Thomas Rhett knew he was going to marry his wife, Lauren Akins, for a long, long time. The husband and wife, who now have four children and will celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary later this year, originally met in elementary school, and Rhett says now that he knew even then that they were meant to be together.
“I remember seeing Lauren for the first time in second grade, and I don’t know how much in love you can be as a second-grader, but I just remember being like, ‘She is extremely attractive,'” Rhett said on the SiriusXM’s Exit 209 with Storme Warren Podcast. “And then moving forward, I think the first time we ever actually really hung out was at church camp in sixth grade. There’s a hilarious photo on her Instagram page of us standing there, and I’m like a whole foot and a half shorter than her. I’ve got braces. I dyed my hair black that summer for church camp. She was always just a really kind person.”
Rhett was smitten with Akins even then, but the feeling wasn’t entirely mutual. In fact, it was Akins who gave him the first taste of a broken heart, when he was just a kid.
“We had a church camp banquet,” Rhett recalls. “We were Church of Christ. We weren’t really allowed to dance, so we had banquets. And I remember asking her to the banquet and she was like, ‘Well, I’m actually banking on someone else asking me, but if he says no, then we can definitely go together.’ And so that was like my first little smidge of heartbreak.”
It didn’t take long for Akins — and both of their sets of parents — to realize, even back then, that the two had undeniable chemistry.
“As we got into high school, we just were hanging out so much that even both of our parents were like, ‘Why don’t you just go on a date?'” Rhett shares. “I remember being 15, [and] we dated maybe for like six months or something. I think I was a little bit too needy of a boyfriend. I just think I wanted her to realize that we were going to get married. Like that’s just not an option. She was like ‘I’m gonna go date a lot of other people,’ before all this other stuff. And so it was honestly the best thing that ever happened because, I think if we had been one of those couples that dated from 16 ‘til we got married, I’m sure that there was a lot of growing up I needed to do. And just a lot of things I needed to figure out.”
Both Rhett and Akins did go on to date other people, with both of them staying in a long-term, serious relationship with someone else before they realized they were meant to be together.
“There was just something that wasn’t full, like it was with Lauren,” Rhett says of the relationships he had with other women. “She called me one day and was like, ‘I’m coming home for my sister’s graduation party. And by the way, me and this guy that she was dating for like five years just broke up.’ I wanted to be like, ‘I’m so sorry.’ But I was like, ‘Yes.'”
It was that night at Akins’ sister’s graduation party that Rhett told Akins that he was still in love with her, although his life was much different than it was when they were kids.
“I was just like, ‘Look, [I’ve] been in love with you since I was 16 years old,'” Rhett told her at the time. “‘I just signed a record deal. I’m not sure if you’re gonna enjoy this life. But, I feel like we should at least give dating one more shot, just so I can check it off my list. Because I can’t really be friends with you. We’re either gonna date and get married or we’re moving on.’ So, we started dating for like three months, and I just knew. After three months of dating, she was like, ‘So when are we gonna get married?’ ‘Cause there was no dating that needed to happen. We already knew everything about each other. We knew each other since we were really little kids.”
Rhett’s Where We Started album will be released on April 1. He will kick off his Bring the Bar to You Tour on June 17 in Gilford, New Hampshire, with Parker McCollum and Conner Smith serving as his opening acts. Find music and tour dates at ThomasRhett.com.