After two-and-a-half years of marriage and seven years together as a couple, Jennifer Aniston and Justin Theroux announced Thursday that they recently separated.

“In an effort to reduce any further speculation, we have decided to announce our separation,” the pair said in a statement from the actress’ publicist to the Associated Press. “This decision was mutual and lovingly made at the end of last year. We are two best friends who have decided to part ways as a couple, but look forward to continuing our cherished friendship.”

The statement continued, “Normally we would do this privately, but given that the gossip industry cannot resist an opportunity to speculate and invent, we wanted to convey the truth directly. Whatever else is printed about us that is not directly from us, is someone else’s fictional narrative. Above all, we are determined to maintain the deep respect and love that we have for one another.”

The news likely comes as something of a surprise to fans, although there was some speculation about the couple when Theroux was seen in NY on Friday without Aniston. It turned out that she was across the country, helping Ellen DeGeneres celebrate her birthday in Hollywood on Saturday before joining friends (including Courteney Cox) in Malibu to ring in her own 49th birthday.

The two did celebrate New Year’s together, though — which is apparently around the time that they split — so it looks like they mean it when they say that they “look forward to continuing [their] cherished friendship.” We wish them all the best.

(photo via Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)