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Parenting three kids in the middle of a pandemic has forced Jessie James Decker to really lean into her creativity.
Her days are jam packed with studio sessions—the country pop singer-songwriter eager to release her fourth studio album when concert venues open up—meetings for clothing brand Kittenish and recipe testing for her follow-up to last fall's Just Feed Me. And yet she and husband Eric Decker manage to ink in some crucial one-on-ones.
"Our kids are back in school," she explained on E!'s Daily Pop this past September. "We take advantage of those handful of hours during the day."
More than seven years into marriage, the two have worked out quite the successful game plan.
"People have asked us, 'How is the quarantine on your marriage?'" she noted to E! News in January. And the answer is....not all that much different. "He retired from football about a year before this whole pandemic," she explained. "So it wasn't, like, a shocker. He didn't have work to go to anymore and he was at home. And I work from home a lot, too. So we were just kind of adjusted to that."
Truthfully, the musician, 32, and the former wide receiver, marking his 34th birthday Mar. 15, were prepared for their relationship to take a hit when they became parents just nine months after tying the knot in 2013 at Colorado's Castle Cliff Estate, near where he was stationed with the Denver Broncos.
"We talk about how sometimes the marriages don't work out once the kids are born because they're so tired," she told E! News in October 2015.
But in their case, their little crew—Vivianne, 6, Eric II, 5, and Forrest, 2—simply rounded out the squad. "We're made in love," she continued, "and we just have an incredible foundation."
Rather than leaving the Nashville-based couple scrambling for pockets of romance, having children made their union "even stronger and made us even closer because you know—think about it. We created these people out of love together,"she explained during a chat on The Motherly Podcast in August 2019. "We are so madly in love with these people that we created together and we have the same goal which is to love them and take care of them and give them the best life we possibly can, which makes us closer and stronger,"
Of course, she continued, "We already liked each other a ton before they came along."
It's a small, but crucial detail, Jessie's previous romantic history being heavier on quantity than quality.
Following a bad romance with a man she labeled only as Angelo in her 2018 book, Just Jessie: My Guide to Love, Life, Family, and Food, a pseudonym chosen to protect the guilty, "I dated many, many guys. Like snowflakes, no two were alike," she wrote. "There was the bartender, who was really easygoing and sweet. It was a nice change of pace from my previous experience, where nothing I did seemed right."
While none of her suitors were arguably as awful as Angelo, a Nashville music producer she said seemed to revel in keeping her down just as her music career was truly taking off, they simply weren't quite it. The "very financially solvent" ex-footballer, the "too vanilla" pro baseball player, even the sweet bartender didn't have the right mix to be her perfect mate.
And turned off by the whole process, the then-22-year-old declared she was done partaking.
Two years after making a splash with her self-titled debut, the Italian born military brat decided she was "swearing off men", she wrote in her book. Which is precisely when the NFL rookie walked into her life.
Well, technically her friend's. "He was in Arizona training, and I got a text from my girlfriend who said, 'I'm having dinner with this guy I'm seeing, and this other guy just showed up, and he's stunning,'" Jessie recalled to Access Hollywood in 2013 of that winter evening in 2011. Initially resistant, it was hard to refuse when her pal sent a picture of the 6-foot-3 two-sport athlete, an outfielder drafted by both the Milwaukee Brewers and the Minnesota Twins, before being scooped up in the third round of the 2010 NFL draft.
Soon she was texting over her own picture and giving her pal the okay to play matchmaker. "He asked my friend for my number and texted me right away," she wrote. And staring at that missive, she made the decision to play this round with a new strategy.
"Starting from the very first text from Eric, I decided I would do things differently this time around," she noted. "From now on, if a man wanted me, he was going to have to show it. So I made Eric chase me."
Thankfully, the University of Minnesota alum is pretty good at playing catch, deftly wooing his future bride from a distance.
"We just talked on the phone and video chatted for like five weeks and then he flew out to Nashville and spent the weekend with me," she shared with Elite Daily in 2017. Then he made his move: "On the way to me taking him to the airport he asked me to be his girlfriend, literally like an 8th grader."
Which, TBH was really the last time he'd done this whole courting thing, his only previous relationship being a seven-year romance with his high school sweetheart. "They were babies when they met, so Eric had no idea what it meant to date as an adult," she shared in her book. "Basically, he was raised to go dutch." His habit of splitting the bill on dates and never offering "to cover the bill or flights when I came in to visit him," was irksome and left the singer worried he might be broke. (This, despite his $2.5 million four-year contract.)
Eventually, she sat him down to see if he'd be open to a bit of constructive criticism. "He was just clueless," she explained, a problem easily rectified when she told him to step it up.
By the time they celebrated their first anniversary, he was stepping down—to one knee, that is—offering a round-cut diamond and a promise to be the perfect person she'd always been seeking. "He is my soul mate," she gushed after his proposal in Las Vegas, where they were attending the ACM Awards. "We feel so fortunate to have found each other."
Grateful enough, anyway, to happily accept their #goals mantal. Noting to The Knot that "I could've settled three times before him. I had three serious boyfriends before him," she said she hopes they serve as an example of "to let people know that you could find happiness too. It is real. It does exist."
Among the takeaways in the Decker Guidebook to true love: Don't get too caught up in milestone events ("Every single day is a celebration for us and I know it sounds cheesy but it really is," she told E! News, explaining how they both managed to forget their second anniversary), keep it adorable (whether that means car ride sing-alongs or matching PJs) and always, always maintain the sort of flirty banter that got you there in the first place, easy to do when you have a man that's "just shredded" as Jessie put it to E! News.
"Not only is he the best father and husband in the whole world," she wrote in a 2015 Man Crush Monday tribute, "but he is so damn fine I literally want to lick his face every time he walks into the room."
Starting to understand why they have three kids?
Though Jessie declared ahead of Forrest's March 2018 birth that "this is my last baby," a situation that seemed fitting when he arrived on the anniversary of that very first phone call, they've both waffled a bit since.
"I feel so good about our three. Three is a great number and we've got our hands full," she said on E!'s Pop of the Morning in January 2020. "But you know, I also have this thought in my head sometimes that I don't want to regret it two years down the road if I did want a little what do they call it a caboose baby."
Either way, their train is going to keep on chugging.
Calling their romance "genuine", she told Elite Daily, "We're really happy and so I think I can feel good and go to sleep at night knowing that we're inspiring others to maybe have a great relationship too."
(Originally published Apr. 12, 2020 at 3 a.m. PT)