One Direction alum Liam Payne and X Factor U.K. judge and popstar Cheryl Cole have announced their separation. The pair, who dated for two-and-a-half years share a one-year-old son, Bear.

“Cheryl and I are sad to announce that we are going our separate ways,” Payne, 24, posted to his Twitter followers. “It’s been a tough decision for us to make. We still have so much love for each other as a family. Bear is our world and we ask that you respect his privacy as we navigate our way through this together.”

Cole, 35, posted a very similar sentiment on her Twitter account. The couple owe the origins of their relationship to X Factor U.K. In 2008, Payne auditioned as a solo artist in front of judge Cole. He was placed in a band with four other solo acts who later went on to become the biggest boy band export to come out of the U.K., One Direction. It’s a little strange to watch back his audition knowing in eight years, he and Cole would be an item and parents together.

It wasn’t until 2008 that the couple officially hooked up. When Bear arrived a year later, Payne spoke openly about his relationship. “[Cheryl] is a wonderful, wonderful person and it’s amazing to have someone who can relate to so much of things — someone who’s taken greater steps than me,” he told Rollercoaster magazine. “She’s been my dream girl since I was younger. She’s so ace.”

Both Payne and Cole had been forced to defend the status of their relationship just last month at the 2018 BROT Awards when rumours were swirling that they were putting on a loved-up display when in fact a split was imminent. At the time Payne told reporters, “the funniest thing was a week before we were getting married. The next week we’re splitting up,” he said. “And the thing for me is, I just like to think we’re somewhere in the middle. You know, we have our struggles — like of course I’m not gonna sit here and say that everything’s absolutely fine and dandy, because of course you go through different things, and that’s what a relationship is. But we go through them together as a family and that’s the most important thing for me.”

thoughts?