Carly Pearce and Michael Ray Split Wasn't a 'Quarantine Realization,' Says Source
A source close to Carly Pearce tells PEOPLE that it was a "hard decision" for her to file for divorce from husband Michael Ray
A source close to the "Every Little Thing" singer-songwriter tells PEOPLE that her decision to file for divorce from the "Her World or Mine" singer on Friday wasn't "a quarantine realization" but rather "it was a last resort."
"This was a hard decision," the source says. "It wasn't something she wanted to have to do."
On Monday, both of the country stars' reps confirmed to PEOPLE exclusively that they had split after eight months of marriage.
Ray, 32, and Pearce, 30, last appeared in public together on June 6, when they both performed without a live audience at the Grand Ole Opry. They were joined on the bill by Steve Wariner and Lee Brice (Pearce's duet partner on their No. 1 smash "I Hope You're Happy Now"), who sat between them on stage during their performances.
Ahead of the performance, Ray told PEOPLE that he and Pearce were splitting their time in quarantine amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic between their place in Nashville and their families' homes. He said they spent a month together in the coastal Alabama home of Pearce's parents, where they kept busy by going on a lot of "wine walks."
"You just drink wine and walk around a small town," Ray said. "I don't think I've ever walked more in my life. I felt like we were retired. We just didn't have anything else to do but walk."
Ray also said that he and Pearce were getting restless being off their tours for so long.
"It's been a hard time for everybody," Ray said. "But we've really tried to find the silver lining in it, and go, 'We're not getting out of this, so how do we make the most of it?'"
In recent months, eagle-eyed fans started noticing the couple — known to be vocal about their love on social media — were posting about each other less and less. Ray and Pearce last shared birthday tributes for each other on Instagram on April 24 and April 29, respectively, while Ray also posted a congratulatory note for Pearce on his Instagram Story after "I Hope You're Happy Now" topped the charts last week.
On her birthday, Pearce opened up to PEOPLE about her decision to spend time in isolation in Alabama with her family.
"I got scared," she said. "My mom has weak lungs, and she had some scares last year with pneumonia — I just didn't want to be seven hours away from her right now. I'm an only child, so I made that decision."
"Michael has been here the majority of the time, but he's working on new music and trying to figure out how to make an album in this quarantine," she added. "He's been in Nashville and he went to see his family too. It's been a crazy time, but a content time. To be able for us to spend this much time together and with my parents at this time has been a blessing ... We really have been operating like two normal people rather than two artists juggling schedules and never seeing each other."
Ray and Pearce got married on Oct. 6, 2019, on a Nashville-area farm in front of about 100 family members and friends.
"Knowing without a shadow of a doubt that I didn't settle for something less than truly the person that I think was made for me is something that I am thankful for," Pearce told PEOPLE at the time.
"No matter what, I have her in my corner," Ray added. "No matter what, she has me in her corner. I tell her, you're never going to face anything alone. Never will there be anything in life that you don't look over and I'm standing beside you."
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Professional acquaintances for years, the two had a friendly get-together at Pearce's house back in June 2018. Sparks began to fly during an evening of conversation, and not wanting the night to end, they headed out to the Nashville Palace, a favorite haunt for each, to share an earful of twang. At the bar, Ray put his arm around Pearce and when the two locked eyes, both knew simultaneously that they had met their match.
"It was just this very certain moment," Pearce previously told PEOPLE. "More certain than I've ever been: 'That is who you're going to be with.'"
In November 2018, they made their relationship red carpet official at the CMA Awards. Then that December, Ray surprised Pearce with a proposal — and a five-carat diamond ring — during a family vacation to Tulum, Mexico.
"It just so happened the resort we were staying at in Tulum had this private deck that overlooked the ocean," Ray told PEOPLE in January 2019. "So the photos were perfect. I knew that I wanted this to be over the top. I wanted it to be what she deserved, and I wanted her mom to be a part of it because she and her mom are as tight as two people can be. I knew between both of us we would hit exactly what Carly would want."
"I told her mom, 'I want this to make The Bachelor look like a date night at Applebee's,'" he added. "I want this to blow her mind. I want her to have a movie moment that she'll look back on forever."
A self-described "traditionalist," Ray said he has always wanted what his grandparents had during their 53-year-long marriage.
"My grandparents were married for 53 years," he said. "I have that example growing up. On the other hand, I witnessed my mom and dad's divorce. And it was not an easy one. It was hard. I was 8, turning 9, and I have my little sister. I saw the pain in both my parents' eyes and saw everything that happened with it."
"I felt like that was kind of where my childhood — as far as me thinking like a kid — stopped, and I realized I just really got thrown a big dose of the real world at an earlier age," he continued. "Wait a minute, my mom and dad aren’t together no more? But my great grandparents were married. My aunt and uncle had been together since they were 15. Everybody around me — all my friends' parents. I'm like, 'What is going on here?'"
At the time, Ray said he "never" wanted to go through what his parents went through with their divorce.
"All their friends were obviously their age, and they had been together with their significant other for years, and I thought, 'That's what I want,'" he said. "I want that. And what I do for a living is what I love, but it's not who I am. Some day, hopefully it's 50 years down the road, the lights fade, the crowds get a little smaller, stages get a little smaller. But no matter what, you end up looking back on what you did. You're looking back on what you have. I never want to be the guy who was alone during that time. I wanted to build something with somebody. I wanted the chance to one day have a family and know that real part of life."
"I love what I do — I'm so blessed and lucky to do it, but I'm even more blessed and lucky to do it with [Carly]," he added. "To have that foundation of commitment ... I think that's the biggest thing that we're all looking for. I think love is what everybody wants, and that’s what people search for. It's trying to find that partner that you can fly with and ride with, and be there when s— ain't going your way."
So, Ray said he told Pearce "she's stuck."
"That's the reason why the ring looks like that," he joked. "I'm doing this one time."
Also in January 2019, Pearce told PEOPLE that she wanted her and Ray to be together "for life."
"We always say, 'There are going to be highs and lows for each of us in this career, and it makes it harder because we're doing the same thing,'" she said. "Yes, I'm a female artist. He's a male artist. We're still artists competing for spots on the chart. But at the end of the day, I'll walk through any of it. Obviously, we are workaholics, both of us, from sunup to sundown. If something needs to happen with work, we get it. So we're in this 100 percent, but it isn't our everything anymore, and we have something to come home. My home is now where he is. We're creating a life so much bigger than Carly Pearce and Michael Ray."
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