Carrie Underwood and Mike Fisher don't have one of those over-the-top, country-song relationships, a story made for drunken crooning on a late night at the local dive.
But the couple have weathered their share of turmoil sprinkled in with the blessings over the eight years of marriage that they're celebrating today, and it takes an elevated level of commitment (beyond just "I do," that is) not to cut and run when the going gets tough.
Over the past year the parents of 3-year-old Isaiah dealt with Underwood's traumatizing accident that left her with a facial injury that she only recently felt up to bouncing back from, as well as Fisher's apparently premature retirement from and subsequent return to the NHL. And plenty of people took the opportunity to assume that the couple wouldn't survive this bump in the road, yet here they are proving the skeptics wrong, once again.
Contrary to how picture-perfect life can admittedly look on Instagram, Underwood and Fisher themselves—both of whom remain close to their own parents—were never under any illusions as to how much hard work a lasting relationship requires, especially one between two public figures who often find themselves in different cities on any given night.
"Everyone is getting divorced," Underwood noted to Cosmopolitan in 2015 in the wake of the breakups of the marriages of Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, and Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale. "They're dropping like flies! But we are good. It helped that we were both established before we were married. Neither one of us could be like, 'I didn't know it would be like this!'"
She and Fisher were set up in October 2008 by her bassist Mark Childers, who wanted them to go on an actual blind date, but Underwood reined it in to a backstage meeting at one of her shows.
"Hot, hot, hot!" Underwood texted Childers about the Ottawa Senators' burly center afterward. Not that she didn't see the potential difficulties.
"I mean, can I make dating more difficult?" Underwood recalled on a 2012 episode of VH1's Behind the Music. "Let's get a hockey guy who lives in another country, awesome."
She had been down the athlete road before with then-Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, and the Hollywood road with Chace Crawford (whose sister, coincidentally, went on to marry Romo).
"I dated a lot of different kinds of guys, and I was trying to figure out what I wanted, and I always missed the mark," she reminisced. "Everything I thought I wanted never really turned out to make me very happy." And trying to have a relationship in the public eye was proving impossible. "My problem was, someone would snap a picture or see us out on a date or talking, and we're immediately in a relationship, and we're so in love or whatever it was, when all you're trying to do is figure out what kind of person you want to spend the rest of your life with."
Meanwhile, there's a reason why her so-called breakup songs almost always look on the bright side—or include a revenge element.
"I'm not the kind of person to sit around and be brokenhearted about it," she explained. "I'd work for about a day and after that it's time to go be awesome."
Just months after an unceremonious split from Crawford via text, Underwood hit the bulls-eye with Fisher. "Needless to say I was a little bit nervous," the hockey player said on Behind the Music, recalling the night they were introduced. "First time I saw her, she was more beautiful in person than on TV."
"She denies she was speechless," Childers remembered. "But she was definitely speechless."
They went out that night (Mike knew things were "kinda going OK" when Carrie reached over and sampled his dessert) but competing schedules kept them apart for several months after that. So, they talked on the phone until they finally met again—on New Year's Eve.
"It's fun to miss somebody," Underwood told Glamour in 2012 about those early butterfly-filled days. "We talked on the phone for almost three months before we actually got together. That was good for us. Then our first real date was on New Year's Eve, and our first kiss was when the ball dropped."
"We were in front of people, and he's not a big PDA guy," she remembered. "I figured, I'll go in for it because he can't leave me hanging, right? So I made him kiss me in public."
It was all a given from there, the couple connecting over their shared faith and family values.
"We have a lot of the same values and beliefs," Fisher said on Behind the Music. "We just got along real well. We were a real good fit."
"When you have the spark with somebody and you have the connection, that's wonderful," Underwood agreed, "but when you agree on the core things in your life, your beliefs and your faith, and that does connect you to somebody even deeper."
Underwood gave a shout-out to Fisher in the liner notes of her album Play On, which dropped in November 2009, telling him (and the world), "You make my life better in every way."
Fisher got down on one knee and proposed in the snowy woods near his Ottawa home the following month, "and then after that we prayed together," Underwood said. "We were both so excited and we just wanted God to watch over us and our plans and our marriage, and whatever might happen from that day forward."
They married on July 10, 2010, at the Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation, in Greensboro, Ga. Fisher arranged for Brandon Heath to sing "Love Never Fails," one of Underwood's favorites, for their first dance.
The universe dealt them their first mixed blessing less than a year into their marriage when Fisher was traded from his beloved Senators to the Nashville Predators. In a 2016 for The Player's Tribune, the NHL veteran recalled being "pretty crushed" by the news—but at the same time, his wife had regularly been having to go back and forth between Canada and Nashville, and that was tough...
Soon after, Fisher learned that he was going to be traded no matter what (his own mother even predicted that it was coming), and Ottawa management purposely sent him to the Predators so he could finally live full-time with Underwood.
"They could have traded me anywhere, but they were genuinely looking out for me and my family," Fisher wrote. Eventually he got used to his new surroundings "and being in a stable situation in Nashville allowed Carrie and I to start our own family...[Isaiah] doesn't really understand what Daddy does yet, but if my good friend [and former teammate] Matt Cullen's kids are any indication, he's going to be a huge hockey fan."
The couple settled down in a custom estate they built on 400 acres of land in Franklin, less than an hour outside Nashville.
Asked how his wife felt about the violence that sometimes erupts on the ice during a hockey game, and namely Fisher being a part of it, the veteran player said on Fox Sports One's Crowd Goes Wild in 2013, "She doesn't mind it. But she hasn't seen me get pounded yet, so it's probably due to come—but my mom, my sisters and Carrie, they don't mind it so long as I don't get hurt. She's usually cheering and she'll be the first [to stand up]."
In the meantime, however, even with Mike playing for Nashville, his road schedule and Underwood's touring commitments meant they still had to the perils of a long-distance relationship to deal with. But once again, their gritty determination and commitment to hard work, faith and family helped them through what has proved so damaging to so many other couples.
"We can go weeks without seeing each other," Underwood told Glamour in 2012. "He's the only guy I've never had to worry about. Any guy I've ever dated, there would always be that doubt ... 'He didn't answer his phone ... what's he doing? It's late.' I'm not the crazy-girlfriend type, but there was a little voice in the back of my head. I don't have to worry about Mike. I don't think twice. He's going out? I don't care. It doesn't bother me. I don't bat an eye."
And the trust is plentiful.
"We're both independent people," Underwood added, "so we can't have somebody around 24 hours a day, seven days a week."
Besides, the vows they made are always there, especially in spirit.
"We're down to earth. We don't live in L.A. or New York, which is a little different than, say, Nashville," Fisher told 100 Huntley Street during the Boots and Hearts Country Music Festival in April 2015. "We have some great friends and great people around us that are able to encourage us in our faith and our families...and I think that's important, and that you stay grounded and realize that's a part of our ministry, is being in that world and trying to be a light within our marriage, and individually and, you know, professionally."
Asked about the role faith continued to play in their lives, Fisher continued, "Chris is first in our lives and hopefully that's portrayed in how we treat people...proclaiming it the right way, that's what we try to do. We're not perfect. I'm not perfect by any means. But definitely know that Christ is the answer and definitely important in our lives, and hopefully people see that and are attracted to it."
They were overjoyed to welcome son Isaiah Michael Fisher into the world on Feb. 27, 2015, and took on parenthood as a team.
"We're both really good at picking up the slack when the other one is super busy," Underwood told Ellen DeGeneres that October. "So when he has a game the next day—hockey game for those who don't know—I'll make sure and be like, 'OK, he needs to sleep tonight, his game tomorrow.' So I'm the one getting up."
But she obviously didn't mind because, when it came time to head out on her Storyteller Tour in 2016, she brought baby Isaiah on the road with her.
"I mean, he's the sweetest and smiliest baby, I think, ever," she gushed on Ellen. "So that's a blessing when you're like waking up at 3 o'clock in the morning. And he's like smiling at you...that makes it not so bad."
Even while touring Underwood remembered the little details of married life, master multi-tasker that she is, giving Fisher a shout-out when he played in his 1,000th NHL game in March 2016.
"That's my man! The first time I met him, I sent a text to @bassmmmbass (who set us up) saying 'Hot, hot, hot!!!'" she captioned an Instagram post. "I was right then, and I'm right now when I say that he's hotter now than he's ever been! What an amazing husband, father, friend and hockey dude!!! ��❤️❤️���� I am one lucky lady!"
Being on the road with her son, even though he was too young to notice all the coming and going of tour life, still made Underwood feel guilty sometimes, however, as she became the latest working mom to strive for the right balance of professional fulfillment and quality care time with her child.
"Ask for help," she revealed her advice to fellow mothers in Redbook. "Accepting help is hard for me, but I'm learning. Sometimes I feel guilty that this is my son's life: We live on a bus and we're in a hotel room and sometimes we're in the middle of nowhere and it's not so great. It's not all glamorous."
"If my husband were at the beginning of his career, I'm not sure we could handle it," she continued, talking about their temporarily nomadic lifestyle. "Since he's kind of nearing the end and won't be traveling so much, we're like, 'We can figure it out for not that long.'
"You make it work. When I was pregnant, I thought, 'How am I going to go on the road? How am I going to keep doing my job?' I had to just give it to God and stop worrying about it. Sure enough, we figured it out."
Fisher, who had since been named team captain, and the Predators made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2017, eventually losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games. Despite falling short of the franchise's first championship, Fisher announced last August that he was calling it a career, a bittersweet decision.
"I don't believe it came in a single instance or some aha moment, but as time passed, I gradually became certain that it was right for me to retire," he said in an open letter published by The Tennessean. "I believe God gave me the ability to play hockey, and I was helped by dozens of individuals along the way, so it's not just up to me on when it's time to say goodbye."
He continued later on, "I approached this season with the mindset that it could be my last, and now that it's past, I'm looking forward to a future that includes a lot more time with my family. Things change when you have kids and you have a family. They've supported me without question, and now it's my turn to return the favor."
"Captain @mfisher1212 I sure am going to miss watching you play and cheering you on with the rest of Smashville, but I so look forward to seeing what God has in store for you in this next chapter of your life," Underwood wrote in celebrating him on Instagram. "You've given your teammates and the game your all for so many years. You've worked so hard and made us all so proud! Isaiah and I love you so much and are so excited to be able to have you home a lot more...We can't wait to cheer on the @predsnhl WITH you in the stands! #ThankYouSmashville #PredsFansForLife."
So Fisher started to settle into retirement life, filling out his schedule with appearances, philanthropy, hunting, fishing and overall just spending more time with his family.
But a few days after co-hosting the CMA Awards with Brad Paisley for the 10th consecutive year, Underwood fell outside their Franklin home, breaking her wrist and—though it wouldn't be known for over a month—suffering a cut on her face that required more than 40 stitches to sew up. She had simply tripped and missed a step while taking the dogs out, she later said.
Lamenting that she was "not quite looking the same," Underwood didn't share the news about the facial laceration until January. "Most of you know that I tripped and fell and broke my wrist in November. I'm still doing regular physical therapy for that, but all is coming along," she wrote. "There is also another part of the story that I haven't been ready to talk about since I have still been living it and there has been much uncertainty as to how things will end up. It's crazy how a freak random accident can change your life."
Though she has since returned to recording, shooting videos and performing live, it was a process, and she noted in January that she was "grateful for the people in my life that have been there every step of the way." At the same time, Fisher had come to a different crossroads and was poised to make a decision that would inevitably affect the whole family.
In a "virtually unprecedented move," according to NHL.com, Fisher un-retired from the Predators and rejoined the team for the remainder of the 2017-18 season.
"This is happening!" Underwood cheered on Instagram in January. "Fish is back! So proud of you, baby! We want the cup!!!"
While it was fair to guess that Fisher wouldn't have made the decision without the full support of his wife, a source told Us Weekly that Underwood wanted him to follow his heart.
"Carrie encouraged Mike to come out of retirement and believed in him all the way," the insider said. "She wants him to be happy and knew he should go for it. He asked for her blessing and totally got it. She's behind him with whatever he chooses to do."
In general, communication "needs to be in the forefront of your mind," Underwood also told Us Weekly, talking about the secrets to her enduring marriage. "There's always stuff to do. I get home and I'm tired and I'm making dinner and trying to get Isaiah to bed." But "it's important to just realize, 'Let's put our phones down. Let's have a conversation.'"
Ironically, partly due to Underwood's months-long retreat from the public eye (she wouldn't show her entire face post-injury until April), and spurred along by his return to the NFL, speculation regarding the state of the Underwood-Fisher union started to rear its head. And for a change, it was Fisher who stepped up to shut it down.
An inspirational verse he posted on Instagram in February attracted prayers for his and Carrie's ongoing marital health like flies to honey, so in response to one well-wish Fisher replied, "We've never been better. Thanks."
In March he wished Underwood a happy birthday on Instagram, writing alongside an old photo of her with a sky-high spray job, "Happy birthday to an incredible wife and an amazing mom with killer hair!:) All kidding aside you're a blessing to Izzy and I everyday! Love you."
Life started to slowly get back to normal, with Fisher happily back on the ice and spending every spare moment with his family, and Underwood gearing up for her return to simply feeling like herself again.
She had worried that her injury would scare Isaiah, she said on The Bobby Bones Show podcast in April.
"I've been very fortunate in the healing process," she continued. "I was lucky that when it happened, everything was kind of shutting down in the music world and we had the holidays and stuff like that. I was at a point where I didn't know how things were going to end up. I didn't know what was going to go on. I didn't know what it was going to heal like."
Underwood gave her first live performance since the accident at the 2018 ACM Awards in April, singing "Cry Pretty," and shared the Vocal Event of the Year award for "Fighter" with Keith Urban.
"Thank you for having me, I'm still kind of shaky right now," the artist said. "Thank you guys, thank you country radio, fans, oh my gosh, thank you."
"When you're singing something that is straight from your heart, it's easy to just be in the moment and be connected to it," Underwood told Today's Hoda Kotb in May. "I never realized how much it translates until after the ACM Awards. It was, like, wow, you know, there was something different about that performance."
Fisher re-retired in May after the Predators were eliminated in round two of the playoffs, telling a team radio reporter, "This cow has been milked as much as it can. It's bone dry."
Underwood again showered him with support, tweeting, "Welp, to me & our 3 year-old, @mikefisher1212 is the greatest hockey player alive & the @PredsNHL are now & forever the greatest hockey team in NHL history! Not the ending we wanted, but we're alive & well & I get my hubby back, so I say God is good!"
A few days later they took off for Napa, Calif., where Underwood performed and the whole family enjoyed good food and some much-needed relaxation.
At the 2018 CMT Awards last month, Fisher joined his wife on the red carpet for the first time since before her accident and took in her performance of "Cry Pretty" in person, and a few weeks ago he escorted Isaiah to the 3-year-old's first Carrie Underwood concert.
"Izzy's first show! He's proud of his momma!" Fisher captured the moment for posterity.
With eight years of marriage now under their belt, Underwood and Fisher have had a few bumps in the road, but their devotion to each other remains strong.
Fisher said about his wife back in 2012 on Behind the Music, "There's so much to love about her. She's funny, she's very caring, she loves me with everything she's got—and I do the same for her."
And Underwood said, blushing, "I've never considered myself a person to need a man in my life to make me feel complete, but I need that man, that particular one."