Ree Drummond Shares the Sweet Nightly Ritual That's Kept Her Marriage Strong After 21 Years

Ree Drummond tells PEOPLE that she and husband Ladd are "blessed that we had tough times at first" 

Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond and her husband Ladd have been going strong for 21 years—not only as loving spouses, but also as business partners.

“Every good idea I’ve had has come from him,” the Food Network star says in this week’s PEOPLE cover story, on newsstands Friday. “I think of myself as this independent woman who can handle everything herself, but I really trust his opinion.”

Still, when Ladd came to her with an idea their latest project, the Boarding House—an 8-room boutique luxury hotel in their hometown of Pawhuska, Okla.—she was skeptical. “At first I thought, ‘Do we really need another project? Let me sleep on it.’ Then he broke ground while I was asleep.”

Kayt Jones

Though the couple share a vision, there is the occasional clash, which comes through in the rooms of the hotel—four of which were designed by Ree and four by Ladd. Hers boast the signature vibrant colors and bold patterns she’s become known for; his have a more understated, rustic look. “I’m not going to paint a rosy picture of husband and wife working perfectly together,” Ree says with a laugh. “There were definite disagreements, and that is part of why we ended up splitting the building into two halves.”

If they do have a scuffle, they have a little nightly ritual to make things right. “We don’t go to sleep in each other’s arms—we like our space—but our feet always touch,” she says. “I know that if our feet touch before we go to sleep at night, we’re not going to bed upset or angry. If we’ve had a little disagreement, as long as our feet touch, it’s all good.”

Kayt Jones

To read more about Ree Drummond’s life as a business mogul, wife and mother, plus exclusive Pioneer Woman recipes, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

And while the Drummonds now run a laundry list of booming businesses, both with her Pioneer Woman endeavors and his cattle-ranching company, things weren’t always that way. “The first 10 years of our marriage weren’t the easiest things in the world. We had financial struggles; we had everything that every couple goes through in the early years,” says Ladd, whose business took a hit during the Mad Cow disease scare and as the value of his land took a dive in the ’90s. “The first six years that Ree and I were married we didn’t take a single vacation, and she never complained once.”

RELATED VIDEO: How Ree Drummond Turned a Tiny Oklahoma Town into the Center of Her Pioneer Woman Empire

Now, he says, they’re mindful not to take any of their success for granted. “We’re blessed that we did have tough times at first. We’re just grateful that people want to come, want to visit our town, and we’re very humbled that it’s been as good as it has.”

For Ree, the unwavering support of her husband has not gone unappreciated. “I sometimes don’t know how I got this cowboy who somehow grasps all of this very modern-day stuff that I’m doing,” she says. “I started with blogging, then wrote cookbooks and went on book tours, filmed a cooking show, and now with our building projects in town he has just always understood what we’re trying to do. He really is my number one confidant.”

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