in an elevator while Beyoncé stood to the side. Fans started to wonder if infidelity was to blame and speculated if the two were headed for divorce.
Eventually, the Carters were faced with a choice: either continue their flawless façade or come out with the truth. So, the couple got real—really real—and started a new era in which they tore walls down instead of building them up. They shared this journey with the world.
“This is my real life,” Jay-Z said in a video for his album 4:44. “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. 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.”
Part of the healing process came through music. In 2016, Beyoncé released her sixth studio album, Lemonade. The album told the story of love, infidelity and forgiveness. Jay-Z released his own album, 4:44, the following year in which he alluded to cheating on his wife.
However, the Carters didn’t always plan on telling their truth this way. During a rare interview with The New York Times, Jay-Z said the couple used their art “almost like a therapy session” and planned on releasing an album together. But because Beyoncé’s music was “further along,” they decided to drop her album first.
Even though Jay-Z admitted it was “uncomfortable” dealing with the pain, he also said both artists were “really proud” of the other’s work.
“You know, most people walk away, and like divorce rate is like 50 percent or something ’cause most people can’t see themselves,” he told the newspaper. “The hardest thing is seeing pain on someone’s face that you caused, and then have to deal with yourself.”
They also found healing through therapy, which Jay-Z discussed candidly.
“Much like you, I have a beautiful wife who was understanding and knew that I’m not the worst of what I’ve done,” the rapper told David Letterman on My Next Guest Needs No Introduction. “We did the hard work of going to therapy, and we love each other. So, we really put in the work.”
While Jay-Z admitted he and his wife were in “a better place today,” he admitted they’re “still working and still communicating and growing.”
This hard work certainly paid off—both literally and figuratively. According to Fortune, Lemonade sold 1.52 million copies and 2.1 million album equivalents in the U.S. in 2016. The New York Times also reported 4:44 had a combination of 34 million streams and 61,000 in traditional sales—totaling 87,000 album equivalent units—by its third week out.
More importantly, Beyoncé and Jay-Z were able to move on. In fact, their love allowed them to grow their family. Just before 4:44‘s debut, the two welcomed twins, Rumi Carter and Sir Carter.
In a recent cover story for Vogue, Beyonce revealed she came from “a lineage of broken male-female relationships, abuse of power, and mistrust.”
“Only when I saw that clearly was I able to resolve those conflicts in my own relationship,” Queen B wrote in a rare piece.
She also expressed her hope that her children would not follow the same path.
“I pray that I am able to break the generational curses in my family and that my children will have less complicated lives,” she wrote.
But the Carters haven’t just aired their dirty laundry. The duo have given fans glimpses of the happy moments in their personal lives. They’ve shared everything from nearly nude photos of themselves enjoying an intimate moment to pictures of them spending quality time with their children. They’ve even hinted at the ultimate reconciliation by showing photos from what appeared to be a vow renewal ceremony.
They’ve also continued to tell their story through music. In addition to co-headlining the OTR II Tour, the duo released a joint album, Everything Is Love, in June. On this album, the two got real about a number of topics, including Grammy snubs, Spotify and the cheating scandal.
“Yeah, you f–ked up the first time, we had to get remarried,” Bey sang, adding after a rebuttal from Jay, “We keepin’ it real with these people, right? Lucky I ain’t kill you when I met that b—.”
Still, their track “APES**T,” which is up for a handful of MTV Video Music Awards, reminded fans the Carters always come out on top.
“I can’t believe we made it (This is what we made, made),” Beyoncé sings. “This is what we’re thankful for (This is what we thank, thank) I can’t believe we made it (This a different angle) / Have you ever seen the crowd goin’ apesh-t?”
Granted, Beyoncé and Jay-Z don’t share everything, and they’re still very much the gatekeepers of their personal lives. But for a couple who’s been known to give only glimpses of the good, this new era has been a big step.
Still, was this journey actually worth it?
“You have to be strong enough to go through that,” Jay-Z told CNN’s Van Jones, “because on the other side it’s beautiful—in our case.”