Love as a celebrity can be tough. When Kelly Clarkson reportedly filed for divorce from Brandon Blackstock in June of 2020, the news came as a shock to country fans — but they were far from the first country couple to split unexpectedly. In fact, just over one week later, Carly Pearce filed for divorce from Michael Ray, her husband of about eight months.
In the summer of 2015 alone, three beloved country couples announced that they were splitting up: On July 20, Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert revealed that their divorce had been finalized; on Aug. 3, Reba McEntire and Narvel Blackstock shared that they’d been separated for a few months; and on Aug. 7, Jake Owen and his wife, Lacey Buchanan, announced their divorce after three years of marriage.
From George Jones and Tammy Wynette to Garth Brooks and his first wife Sandy, flip through the photo gallery below to learn more about some of country music’s most out-of-the-blue (and most saddening) splits. Don’t start thinking that love is dead, however — one of these separations has a happy ending for the couple!
Carly Pearce + Michael Ray
On June 19, 2020, just about eight months after their October 2019 wedding, Carly Pearce filed for divorce from Michael Ray. The two had been together about two years.
“This hasn’t been a quarantine realization,” a source told People, nodding to the novel coronavirus quarantine, during which Pearce filed the divorce papers. “It was a last resort.”
Lauren Alaina + Alex Hopkins
Lauren Alaina and her longtime boyfriend, Alex Hopkins, met on July 5, 2012 — and way back then, Hopkins said, he would have done "anything to make her smile." Later that year, in October, Hopkins nervously asked Alaina to be his girlfriend, and she said yes. Hopkins and Alaina kept their romance alive through her career’s ebbs and flows and his academic and professional pursuits before announcing their engagement on July 21, 2018 — but sadly, six months later, on Jan. 21, 2019, the couple called it quits. "While we still have love for each other, we’ve grown into very different people over the last six years," the couple said in a joint statement. "We are now in a place where we are each looking forward to start our own fresh, new chapters of our lives.
Reba McEntire + Narvel Blackstock
The country icon and her band member-turned-manager husband surprised fans on Aug. 3, 2015, when they announced that they had separated a few months prior. The two began working together in 1980 and married in 1989; they had one son together, Shelby Blackstock.
“Despite this being the end of their marriage, they continue to support each other,” McEntire and Blackstock’s joint statement about their separation read. “They have worked together for 35 years and will continue to do so.
Blake Shelton + Miranda Lambert
The country music world came to a screeching halt on July 20, 2015, when the genre’s reigning king and queen, Shelton and Lambert, revealed that they were divorcing — and that the split was finalized as of that day. They had been together for four years: After singing together for a CMT special in 2005, Shelton proposed in 2010, and the two married on May 14, 2011.
“This is not the future we envisioned,” they said in a statement. “And it is with heavy hearts that we move forward separately.
Garth Brooks + Sandy Mahl
Brooks and his first wife, Sandy Mahl, were married for 14 years when they called in quits in 2000. The couple had been married since 1986 (before the country superstar’s rise to fame) and had three daughters together.
“Sandy and I both agree that we need to get divorced,” Brooks said at the time, noting that his then-recent "retirement" from the road hadn’t helped save his marriage, but it had brought him closer to his kids.
"I am an infinite number of times closer to my children than I’ve been the entire seven years of their lives before [this year off]," he added. "And I can’t help but think when I lie down at night and say my prayers that that in itself to me is worth the trade I’ve made to get here.”
Brooks wed fellow country artist Trisha Yearwood (who also makes an appearance in this gallery) in 2005.
George Jones + Tammy Wynette
Jones and Wynette made wonderful music together — but their personal life was the definition of tumultuous. The two wed in February of 1969 and divorced just six years later, in March of 1975, allegedly after an incident during which a whiskey-drunk Jones chased Wynette around the house with a loaded rifle. In the 1990s, however, Jones and Wynette put their differences aside and toured together. They also had a daughter, Georgette Jones, during their marriage.
Shania Twain + Robert John "Mutt" Lange
In 2008, Twain discovered that Lange, her husband of 16 years, was having an affair with one of her closest friends, Marie-Anne Thiébaud — and while that in and of itself was both a shocking and saddening discovery, what happened next is what makes this tale even more interesting. After Twain and Lange officially divorced in 2010, the singer married Thiébaud’s ex-husband, Frédéric Thiébaud, in 2011. Talk about a happy (if surprising) ending!
“I’m not even really confused because it’s obvious life just has to play out the way it’s meant to," Twain said at the time, "and how can I complain with the way it ended up?”
Kenny Chesney + Renee Zellweger
The country superstar and actress certainly had a whirlwind romance: After meeting in January of 2005, they wed in May of 2005 — and on Sept. 14, 2005, after just four months of marriage, Zellweger filed for an annulment from Chesney, citing fraud as the reason (she later stated that the term was only for legal purposes). In a joint statement, the two said that "the miscommunication of the objective of their marriage at the start is the only reason for this annulment" and that they "value and respect each other and are saddened that their different objectives prevent the success of this marriage.”
“I panicked, there’s no doubt about it,” Chesney explained. “I did the only thing I knew to do — I ran. I pushed her away … I didn’t have any clue as to what true marriage meant. I was so used to committing to one thing — music — and then I had to totally commit to a second thing, marriage. I didn’t know how to commit to both of them.”
Randy Travis + Lib Hatcher
In 1975, Travis won a talent competition at a Charlotte, N.C., nightclub owned by Hatcher. She hired him as a cook and gave him regular performance slots at the club, then became Travis’ manager and helped him land his first record deal with Warner Bros. in 1985. They were married in 1991 and divorced in October of 2010; although, at the time, the couple stated that Hatcher would continue to act as Travis’ manager, their business relationship also dissolved.
LeAnn Rimes + Dean Sheremet
Rimes and Sheremet were just 19 and 21 years old, respectively, when they married in 2002. The two made the decision to divorce in 2009, shortly after rumors that Rimes was having an affair with actor Eddie Cibrian (who filed for divorce around the same time) began flying.
"This decision was amicable, and we remain committed and caring friends with great admiration for one another," Rimes and Sheremet said at the time — but as fans know, those words didn’t hold up when the rumors about Rimes and Cibrian, who have been married since 2011, turned out to be true.
Trisha Yearwood + Robert Reynolds
Yearwood and Reynolds tied the knot in May of 1994; it was her second marriage and his first. They divorced in 1999, as the tabloids began linking Yearwood to future husband Garth Brooks, who was then still just a friend.
“Since I do hang on to the past with my fingernails, divorce was difficult,” she confessed at the time. “It’s a serious decision involving someone you’re tied to emotionally, so it’s hard to move on. And it’s easy to drag things out so you don’t have to face people talking about you. Then, after the marriage is over, you question yourself. You wonder if something’s wrong with you — which is pretty much where I’ve been. But I know I’m a good person. Even though I have no clue what my future holds on a personal level, I’m feeling good about things.“
Trace + Rhonda Adkins
The Adkins first met while Rhonda Adkins was working in publicity at Arista Records. They married in May of 1997, but in March of 2014 — after a tough year for Trace Adkins, which began with a trip to rehab in January and the loss of his father in February — Rhonda Adkins filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences. Rumors were swirling in June of 2015 that their divorce had been called off, but Trace Adkins’ attorney called the reports "inaccurate."
“The Adkins have settled their divorce amicably. Rhonda and Trace made this decision together in the best interest of their family,” the lawyer said in a statement. “All that remains is for the court to approve the agreements that have been executed by them both."
Jake Owen + Lacey Buchanan
Jake Owen and Lacey Buchanan first met on the set of his “8 Second Ride” music video, in which she appeared, and began dating after she starred in his “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” video. They were married in May of 2012 and added their daughter to their family later that year. However, in July of 2015, Owen admitted that the couple had been having a difficult last few months, even discussing the possibility of divorcing. The couple officially announced their split, after three years of marriage, on Aug. 7, 2015.
Alan + Denise Jackson
Now here’s a separation story with a happy ending! The Jacksons, high school sweethearts, wed in 1979, but it hasn’t always been sunshine and roses for the country legend and his wife. In 1997, after Alan Jackson was unfaithful, the pair separated for more than three months — but the couple worked through their issues and came out on the other side, together again and stronger than ever.
“The greatest blessings in my life have come out of my worst shattering,” says Denise Jackson. “His betrayal and our separation were what led to this new, passionate love relationship with God and also led to us being able to have the kind of marriage that we both always wanted but just didn’t know how to have.”