misses his wife. After several days apart-he's in L.A. shooting The Voice
; she's at home in Oklahoma after wrapping a nine-month tour-Miranda Lambert
is on her way to California. "Finally get to see my wife today!!!!!!!!! Happy happy joy joy!!!!" Shelton tweeted Oct. 21. Lambert's response? "Shall we celebrate with a beverage," she wrote back, "or 10?:)"
A year and a half into their marriage, country music's wildest couple have plenty to toast. He's the breakout star of his show, they're the Academy of Country Music's reigning male and female vocalists of the year, and they were each nominated for four CMA awards (handed out Nov. 1)-including one for a song they wrote together. In a world where celebrity marriages routinely grow strained by distance and competing careers, Shelton, 36, and Lambert, 29, aren't taking anything for granted. "What are the odds of two people being married and at the height of their careers at the same time and in the same field? And of making a relationship work with that spotlight on us?" Shelton marvels. "It should seem more difficult, but somehow it's just not. We don't feel any different. We try to be as normal about our relationship as we possibly can be."
That isn't always easy. At the moment, he's shooting The Voice
's third and fourth seasons simultaneously and promoting his new holiday album, Cheers, It's Christmas
, while she's preparing to record a new album with her trio Pistol Annies (as if her solo career isn't enough). According to Shelton, they wouldn't still be together if it weren't for his wife, whom he met in 2005 when they sang a duet for a CMT special. "I'm telling you, she's kept us strong," he says. "Especially in the early days when it was easy to give up and say, 'This is too hard.' She's the one that always found a way." For her part, Lambert says her husband is "very caring and loyal," traits she saw in play earlier this year when his father, Dick, passed away. "All he did was make sure everyone else was okay before he would even worry about himself. Watching that made me love him that much more."
Lambert is so devoted to her husband that she routinely travels across the country to spend even a few hours with him. "She does that for me way more than I've ever done that for her, I'll be the first one to admit that, because I'm old and I'm more apt to give up and she won't," says Shelton. (Lambert also sings on his Christmas album, will appear on his December TV special, has mentored his Voice
team and often drops by the set-red Solo cup in hand.) "I'm just a guy about it, I guess," he says. "She's always been the one to go through hell to make sure we spend time together."
But how much? Since exchanging vows beneath an arch of antlers in her home state of Texas in May 2011, Lambert recently estimated, their "us time" has totaled only about 150 days. To even make that happen, they've followed one rule: "We won't go more than two weeks without seeing each other," she says. (They're so used to the schedule, that last spring, Shelton told PEOPLE that if they see each other too much, "we'll kill each other!") The couple text often and try to speak to each other once a day, but both admit they're not fans of Skype or long phone calls. As Lambert recently told Good Housekeeping, "I think it's good to have a bit of time to miss the person and to save up stories for when you get home."
These days that's a rented house in the Hollywood Hills, where the proud southerners are content relaxing with a Bacardi cocktail (for her) or a vodka drink (for him). Shelton's only half-joking when he says his worst habit is that he drinks too much. "But at least I share that habit with my wife," he says with a grin. "There's never been a time when she's sat me down and said, 'Hey, you're drinking too much.' She has sat me down and said, 'I just don't know why you won't have a drink with me.'"
Still, there's more to their marriage than raising a glass. "We really just hang at our house and spend time together just as if we're at home in Oklahoma," says Lambert, who will turn on country music in the mornings while she cooks bacon and eggs. And at night "we literally have laughs on the couch with our dogs and watch a movie," she says.
Lambert says that avoiding the L.A. party scene "keeps us sane," yet they both indulge in typically L.A. pastimes: "I love to shop and lie out [in the sun] and get my nails done," says Lambert, who is opening a boutique in Tishomingo, Okla. Meanwhile, Shelton now cures his hangovers with coconut water (a tip from his Voice costar and pal Adam Levine), but he still misses "simple things" about life in Oklahoma: driving back roads listening to the radio, hunting, getting lost in the woods five minutes from his front door and, he cracks, "peeing off my porch." (In L.A., he's said, he pees into the canyon by their house.) Says Lambert: "We're just both really country people. We love the woods and shooting guns, and L.A. is pretty much the opposite of that."
Eventually the couple will settle down on their sprawling ranch, where they are currently erecting a new barn for Lambert's animals (which include chickens, horses, goats, a cat and six rescue dogs) and clearing land to build a new home. It will be the perfect place to raise a family-just not right now. "That's the one thing I really want to plan the right way, because I don't want to have children and raise them on a plane or a bus," says Lambert, who kicks off a tour with Dierks Bentley in January. The couple have agreed to discuss a time line for having kids when she turns 30 next year. "Right now," she says, "we're both at our peak and having a blast, and I don't think either one of us are thinking about changing a thing."
- Reported by Danielle Anderson,
- Julie Jordan,
- Mark Gray.