Arch Kelly is the best thing that ever happened to me," Wynonna Judd told PEOPLE in May 1995. Back then the country singer and her then-beau, an ex-boat dealer she had met two years earlier on an airplane, were the parents of a 5-month-old son, Elijah. When they tied the knot on Jan. 21, 1996, first-time bride Judd was four months pregnant with their second child, Grace. Musing on their belated nuptials, she said, "It took us about a year, but now I know I'm ready."
Maybe yes, maybe no. On Nov. 6, Judd, 34, filed for divorce, citing "irreconcilable differences." Though her spouse was reportedly seeking to save the marriage—"I love my wife and kids more than life itself," Kelley, 46, told a Nashville newspaper columnist Nov. 11—a friend of Judd's says, "I'm surprised it lasted as long as it did."
Indeed, strains emerged early on. Accompanying his wife and son on Judd's tour bus in 1996, Kelley apparently began to feel like a fifth wheel. "The road is not good for Arch's manliness," Judd told author Nancy Jones (Nashville Wives). "There's really nothing he can do, and therefore it makes him feel crazy." Eventually he settled into the role of househusband—quite contentedly—on Judd's 500-acre farm outside Nashville (where her sister, actress Ashley Judd, has a house; their mother, Naomi, lives nearby). As of Nov. 17, the couple were still residing under the same roof. "There's been no separation," says his mother, Helen Kelley. And at least one friend of the couple's hopes there won't be. "He's a gentle, sweet person, a guy's guy, and he's great with the kids," says the friend. "Wynonna doesn't realize how hard it's going to be without him."
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