You can't be the flavor of the month every month.
And so Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton—who started dating in such a public fashion and seemed so in love that skeptics assumed the whole thing had to be fake—toned it down.
That might have naturally happened anyway, as the press tours for their respective albums came to an end and they had performed their duet "Go Ahead and Break My Heart" everywhere possible. But these two seemingly made a concerted effort to take their theretofore very public relationship off the radar for awhile.
So deep, deep undercover that it also seemed entirely possible that they had broken up.
Which, happily for the romantics out there, they did not.
Instead they were just taking a nice, long break from being the couple everyone was talking about—before regrouping to do that whole ooey-gooey romantic thing again on the holiday special You Make It Feel Like Christmas, in honor of Gwen's album of the same name.
They also let slip some photographic evidence that they spent Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's together; they went to the Super Bowl; and, while they couldn't be with each other on Valentine's Day, Shelton sent her a massive flower arrangement. They reunited soon after and Stefani just shared pics from son Apollo's Scooby Doo-themed 4th birthday party, featuring Blake in a wig.
OK, so it's not as if they've been hiding, but when you think about how every. week. it. was. something. in 2016 with those two, it was a relatively uneventful build to their (how time flies) two-year anniversary this past fall.
Think of all the people who thought this would be a rebound, the relationship coming so soon on the heels of the end of Gwen's 13-year marriage to Gavin Rossdale and Blake's divorce from Miranda Lambert.
Shelton's Doing It to Country Songs Tour taking up the first half of 2017 when they weren't busy with The Voice, and then Stefani not doing The Voice's 13th season last fall helped remind people that they did, indeed, still lead separate lives. Nor were they in a rush to get engaged or have babies, or whatever else they were rumored to be in a rush to do.
In October Adam Levine indicated they were still going strong, telling Howard Stern that Blake and Gwen were, not only the real deal, but positively nauseating in private.
"They're so in love it's disgusting," Levine cracked. "It's so funny. They found each other at really interesting times in their lives. It's really beautiful."
"Because it's in the public eye, a lot of people want to have their own bulls--t opinions about it, but I'm, like, there," he acknowledged. "I see it every day. I have a pretty unique perspective on it, and it's real, man." That being said, "I'm so affectionate and gross with my wife—[bit] this is a whole other level of…vomit."
The (media) break also allowed for a little bit of mystery to develop—where are they? how are they doing? is everything fine?!—until it was time to get back out there for some publicity— Gwen, for her Christmas special, and Blake for The Voice...and because he was the surprise choice for People's Sexiest Man Alive in November.
"I feel bad for her," Shelton said on Ellen, referring to his girlfriend. "She has been in the spotlight as the symbol of beauty and now this...It's going to be humbling for her, but I think she's got a big enough heart that she can do it. Beauty comes from within."
When Stefani sat down with Ellen DeGeneres in December, she gave People's pick an enthusiastic endorsement, and says she was the one who encouraged him to accept the honor. (The sexy nominee apparently gets a say!)
"For me, it's just that big ol' heart and that sense of humor," she gushed. "He doesn't even take himself seriously and he's just such an incredible person. And that's sexy to me."
Not to mention, she told E! News, "How rad is my life right now? Like, how good does that make me look?!"
"You've turned into a proper farm girl now, you really have," Chelsea Handler told Stefani on her Netflix show last fall.
"My nature growing up was Orange County, the beach, that was our nature," Stefani mused. "That was it, you know. And that was beautiful, incredible. But to be able to experience middle of America and the gorgeous Oklahoma—it is very beautiful there...I actually wrote a Christmas song while I was there."
"What a coincidence," Handler cracked.
"I love going there because I feel like it's so... I get to do nothing, and I never get that here in L.A.," Stefani said. Asked if it was a bit of a culture shock the first time she went, Gwen quipped, "Blake is a culture shock."
And he's someone she doesn't mind being off the grid with.
After ringing in the New Year in Oklahoma with Blake, Gwen took almost all of January and most of February off of Instagram (her page, if not her story) before tripling down on pics of her on stage with Shelton in St. Louis, where he had touched down with his Country Music Freaks Tour.
So he's going to be touring in March (he's in Houston tonight, Dallas tomorrow) before the current season of The Voice moves into live shows, and then heading back out on the road in July. Which, naturally, will be when Stefani's kids are on summer vacation, making for easier joint travel opportunities should they be so inclined.
We're guessing there's going to be an uptick in Shelfani sightings in our near future—but never as many as there were when they were first getting started.
Catch new episodes of The Voice on Mondays and Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on NBC.
(E! and NBC are both members of the NBCUniversal family.)