'Thank U Next' Is Her Theme Song Now: Lauren Alaina Opens Up About Her Broken Engagement
Two months after announcing she’d broken off her engagement, Lauren Alaina has opened up about why her six-year relationship with Alex Hopkins ended, and she has revealed how a week of intense therapy in January helped her cope with the breakup and other life upheavals.
During an episode of the Nashville-based podcast “All Our Favorite People” released on Wednesday, the 24-year-old artist told hosts Ashley Eicher and Hunter Kelly that “last year was one of the hardest years of my life — maybe the hardest year of my life as an adult.” But today, she added, “I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.”
Alaina and Hopkins became engaged last July, and she joyfully announced it on Instagram: “Being yours forever has a nice ‘RING’ to it.” But within a few months, she said on the 80-minute podcast, deep cracks in the relationship were becoming obvious.
“We started dating at 17, and we’re now 24 years old,” she said. “We’re very different people, and we have different goals, and we want to go different places in life. When we got engaged, it got really real. Not that it wasn’t real before, but it was just like, ‘Oh.’ When you start planning your entire future and you’re not agreeing on things, it’s very hard. But he was all I knew, and I was all he knew.”
In the midst of the couple’s growing misgivings, Alaina also was dealing with an ongoing crisis: Her beloved stepfather, Sam Ramker, had been diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma just three months before she got engaged.
The “Road Less Traveled” singer revealed Ramker and her mother moved from Wisconsin into her Nashville home so he could receive months of treatment at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. After Ramker died on Oct. 21, Alaina went into a tailspin.
Back on tour just a day after the funeral, Alaina admitted she “wasn’t dealing with it at all. I was sobbing all the time. I would cry until the second I got on stage, and then I would turn it off, and I’d get off stage, and I’d cry myself to sleep.”
Struggling with both her grief and the crumbling engagement, Alaina knew she needed help. Through a friend’s recommendation, she sought out Onsite Workshops, a residential therapy program located about 45 miles west of Nashville. The week of therapy, Alaina said, “changed my life in every way.”
Though she thought she entered the program to deal with current crises, she said she ended up diving into childhood traumas that had long gone unexamined, including the suicide of her paternal grandfather.
Looking back on the intense therapy, Alaina said she still considers herself a work in progress, but “I am literally so proud of the person that I am now. I’ve worked really hard on myself. And I think that we all should do that. We should all care about ourselves as much as we care about other people.”
She and Hopkins announced the end of their engagement in Instagram posts on Jan. 21, a week after she completed the Onsite program.
“I’ll love him until the day that I die,” she said. “I will never look back on our time together and think that it was a waste, ever. … He was such an important person in my life, but that just doesn’t make him the person that I’m supposed to be with forever.”
If she has a theme song now, she said on the podcast, it would be Ariana Grande’s “Thank U, Next.”
“Any Ariana Grande song right now is like my life, because she just called off an engagement, too,” Alaina said, but she added: “I think she’s probably better at dating than me.”
Re-entering the dating scene, she confessed, is “problematic. It’s not a skill that I have. … I’m a very flirty person in general … [but] I’ve never had to flirt with intent.”
“You guys got some tips?” she asked Eicher and Kelly. “Let’s just start a hashtag ‘intentionalflirting,’ and y’all give me some advice, please.”