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Thomas Rhett recalls blunt talk with his father-in-law before getting married at 22

Lauren Akins’ dad had some blunt advice for Rhett about remaining faithful on the road, and the country singer took it to heart. 
ABC's "CMA Country Christmas" 2020
Lauren Akins and Thomas Rhett were both just 22 years old when they said their "I dos."Katie Kauss / ABC via Getty Images

While Thomas Rhett followed in his father footsteps by crafting a career in country music, he didn’t want to follow Rhett Akins’ lead when it came to marriage.

The singer-songwriter’s parents divorced when he was just 9 years old. So when he was ready to walk down the aisle with his childhood sweetheart, Rhett turned to another paternal figure for advice — Steve Gregory, the man who later became his father-in-law.

“I mean, there was a part of me that was just like, 'Is that going to be me too?'" Rhett explained of his early marital concerns on Monday’s episode of the “Making Space with Hoda Kotb” podcast. "I remember Lauren’s dad — he flies jets for a living, like he owns a charter company in Nashville. And, you know, in the 90s, he would fly … you name that country artist, he flew them around. So he’d been around the business for a while."

And Gregory knew the challenges and temptations music acts faced on the road.

"I remember, before me and Lauren got married, he was like, 'You better keep your head on straight,'" Rhett recalled. "He was like, 'You better not do anything out there on the road, because I promise you, I’ve seen it and I will call you out immediately.' And I was like, 'You don’t have anything to worry about,' you know?"

But it wasn't long before a newlywed, 22-year-old Rhett witnessed the realities of life on the road for himself.

"I got into it, (and) I quickly realized how easy that could be without the right boundaries put in place," he said. "I remember my first year on the road, somebody grabbed my butt onstage, and I was torn up with guilt and shame."

He called his bride and shared the situation, and then, with his father-in-law's warning still in mind, he took action that same night.

"I told my tour manager, told my team, I was like, 'Hey, unless you’re a sister or someone who’s dating someone in the band, there can’t be anybody back here that we don’t know.' Because that was my boundary. You know what I’m saying? I knew that if I started to let this slide and that slide and that slide, that it could have gotten bad."

Looking back now, after almost ten years of marriage, he knows he made the right decision.

"That is something that I’m so glad that we we implemented early, early on," Rhett noted. 

And there's another early decision he's grateful for — entering marriage counseling from the start.

"Our marriage counselor said, 'I think you all need to be fully together your first year on the road,'" he told Hoda. "Because the year that (Lauren) graduated (from nursing school), I went on this thing called a radio tour, which is where you’re gone for like eight months and you’re literally visiting every country radio station in the country. So if she had gone to work in the hospital and I’d gone to do that, our first year marriage would have been completely just split apart."

Instead, they travelled together that year — and several years after that, too.

"I don’t think my wife ever planned on marrying someone that was doing what I’m doing," Rhett said, looking back on things. "I think that if she could have picked at that age, she would have picked someone that was going to be home at five o’clock."

But he's glad she didn't.

"I literally just look at her and say, 'Thank you for marrying me,'" the "Die a Happy Man" singer added.