One day, Tim McGraw tipped his hat at Faith Hill and that was it.
Well, there's a little more to the story than that, but the end result has been the same—the country stars celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary last fall and, on the verge of releasing their first-ever duets album together, appear closer than ever.
"It's an accomplishment," McGraw acknowledged their milestone anniversary to Us Weekly in October. "In our business, it's really probably like 80 years. You know, it's like I look at it as dog years!"
Yet it hardly feels like a coincidence that they fell for each other while Hill was opening for McGraw's Spontaneous Combustion Tour. Kaboom, indeed.
But like all great country songs, theirs was a love story with a twist.
Namely, McGraw was recently broken up with fiancée Kristine Donahue and the once-divorced Hill was engaged to record producer Scott Hendricks at the time—but she was refreshingly unapologetic when she reflected on breaking up with Hendricks to be with McGraw. All's fair in love and more love, after all.
"If someone is going to judge my character because I was engaged to somebody and then I left him for somebody else—'Oh, okay, now she's a slut and a bad person'—I can't control that," the "This Kiss" singer told People in 2000, describing her previous relationship as "not a rock-solid situation."
"But I wasn't about to let Tim slip through my hands. And I had more self-worth and self-respect to not."
She most certainly wasn't. Rather, they were married by October 1996 and in January 1997 Hill was sporting a baby bump under her baby doll dress at the American Music Awards.
Daughter Gracie Katherine arrived in May 1997 (and at 20 is now embarking on her own singing career), to be followed by sisters Maggie Elizabeth in August 1998 and Audrey Caroline in December 2001.
In 2000, with daughters in tow, they embarked on their first smash-hit co-headlining Soul2Soul Tour, a choice that was both financially and romantically sound, the couple preferring not to be apart for more than a few days. They're currently in the middle of their Soul2Soul The World tour, a sign that they're no more fond of being apart now than they were then, and their video for "Speak to a Girl," off the upcoming new album, is out today.
You can make all the arguments you want about the benefits about space and absence making the heart grow fonder for the celebrity couples whose jobs force them to spend gobs of time in separate time zones, but you can't quibble with the ones who favor the opposite arrangement. Especially the ones who've been together as long as Tim and Faith, who famously try to not go longer than three days apart.
Because hot' n' heavy is pretty standard in the honeymoon phase, let alone the falling-in-love-on-the-road phase (they once deemed their tour bus the "Love Bus," for good reason). It's 20 years down the road when you start to wonder just how they've really managed to make it work for so long and still want to spend every night together.
We know it hasn't always been easy.
"She was tired of me after two [years], but I was very persistent," McGraw joked to the ladies of The View in 2015.
Really, though, it can be tiresome being married to a sex symbol who's also a platinum-selling artist, the object of millions of fans' desire and constantly in demand for endorsements and other projects aside from the music at hand.
At least that applies to both of them in this case.
"I've had an affair with my makeup artist, a female; an affair with my hairstylist; my marriage is on the rocks; Maggie is not Tim's child," Hill ticked off the rumors all the way back in 1998. "The naysayers. I don't need their approval. I have too much going on. If that's their entertainment, fine."
Alas, not much has changed over the years as to how people choose to entertain themselves—it's just all online now. Moreover, wanting to spend so much time together was also sometimes read as: No one else is going to spend time with you if I'm not around too.
The rumors went into overdrive in 2013 on the heels of the release of McGraw's album Two Lanes of Freedom—which was getting extra attention as his first album with Big Machine Records after spending 20 years with Curb Records. New chapter, more headlines, more chances to gossip, the usual.
"We've been married 17 years, and since the first week we were married those things were out," McGraw told People that November. "We don't even think about it. The only time we ever think about it is [when we] worry about the kids. But they've been around it, too, so they laugh it off."
Hill denied that they were splitting up, adding, "[Rumors] seem to be running like crazy right now for some reason. It's perplexing. I don't know why 'happy' can't be a story."
But split rumors are going to plague every famous couple, after two years (or months), let alone 20. What Hill and McGraw really have going for each other—in addition to their still-fierce attraction ("I'm with my beautiful wife. She looks hot," he bragged on Instagram before the 2016 ACM Awards)—is mutual respect, shared values, trust and endless, through-good-times-and-bad support.
Hill raved about her husband in 2000, "Tim has given me confidence and strength and my foundation. He makes me feel like I can conquer the world." And she was still feeling it in May, when for McGraw's 50th birthday she wrote, "This world is a better place because of you."
No small praise recently, either, when McGraw told E! News in February, "I'm lucky to have her. She's the light of our whole family's life. She keeps everything going for us. We all strive to be like my wife, everybody in our family. If your wife holds the example for everybody in your family, that's a good thing."
And the "Something Like That" singer hasn't forgotten what his wife has done for him over the years.
"Oh yeah, I would have partied too hard," said Tim, who estimated he quit drinking for good in early 2008. "I might have caught myself somewhere along the way and put the brakes on. I don't know if I would have gone [to rehab]; I don't think I could have been talked into that during those times [before they met]...Faith saved my life in a lot of ways—from myself more than anything. I can go down a dark road sometimes, when you're not feeling good about yourself, and she pulls me out. My wife makes me a better man."
And any man worth his salt takes a gift like that and never lets go. "Happy" can be a story after all.
The couple are on their Soul2Soul The World Tour through October.
And if they've already passed through your town, you can catch 'em up close today in the new video for "Speak to a Girl," premiering on Vevo.