Britney Spears’ memoir, The Woman In Me, touches on her upbringing as a child star, her struggles with postpartum depression and her 13-year conservatorship. But few revelations from the book have garnered as much attention as those about her ex of 20-plus years, Justin Timberlake.
According to sources, Timberlake, 42, had no idea he’d be featured so prominently in the book. “Justin thought Britney might talk about their ups and downs in more general terms — not air out their very personal, dirty laundry,” says one source. “He’s disappointed she went this route decades after they split up.”
A second source insists the star — who shares sons Silas, 8, and Phineas, 3, with his wife of 11 years, actress Jessica Biel — is remorseful but doesn’t want to give the book too much weight. “Justin regrets that he hurt Britney. He was young,” says the second source. “He thinks Britney has every right to tell her story and hopes they can move on now.”
Between 1999 and 2002, Timberlake and Spears, 41, were pop music’s golden couple. Shortly after their split, Timberlake released his hit song “Cry Me a River,” painting Spears as a cheater and himself as her heartbroken victim. But Spears, who confirmed longtime rumors she’d kissed choreographer Wade Robson, claims Timberlake had stepped out on her first.
A third source supports her account, claiming that Timberlake was “a playboy” during the early 2000s and Spears only knew about “a fraction” of the times Timberlake had stepped out on her. “As they rose to fame, Justin started to want to experience life without Britney,” the source says. “[She] was so loyal to him, and it was not reciprocated later in their relationship. Britney cheating with Wade wasn’t a huge surprise because she wanted to get back at [Justin]; she had looked the other way for years.”
When Spears found herself pregnant unexpectedly, she says Timberlake told her he didn’t want to have a child. “I agreed not to have the baby,” she writes. “If it had been left up to me alone, I never would have done it. And yet Justin was so sure that he didn’t want to be a father.” (She recalls that Timberlake played his guitar while she sobbed after the procedure.)
The third source notes that the decision, while painful, made sense given Timberlake and Spears’ ages: “They were both so young. Justin wasn’t ready to be tied down.”
Although they haven’t crossed paths since 2007, Timberlake is considering reaching out to Spears personally, the second source says, “to see if she’d like to talk things out. He wants to ask if there’s anything he can do.”
He publicly apologized to the “Toxic” singer in 2021 after the airing of the Framing Britney Spears documentary, which featured footage of him post-breakup discussing their sex life while promoting his solo album, Justified.
“I understand that I fell short in these moments and in many others … I specifically want to apologize to Britney Spears and Janet Jackson both individually because I care for and respect these women and I know I failed,” he wrote. He also tweeted his support of the #FreeBritney movement, which the first source notes “meant a lot to Britney.”
More than anything, Timberlake wants to focus on the future. “Justin will always be supportive of Britney and all of her endeavors,” says a fourth source, “but he’s trying to distance himself from [the chatter around] her book. They dated so long ago, and he has a whole different life now.”
Mutual friends are hoping the memoir gives Spears the closure she needs. “Britney’s had a hard time moving on,” says the first source. In the book, she recalls being “devastated” when Timberlake broke up with her in a text while she was filming a music video, writing that she “could barely speak for months.”
She says Timberlake visited her in her hometown of Kentwood, Louisiana, and left her a framed, handwritten note, which she still has under her bed. “They’ve been out of each other’s lives for such a long time,” says the source. “Justin finds it odd that Britney still talks about him so much.”
As for Biel, she’s sympathetic to Spears but doesn’t appreciate the negative attention surrounding her husband. “Jessica feels bad for Britney,” says the second source, noting that the actress, 41, knew about Spears’ abortion prior to the headlines.
Still, says the first source, “it’s hard for her to watch Justin be trolled on social media and targeted by Britney fans. She thinks Justin’s learned from his mistakes and deserves to live in peace.”
He has plenty to distract him right now. “Justin is happy at home with Jess and his kids and focusing on new music and is in such a great place,” says a fifth source. He’s working on a new solo album and is gearing up for the premiere of Trolls 3 on November 17.
The first source says he won’t be skipping any red carpets when it’s time to promote the movie. “Justin isn’t going to lie low or avoid doing press because of Britney’s claims,” says the source. “He wants to get past the drama and focus on his work and his family. He has a lot to look forward to.”