It all comes out in the wash, indeed.
When Miranda Lambert headed over to Good Morning America's New York studio to promote the latest Pistol Annies album on Nov. 2, 2018, she figured it would be a pretty routine promotional appearance: Sound check, hair and makeup, perform with bandmates Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley, leave.
And all of that did happen. But Lambert also met a cute cop who was on security detail that day, thanks to a little impromptu matchmaking within her inner circle.
"My girlfriends, the Annies, saw him and knew I might be ready to hang out with someone," Lambert told the New York Times a year later of how she and husband Brendan McLoughlin first got together. "They invited him to our show behind my back. They plucked him for me. My security guy Tom, he was in on it too. He said to me, 'He's here. And he's pretty.'"
Lambert added, "Now the Pistol Annies have three husbands, two ex-husbands, three children, a stepson and 23 animals. We've done a lot in nine years!"
"It's like some kinda Hallmark movie or something," the singer, who's turning 40 on Nov. 10, told CBS News last year. "Like, this redneck from Texas meets this, like, beautiful NYPD officer on the street in New York. But it actually happened that way."
And of course she didn't have designs on settling down so soon when she met McLoughlin, another round of relationship drama barely behind her at the time. But it didn't take long for the country music superstar to determine that he was the guy for her.
"When I turned 30, I started to take life in a new direction and really start to understand myself a little better," Lambert reflected to People last year. "And going through hard things obviously makes you get to know yourself better. When you get broken down pretty good, you look at the mirror and you go, 'I have to spend some time with me, learn who I am and what I want.' I got to a really good place with myself. Then I met my husband."
They married in Davidson County, Tenn., on Jan. 26, 2019, keeping their honeymoon period to themselves until Lambert revealed on Feb. 16 ("in honor of Valentine's Day," she wrote) that she'd gotten hitched, her Instagram announcement introducing the "love of my life" to the world just as they were photographed together out and about in New York. (Lambert was sporting a diamond on that finger, so there would have been questions.)
At some point between "I'm Miranda" and "I do," the three-time Grammy winner made her mother's famous meatloaf recipe for McLoughlin, "the one everyone brings a man home to mom for or calls and asks how to make when things are getting serious," she told Fox News Digital in April when she released her cookbook, Ya'll Eat Yet? Welcome to the Pretty B*tchin' Kitchen. "We joke that it's the meal that gets the ring, and it's worked for many of us."
But aside from sharing the occasional savory detail, Lambert has played their courtship cards close to the vest after having lived so much of her romantic life in the public eye—sometimes on purpose, as when she wove her heartbreak or hard-fought life experience into song, but other times not so much.
Lambert didn't shy away from the conclusion that her 2016 album The Weight of These Wings was heavily inspired by the end of her four-year marriage to Blake Shelton, but as she told the Washington Post when the lead single "Vice" came out, the raw emotion in the music was "not something new for me as an artist."
She continued, "I've done that in every record I've ever made. But I got a little bit more time, a little bit more reflection and a little more honesty on this one. Because I had a time in my life that wasn't my favorite. And I'm not afraid to share it."
Still, reflecting on that period years later, she admitted she "wasn't prepared" for the attention paid to her divorce, telling CBS News, "Well, I don't think anybody is. And it's not nice sometimes, but I think you got to take it with a grain of salt and know that I'm a singer-songwriter so luckily I can tell my whole truth."
Lambert does prefer to keep certain things to herself, however, which makes for a careful balancing act when it comes to sharing the highs and lows of life with her 4.8 million Instagram followers.
"I don't want all my posts to be about promoting something," she told Hits Daily Double in 2018, just months before she met McLoughlin. "I do want to let people in on my regular life, too; I'm just not very good at it. It makes me nervous, 'cause I'm private. I want to have some mystery, and I want people I'm fans of to have mystery, too."
Ironically, the COVID-19 pandemic allowed for more private time with her husband than either could have anticipated. Lambert shared on SiriusXM's The Storme Warren Show in 2021 that they used that break from her normally hectic schedule to "really, really, really get to know each other" after their whirlwind engagement.
And by the fall of 2020, McLoughlin looked like he'd been working the land all his life, with or without a shirt.
"Make hay while the sun shines y'all!" Lambert captioned some shots of her honey among the hay bales. "Thanks @t_man_photo and Jerry for gettin the pony's all fed for the winter
She and McLoughlin, who retired from the police force in 2020, continue to split their time between Nashville and New York, where his young son from a previous relationship lives.
"I want to be open about how happy we are," Lambert told People last year, reflecting on her spouse immersing himself in her world. "I just don't give two s--ts about people's opinion of me, my marriage, my music or anything else. I just care that I'm being me. He jumped right into this lifestyle—there's a learning curve taking a New Yorker straight to the woods—but it was a big laugh."
Speaking of learning curves, she cracked to the NY Times in 2019 that she didn't quite know her way around the Big Apple yet but was "great at calling an Uber," adding, "I got lost one day, walked to the West Side Highway, and my Apple Watch said I'd walked 13 miles."
Presumably she's figured the city out since. But if not, at least she's getting in her steps.
McLoughlin's own Instagram goes only as far back as October 2020—"#CityGoesCountry," he captioned a photo of himself (fully clothed) on a horse—and he often uses the space to shout out his wife and share snaps from their adventures together, such as a St. Patrick's Day-timed trip to Ireland last year and traversing Arches National Park in Moab, Utah. (And sometimes he does shirtless pushups and hits record.)
"It's always an honor to be called your husband," he wrote on Lambert's 39th birthday last Nov. 10. "You're the most beautiful person inside and out. You have the biggest heart and show it everyday through your love for others and animals. Can't wait to celebrate many more. Just wanted to say happy birthday and I love you."
Lambert also shares glimpses of their life together, her fall snaps including McLoughlin in "his happy place," making homemade pasta at home, and their dogs taking over the couch. Their summer included a lakefront idyll and a rather magical-looking excursion to Switzerland, Austria and Germany (where Oktoberfest starts early).
And, naturally, her fourth-anniversary post in January maintained a certain running theme.
Explaining why she relished slipping shirtless snaps of McLoughlin into her tribute to holy matrimony, Lambert said she was simply doing the world a service.
"I believe that my job, given my [musical] gift, is take songs to the people," she told Fox News Digital at Clive Davis' Pre-Grammy Gala in February, "so if you're given this gift you should take that to the people."
"This is Brendan's second Grammys," Lambert noted of their fancy 2023 date weekend. But with the 2021 Grammys being held outside, she continued, "the one he came to before two years ago was still a little bit weird. So this will be the first normal Grammys that he's been to with me."
Though she was nominated for four awards, the Palomino artist said she wasn't performing, "so this is our night to sit back and watch the show."
Asked what the key to being each other's forever-seatmate was, McLoughlin said, "If you can actually just sit on the couch and discuss what's on your mind and what's in your heart, makes everything so much easier."
But Lambert wouldn't want to sit with just anybody.
"It's nice to have a partner in that, someone by your side that supports you, loves you and believes in you," she told People. "He loves me for me. It's a really cool thing to have in my life."
Keep reading to see Miranda Lambert and Brendan McLoughlin's romance in photos:
(Originally published Sept. 27, 2023, at 5 a.m. PT)