A Chance Encounter
Back in November 2013, Julianne Hough and her family attended a six-day seminar on creating one’s own destiny — a trip that would eventually lead the star to meeting Brooks Laich. “I was not into it at first, but I learned so much about myself and why my relationships didn’t work that by the end I was on a high,” the Dancing with the Stars alum told Redbook in 2014, adding that she ended things with a few people she had been casually dating immediately following the seminar.
“The next day, my Curve costar introduced [Brooks and me],” she revealed of Laich, who plays hockey for the Washington Capitals. “It couldn’t have been a better time. We’ve been open and honest from day one.”
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Love at First Sight
One quick scan of the couple’s respective Instagram accounts shows an undeniable bond, which the lifestyle blogger previously told Entertainment Tonight has been on full-blast since their initial meeting. “I mean, I’ve never really been the person to think about ‘When you know you know,’ but it was just kind of like that,” Hough told ET in 2016. “When we first met each other we were like, ‘And we’re done.’ “
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The normally private Laich confirmed he and Hough were dating in February 2014. “She’s a cool, cool gal. She’s just a sweetheart, very loving, very giving,” the athlete shared during an interview with 106.7 The Fan. “She puts so much great out into the world. I’m a pretty lucky guy.”
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When describing what makes her relationship with Laich so different from previous ones, Hough simply revealed she could be her true self around the athlete.
“Every relationship, there was nothing wrong or bad, but there was nothing right. I had one foot out because I didn’t want to get hurt,” Hough explained to Redbook in June 2014. “And I didn’t say what was on my mind because I didn’t want to ruffle any feathers. I needed to be perfect. Now I’m not holding anything back because I’d rather get my heart broken than never know what it is to be completely, madly in love.”
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Beating the Distance
Although Hough and Laich embarked on a long-distance relationship due to work obligations, the couple still kept things, err, intimate, turning to phone sex sessions whenever apart. “I’m really bad at it … I’ll get halfway through and start laughing,” Hough revealed. “It’s an art. I applaud people who are good at it. They need to come and help me keep a straight face!”
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Jumping for joy! On Aug. 18, 2015, Hough and Laich announced their engagement on Instagram. “We are overwhelmed with joy and excitement to share with you our recent engagement!” Hough captioned a photo of the pair.
Just one month after getting engaged, Hough told PEOPLE: “I’m just feeling so happy and blessed every moment of every day. My favorite thing about being engaged is just a sense of warmth and just joy.”
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Hough’s brother, Derek, is also a big fan of his sister’s beau. “I knew that it was happening within the first month they were dating,” Derek told PEOPLE of Julianne and Brooks’ engagement in 2015. “It was one of those things where it was instant and that smile and glow she’s had hasn’t dimmed ever since she met [him]. That’s a special thing.”
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Love Out Loud
There’s no shortage of SDA (Social Displays of Affection) on the couple’s Instagram accounts. “I am completely and utterly madly in love with you!” Hough captioned a smiling (and silly!) photo of the couple donning sunglasses in June 2017. “My best friend, my hero, my everything!”
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“It’s cool because we’re in two different professions,” Hough explained to ET of how the duo supports one another. “It’s fun to be able to learn about the other’s profession. I think that’s how we support, like, going to each other’s games or performances, and talking about it afterward. ‘What was going on? What was that? What was that move? How come that person didn’t score the goal?’ He’ll teach me about it. I don’t know much about his sport but I’m able to learn … It’s fun. It’s really fun.”
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Ahead of the couple’s wedding, the hockey player posted an ode to his little family: Hough and their dogs. “I’m a lucky man to be surrounded by love like this!!” he wrote on Instagram in July 2017.
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The two said “I do” in July 2017 in a romantic, outdoor wedding on Lake Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where Hough spent summer holidays growing up. “When I introduced Brooks to the lake, he fell in love with this special spot, and we knew this was where we wanted to raise our family and grow old together,” Hough told PEOPLE. “It just felt right to be married here.”
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Ring the Alarm
In a sweet video posted to Instagram, the Dancing with the Stars judge captured her new husband admitting he knew she was the one long before they got engaged.
“You knew you were going to marry me before I was even your girlfriend,” Hough can be heard saying as she tries to stealthily capture the romantic moment on video.
“One hundred percent,” Laich replied. He calls her out for her not-so-sneaky camera work, but goes on to readily admit, “I measured your ring before we were even dating. Before you were even my girlfriend, I measured your ring.”
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Unsurprisingly, the couple was really enjoying newlywed life. “It’s just the greatest thing ever to marry your best friend,” Laich told PEOPLE. “We thought we loved each other when we were engaged, and then marriage is a whole new level. It’s just fun to see the love continually grow everyday,” the former NHL player continued. “I just feel like a pretty lucky man right now. It’s the best.”
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In September 2019, Julianne shared with Women’s Health that she is “not straight” and said that because of her revelation, she now has a more intimate relationship with husband Brooks and has “never felt more like a woman in [her] life.”
She also shared that she was initially worried about bringing up her sexuality with her husband, but eventually found it to be a positive decision.
“I was connecting to the woman inside that doesn’t need anything, versus the little girl that looked to him to protect me,” she said. “I was like, ‘Is he going to love this version of me?’ But the more I dropped into my most authentic self, the more attracted he was to me.”
As for the moment she told him, it went a little something like this: “I [told him], ‘You know I’m not straight, right?’ And he was like, ‘I’m sorry what?’ ” she explained. “I was like, ‘I’m not. But I choose to be with you.’ “
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In a 2019 conversation, Hough revealed the couple had hired a sexologist.
“When I took the test, I realized that there were certain things that gave me connection and intimacy that were different than what gave Brooks connection and intimacy,” Julianne explained of a ‘quiz’ the couple’s sexologist gave them.
“By almost learning each other’s language — sort of like love languages — it was almost like a menu of how we could please each other sexually, but also intimately,” she added.
“A lot of people don’t know even what they want,” she continued. “My curiosity has saved my life and honestly saved our relationship many times because we’ve been curious about like, ‘Hey, something doesn’t feel right. Instead of just accepting it for how it is, let’s look into something.’ “
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The Name Game
Of his wife not taking his last name, Brooks said on his podcast, “I don’t find it disrespectful. I’m obviously open to it, but at the start, yeah, it was a little jarring for me.”
He continued, “When we first met and got engaged and stuff, we had this conversation and I was like, ‘I want you to take my last name,’ I said that. It was important to me.”
But he’ll revisit the discussion down the line: “To me right now, it’s not that big of an issue. We don’t have any kids right now, but she doesn’t have my last name.”
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Time to Reflect
After Hough was spotted without her wedding ring on New Year’s Eve 2019 — though Laich joined her in N.Y.C.’s Times Square as she hosted NBC’s countdown — sources told PEOPLE the two have hit a rough patch.
“They’ve been having problems for months,” one source said. “She’s very independent and a free spirit, and that’s been tough for Brooks and their marriage.”
But a second insider said the couple, who have been married for two years, haven’t given up hope on their relationship.
“It seems they are not giving up, but also not talking about it. They want to do this their way. They don’t want to discuss their marriage. They have been having problems, but many people do,” the insider explained.
“Maybe it’s a just a phase, maybe not,” the insider added. “But either way they are not going to address it publicly right now.”
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When the coronavirus pandemic hit in March 2020, the couple revealed they were socially distancing apart. Hough stayed at the pair’s Los Angeles home, while Laich retreated to their house in Idaho.
“Being on tour for three months and traveling and starting a business … it’s a lot. So to be able to be home, and stop and pause, and look inward, and connect back to myself has been glorious. I’ve been on my own,” Hough told Oprah Magazine.
“My husband is in Idaho doing lots of yard work … and so we’re kind of doing our separate things right now. But it’s really been a magical time,” Hough continued.
While Hough was soaking up the quality time with herself, she admitted to Oprah Magazine that she did “feel alone” while away from her husband and shared, “I miss people a lot.”
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On May 29, Hough and Laich confirmed their split in a statement to PEOPLE.
“We have lovingly and carefully taken the time we have needed to arrive at our decision to separate,” they said in their joint statement. “We share an abundance of love and respect for one another and will continue to lead with our hearts from that place. We kindly request your compassion and respect for our privacy moving forward.”
“It’s over, it’s been over for a while, and it’s time to just call it what it is — and it is over,” said one source with knowledge of the situation. “There is honestly no ill will. He loves her. She loves him. I can truly say they always will. But they both understand they are not meant to go through their lives as husband and wife to each other.”
According to the source, Hough, who revealed last year that she is “not straight,” is a “deeply different person than she was when they got married.”
“She is proud of those differences and changes she’s made and she doesn’t want to go back,” the source said. “He is the man he is and he shouldn’t change a thing. But they shouldn’t spend the rest of their lives together — not as spouses, anyway.”
“They are both on the same page about that now,” the source added. “It took them a while to get here, but now they both understand that and they are hoping to move forward as deeply loving friends forever who will always be supportive and encouraging of one another.”
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In July 2020, Hough celebrated her 32nd birthday with a pool party, and her ex Brooks was there for the fun.
Hough’s pal, Nina Dobrev captured footage of Hough performing an epic pool jump, above none other that Laich’s head and an inflatable arch.
In the clip, Hough glides over the arch and lands on a rainbow pool float while Laich, looks amazed by the stunt. “Now that’s how you stick a landing,” Dobrev captioned the video.
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Working It Out
Hough hinted that she and Laich had reunited after posting a photo with his dog, Koda on Sept. 26.
Two sources then told PEOPLE that the stars are vacationing together in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where they got married in July 2017.
The pair had been social distancing apart following their split amid the coronavirus pandemic with Laich in Idaho and Hough in Los Angeles.
One insider said that the couple’s decision to part ways actually brought them closer. “They decided to separate and to do their own thing. Brooks always wanted to stay married and made a lot of changes to make it work,” the insider told PEOPLE. “He was getting frustrated. He was hoping that Jules would come around, and she finally has.”
The insider added that Hough “realized that Brooks really, really loves her. He is a great guy and so supportive of her. … They are having the best trip.”
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