"Miranda truly is happier than ever," a friend tells PEOPLE about Miranda Lambert and new husband Brendan McLoughlin

By Nicole Sands and Janine Rubenstein
February 20, 2019 01:45 PM
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When Miranda Lambert‘s new husband Brendan McLoughlin popped into her life, friends were elated to see her smile a lot more than she used to.

“Miranda truly is happier than ever,” a friend of the 35-year-old country singer tells PEOPLE exclusively. And one music industry insider says that it’s no surprise Lambert struck up a strong connection with McLoughlin.

“I think he provides for her a state of [normalcy] that balances with her life before she became Miranda Lambert,” adds the insider.

Miranda Lambert and Brendan McLoughlin
| Credit: Courtesy Miranda Lambert

Lambert’s father Rick has plenty in common with McLoughlin, 27, who is a police officer with the New York Police Department. A former homicide-and-narcotics cop for the Dallas Police Department, Rick and Lambert’s mom Bev also previously owned a detective agency called Lambert & Lambert.

Says the insider, “She kind of married her dad,” pointing to the similar career paths.

Adds the friend, “If you know Miranda’s dad and his background, you can guess why she’d easily connect with Brendan.”

Miranda Lambert with father Richard Lee Lambert
| Credit: Rick Diamond/Getty Images

For more on Miranda Lambert’s romance with new husband Brendan McLoughlin, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

Beyond the badge, friends say he’s got a heart of gold.

“He, obviously, likes dogs and animals, he’s pretty fearless, he knows his way around a gun, he understands and upholds the law – the reality of how we treat each other,” the insider continues, adding that despite the speedy courtship, “There’s nothing wrong with somebody catching your eye and then you find out they have a heart that matches.”

While the pair chose to keep their relationship a secret for over three months, an insider confirms that the pair first met on Friday, Nov. 2, when Lambert appeared with her Pistol Annies‘ bandmates Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley on that day’s episode of Good Morning America to perform their new single, “Got My Name Changed Back,” and promote their third studio album, Interstate Gospel.

GMA films in Times Square, where McLoughlin, 27, works as a police officer with the New York Police Department. The NYPD confirmed to PEOPLE that McLoughlin is currently assigned to the South Midtown Precinct, which includes the area where Lambert performed on the day she met her future husband.

“She was between projects and I think she had a lot of time, and she met somebody who sparked with her,” the music insider says about why it could have been the perfect time for Lambert to settle down.

“Miranda has spent the last couple of years dating — she’s been out there, she’s been rocking and she’s been living the life of a single superstar,” adds the insider.

The “Vice” singer first revealed her new relationship on Saturday, when she told fans that the pair had recently married in a secret wedding. The pair actually tied the knot Jan. 26 and kept their marriage under wraps for three weeks.

“In honor of Valentine’s Day I wanted to share some news. I met the love of my life. And we got hitched!” Lambert wrote on Instagram, alongside two sweet photos from their happy day.

“My heart is full. Thank you Brendan McLoughlin for loving me for…. me,” she continued, adding a red heart emoji and the sweet hashtag “theone.”

RELATED: Miranda Lambert Talks Record Breaking ACM Wins: ‘I Just Always Try to Live in the Moment’

Just hours before sharing the happy news with the world, the pair were also spotted out in New York City’s SoHo district, smiling as they walked and held hands outside, with their wedding bands on full display.

They looked happy and natural holding hands and strolling on the sidewalk,” an onlooker told PEOPLE of the two, who were “stopping to look in windows and smiling.” And Lambert, who was proudly sporting the new hardware, couldn’t have seemed happier: “She was beaming and protectively holding her ring finger,” added the onlooker.

Miranda Lambert and Brendan McLoughlin
| Credit: The Image Direct

In all, said the onlooker, “They looked like a couple going on a date in the city.”

This is the second marriage for Lambert, who was previously married to Blake Shelton, before their divorce in 2015. Since then, she has dated singers Anderson East and Evan Felker, before finding love again with McLoughlin.