With the news of their shocking split released late Sunday, all eyes have turned to
John Cena and Nikki Bella's relationship timeline to try to make sense of this breakup. The Total Divas pair was set to tie the knot at the beginning of next month, but Cena and Bella announced their split on April 15, just weeks before the May 5 ceremony, which according to People had been planned to take place in Mexico.
With such a last-minute cancellation, many are understandably blindsided by the news. After all, it wasn't just the wedding that was called off, but the WWE couple's entire relationship, as
Bella revealed in an Instagram photo which appears to be text screenshotted from the iPhone's Notes app. "After much contemplation and 6 years of being together. Nikki Bella and John Cena announced today their decision to separate as a couple," she wrote in the brief post. After that explanatory sentence written in the third-person, she added what seems to be a more direct statement from the pair themselves: "While this decision was a difficult one, we continue to have a great deal of love and respect for one another. We ask that you respect our privacy during this time in our lives."
It's a jarringly brief way for this couple to end six years together, and the brevity of the statement and
abruptness of the announcement has fans reeling, wondering if there were signs they'd missed. Ultimately, no one can know exactly what went wrong, except for Cena and Bella themselves, but their relationship timeline does give a few hints that marriage might be a loaded issue for these two. Take a look.
2009-2012: John Cena's First Marriage
2012: Bella & Cena Started Dating
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
September 2013: Bella Meets The Family
The new couple took the next step into their relationship when
Cena introduced Bella to his family during the mid-season finale of Total Divas. The 34-year-old more than held her own with the rowdy Cena family, and it apparently made the wrestler comfortable enough to advance the relationship.
November 2013: The Move-In
Just a year after they started dating, the WWE couple was set to move in together. But even though the relationship was moving quickly, Cena still felt burned by his previous relationship, and was maintaining very strong boundaries. As he revealed in an episode of
Total Divas that was quoted by Maxim, the 40-year-old made his girlfriend sign a contract just to move in. And not a short one, either. "I had to have [Nikki] sign an agreement to live in the house," he told the outlet. "And that's-it wasn't a one-page, it's a 75-page agreement."
He revealed that the decision was based not on Bella's behavior, but on how things ended with his previous wife, and wanting to protect the family members he supports.
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
He'd already expressed similar opinions on
Total Divas, but in a 2016 interview with Rolling Stone, Cena took an even harder line on marriage, saying he'd never be comfortable walking down the aisle again, let alone in having kids. He said, "Look, I know I cannot handle raising a child ... Just because everyone else is happy with children doesn't mean that's how I have to live. I've been upfront about this. I just have things I need to get done. It's not negotiable. We've been to therapy over it. I don't think it will ever be over with. I'm stubborn as f*ck and extremely selfish as well. I don't want kids, I don't want marriage. That's me just saying, 'Hey, this is my life and this is how I'm going to live.'"
In Season 5, Episode 2 of
Total Divas, however, Cena suddenly reversed himself. He'd clearly been giving Bella's wants and needs a lot of thought, and at the couple's three-year anniversary dinner, he revealed that he'd come around on the idea of marriage and would "love" to marry his longtime girlfriend.
Late 2017: Dragging Their Feet
Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Early 2018: Hints Of Trouble
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Previews for the upcoming season of
Total Divas showed Bella tearfully asking if the wedding was off, and it left fans with questions as well. And in a February 2018 appearance on TODAY, Cena acknowledged that the couple was having issues, but said things were still on track, telling Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford: "I think in relationships, you have highs and lows, and that was an extreme low. You have two choices. You either jump ship and start a new relationship, or move forward and try to work through it. We're gonna move forward and try to work through it... I believe we both have some work to do, and we're genuinely trying our best to work through it, so I'm very happy to say that it's in a situation that we're working through. We haven't yet jumped ship."
It's that "yet" word that would come back to haunt them.
Less than three weeks out from their planned wedding, the
former couple announced their separation via short but heartfelt social media posts. Bella's asked for understanding and privacy in her Instagram post, and Cena's April 16 tweet didn't even directly reference the breakup, but instead shared a thought with his 11.3 million followers about the ways that hardships build perseverance.
For as devastating as it is that this couple isn't going to work out, it's better that they made this discovery before they got married rather than after. And since they so far seem to be treating each other with respect and compassion, fans should take a page out of the same book and grant them the privacy and understanding they've asked for.