Reports of a relationship between Goulding and Sheeran began in 2013 when the pair were spotted holding hands at the MTV Video Music Awards.
At the time, Goulding appeared to dismiss the speculation, while Sheeran commented to US radio: “I mean, normal people don’t hold hands if they’re just friends.”
“Don’t” was released in 2014. In the track, Sheeran attacks an unnamed woman for supposedly misleading him about the nature of their relationship, and for sleeping with someone else.
Lyrics include the lines: “And I never saw him as a threat/ Until you disappeared with him to have sex, of course/ It’s not like we were both on tour/ We were staying on the same f***ing hotel floor.”
In interviews, Sheeran made a number of hints that appeared to confirm or allude to the rumours that Goulding was the subject of “Don’t”. He later admitted that “everyone f***ing knows” who it was about.
Speaking to The Guardian about her forthcoming album, Brightest Blue, the pop singer discussed how she developed a reputation for promiscuity that Sheeran’s song exacerbated.
“I think on top of not having a dad, I needed protection. And so that protection came in the form of men, of partners,” Goulding said of her personal life.
“'Who’s Ellie Goulding dating now?’ would be more interesting to people than how many records I sold, or a song going to No 1, or my tours,” she said.
“It was out of control; I didn’t feel I could just come out and say: ‘Well, you don’t take me seriously enough.’ It just spiralled.”
Goulding is now married to art dealer Caspar Jopling, while Sheeran is married to his longtime childhood friend, Cherry Seaborn.
Goulding’s new album is out on 17 July.