He looked like he’d been through the ringer. Wearing a plaid shirt and a frown, Ben Affleck drove from the $61 million Beverly Hills estate that, until recently, he shared with second wife Jennifer Lopez and made his way back to his $100,000-a-month rental property in L.A.’s Brentwood neighborhood on June 15. Soon after, Ben’s ex-wife, Jennifer Garner, pulled up.

But instead of requesting to be admitted through the security gate, Jen leaned out of her car, punched a few numbers into a callbox and disappeared inside. Ben’s made his choice.

“He’s given Jen the code to his house so she can come right in,” a source exclusively tells In Touch. “Other people have to be buzzed in, but not Jen. She can come and go whenever she wants.”

In recent weeks — as it’s become increasingly clear that Ben’s nearly two-year marriage to J. Lo, 54, is beyond repair — the Oscar winner has turned to his first wife for support nine years after their own marriage crumbled.

“Jen’s been wonderful. She doesn’t judge,” says the source. “Sure, Ben drives her crazy sometimes, but there’s an unbreakable bond there. Ben says Jen’s an angel and tells her she’s the only one who can save him.”

As Ben and J. Lo’s marriage descended into crisis this spring, concern mounted for the 51-year-old actor-director and recovering alcoholic.

“A lot of people in Ben’s circle are worried he’ll fall apart and relapse — Jen included,” admits the source. “That’s one of the reasons why she’s keeping close tabs on him. She’s spending time with him, being a good listener. No one wants to see Ben succumb to his old self-destructive habits.”

It helps that Ben and the mother of his children — Violet, 18, Fin, 15, and Samuel, 12 — share a deep connection based on mutual respect.

“Things are very good between them,” says the source, explaining that Ben’s made it clear Jen, 52, can “make herself at home” at his 10,000-square-foot rental, which is just a few blocks from her place. “She cooks in his kitchen and has moved a few of her things there in case she needs to stay over.”

Ben trusts Jen implicitly, adds the source, noting that the Argo director’s mother, Chris Anne Boldt, is grateful her former daughter-in-law is continuing to help her troubled son despite what the former addict put her through (the women were photographed hugging outside Samuel’s school on June 11).

Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner and Christopher Anne Boldt
Bellocqimages/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

Jen couldn’t save their marriage all those years ago, yet her love never faltered. “I didn’t marry the big fat movie star; I married him. And I would go back and remake that decision,” she famously said the year after they announced their split.

Their kids are a big reason for that. “You can’t have these three babies and so much of what we had. He’s the love of my life. What am I going to do about that?” she lamented, admitting that caring for him can also be challenging. “He’s the most brilliant person in any room, the most charismatic, the most generous. He’s just a complicated guy,” she explained. “I always say, ‘When his sun shines on you, you feel it.’ But when the sun is shining elsewhere, it’s cold. He can cast quite a shadow.”

Now J. Lo is feeling that chill. She and Ben thought they were finally getting their happily-ever-after ending when they reconciled in 2021 nearly 20 years after breaking off a romance and engagement amid the pressures, they’ve said, of media scrutiny.

“Jennifer was Ben’s dream woman,” says the source, but after the glow of their 2022 nuptials wore off, “it was drama all the time. He’s feeling down about it and is upset and depressed it didn’t work out, even though he knows ending it is the right thing to do.”

Ben’s admitted he was hesitant to take their romance public after they rekindled. Things grew challenging earlier this year when J. Lo released three projects inspired by their second chance at love — an album, This Is Me… Now; a movie, This Is Me… Now: A Love Story; and a documentary, The Greatest Love Story Never Told — in which Ben addressed his mixed feelings.

ben affleck, jennifer lopez
Gotham/GC Images

“Getting back together, I said, ‘Listen, one of the things I don’t want is a relationship on social media,'” he says in the doc. “Then I sort of realized it’s not a fair thing to ask. It’s sort of like, you’re gonna marry a boat captain and you go, ‘Well, I don’t like the water.'”

Ultimately, he explained, “We’re just two people with different kinds of approaches trying to learn to compromise.”

For now, the 13 Going on 30 star and the Batman actor are managing expectations about the nature of their relationship. “In the early years after the divorce, the kids had this fantasy of their parents getting back together, like in the movie The Parent Trap. Ben and Jen managed to coax them back to reality,” says the source. “They’d be thrilled if their parents reconciled and remarried, but they’re content with them being good friends too.”

Jen herself understands why others would want to see them reconcile. “When Jen Aniston and Brad Pitt broke up,” she told Vanity Fair years ago, “I was dying to see something that said they were getting back together.”

Still, not everyone approves of how Ben and Jen are handling things. “Some friends feel there should be more boundaries, especially with Ben so vulnerable,” explains the source, noting that so far, Ben’s been all right and staying busy with a return to acting, shooting The Accountant 2 in recent weeks. “They don’t want her ensnared in his problems again.”

Or to lose out on love herself. “She has a good life and a great boyfriend,” says the source, in CaliGroup CEO John Miller, her boyfriend of six years. “Some friends believe Jen should step back from Ben a bit because it might cause tension in her relationship with John if she doesn’t.”

Jen’s confident that John, who’s also divorced and coparenting with his ex, will understand. “She’ll always love Ben. That’s a given,” says the source. “He’s still the father of her children and she’ll do whatever’s in her power to help him through this difficult transition.”

In the past, she’s pushed back against the idea that Ben can walk all over her. In the wake of their 2015 breakup, when asked about his enormous back tattoo of a phoenix rising from the ashes, she told Vanity Fair, “I refuse to be the ashes.”

The issue, says the source, is that “Jen has a bit of a savior complex. She’ll sacrifice her own needs and time to make sure Ben’s OK.”

Post-divorce, for instance, she let him live in her guest house so he could be close to the kids — and she even drove him to rehab in 2018. “She helped him get him sober before. She feels it’s her duty to keep him that way.”

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