Sometimes, you meet a person at a time in your life where romance is the farthest thing from your mind. But then, before you know it, an undeniable bond has blossomed — organically. 

That’s exactly what happened when work brought Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani together. It was back in 2015 when they were both struggling in their personal lives and experiencing major heartbreak. They became friends and helped each other through the rough period . And soon enough, things began to change. Rather than questioning the unusual circumstances and imperfect timing, they rolled with the punches.

Here’s what we can learn from Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani’s relationship:  

When Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani first met back in 2014 on the set the The Voice, dating was not on their minds. That’s because Shelton was married to fellow country star Miranda Lambert and Stefani had just given birth to her third son, Apollo. As Shelton later told Billboard, he “never really got to know her, other than small talk.” 

The “Nobody but You” songstress skipped out on season 8 and Shelton was sure that would mark the end of their acquaintance. Boy, was he wrong!

Stefani returned for season 9, right in time to hear Shelton make a difficult announcement to his colleagues: he was calling it quits with Miranda Lambert after four years of marriage. 

I won’t forget that day. I looked over at Gwen — who I didn’t really know — and she had these huge tears in her eyes. I thought, ‘Wow, she feels super bad for me!’

Blake Shelton to Billboard

That wasn’t entirely true. Rather, it made her think of what she herself was secretly going through–she was getting ready to split from her husband of 13 years, Gavin Rossdale. Later that day, she asked to speak to her co-star privately.

“I thought it was going to be another one of those things-are-going-to-be-OK talks,” he recalled. “She didn’t tell me much, because we didn’t know each other at the time, but she said, ‘I’m going through something very similar to what you’re going through. I understand. And I hate it.’ That’s kind of how our friendship and bond started,” he continued. 

Soon enough, their shared experience turned into a solid foundation that has led to trust and an unshakeable bond. As Shelton recalled, “It went from that, to checking in on each other once a week through email — ‘This shit happened to me, what happened to you?’ — to maybe three times a week, then every day, to ‘Hey, here’s my phone number if you ever want to text.’ Next thing I know, I wake up and she’s all I care about, and I’m ­wondering if she feels the same about me.”

Seeking personal happiness is not selfish 

It wasn’t easy, but both Shelton and Stefani realized that sacrificing personal happiness for the sake of a relationship was not sustainable. Stefani opened up about her fear of failure and the embarrassment she felt before making one of the toughest decisions of her life. She told Glamour.

I had to work really hard at marriage, all the time, like everybody, but ours was extra hard, when you add that we’re from different countries, both of us being in music, and celebrity.[Marriage] was the one thing I didn’t want to fail at.

Even so, the No Doubt frontwoman decided to follow her heart and file for divorce in August 2015, just one month after Shelton and Lambert publicly announced their split. The couple said in a joint statement, “This is not the future we envisioned. And it is with heavy hearts that we move forward separately.” Marriage is supposed to be forever and divorce can feel like the biggest blow, but from failure comes strength.

It’s okay to reinvent yourself 

After months that felt like “hell” and “torture”, Stefani decided to stop dwelling on the past and start focusing on the future. “Sometimes to be woken up again in life, you need to go through some really bad, hard times,” she told Glamour. “I’m in such a new place. It’s all about the future for me. Not really just the future — but the moment right now.”

As she revealed, it was Shelton who played an integral role in changing her outlook. “Finding somebody who was going through the exact same experience? That was an inspiration,” she told the magazine.

He was a friend to me when I needed a friend. An unexpected gift. And that became an inspiration in the songwriting.

Gwen Stefani to Glamour

The feeling was mutual. “Gwen saved my life,” Blake told Billboard. “Who else on earth could understand going through a high-profile divorce from another musician? You can’t even imagine the similarities in our divorces.” 

Tune out the skeptics 

After months of speculation, the pair officially announced they were dating in November 2015 and almost immediately, they were faced with backlash and skepticism over whether their connection was genuine or not. Rather than letting the negativity impact their budding romance, they tuned out the world and focused on themselves. 

For those closest to the couple (the folks who really mattered), there was never any doubt about the authenticity of their love. And fellow The Voice judge Adam Levine can testify to it. “They found each other at really interesting times in their lives”, Adam told Howard Stern in 2017.

“It’s really beautiful,” Adam continued. “Because it’s in the public eye, a lot of people want to have their own bullsh*t opinions about it, but I’m there. I see it every day. I have a pretty unique perspective on it and it’s real, man.”

Embrace your differences 

In addition to helping build each other up when they were at their lowest, Shelton and Stefani were also able to build a strong connection by embracing their differences. As Shelton himself acknowledged, they “could not be, on paper, any more different.”

If you had told me that that’s who I’m gonna end up with, I would have thought you were crazy. But she became my closest ally.

Blake Shelton to Rolling Stone

Stefani’s not oblivious to the differences either. “It’s definitely two different cultures,” she told Glamour. “But there are many similarities, in things that we love and our ­morals. But it’s really fun when you can learn about so many new things and share those differences.”

They also have plenty in common, like their love of music. In fact, they’ve started working together in the studio. In 2016, the pair co-wrote and recorded “Go Ahead and Break My Heart” and in 2017, they followed that up with “You Make it Feel Like Christmas.” 

The other thing that unites them? Family. Although Shelton doesn’t have any children of his own, he’s fully embraced Stefani’s three sons (Kingston, Zuma, and Apollo) while remaining respectful of their father.

Stefani has called him “a good dad.” As Gwen told The Today’s Show. “He is a good dad, actually. He’s been helping me out a lot.” She added, “I literally get to the point where I’m like, ‘You gotta get home, I need some help.’ It’s hard. I’ve got three boys.”

What is next in their future? Well, marriage! The pair is ready to walk down the aisle and in March 2019 began the legal process to get Stefani’s first marriage annulled because “she very much wants the marriage to be recognized by the church.” 

In November 2019, the lovebirds proved critics wrong again, as they celebrated their four-year anniversary. “It’s kind of a blur. It still feels like it’s pretty new to me,” Shelton told People. “Four years isn’t forever, but man, it seems like it just happened in no time.” 

The importance of keeping an open mind

Things don’t always happen the way you expect them to, and that’s totally fine. Just because an outcome is different from the one you had envisioned or hoped for, it doesn’t mean that the experience attached to it was a failure.

Rather, it should be treated as an opportunity to grow and discover a strength you might not even have known you had. Strength that can be channeled into reaching for the stars and searching for your new happiness.

We can only do that if we keep an open mind going forward, instead of worrying about people’s perceptions of us.

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