“Miley and Liam’s relationship has evolved so beautifully over the past few years. They first grew as individuals and ultimately evolved as a couple,” a friend of the Voice coach tells PEOPLE exclusively. “It speaks to who they are and their mutual respect for one another.”
Getting their relationship back onto solid ground took plenty of work, but the effort was something both stars — who fell for each other while shooting their Nicholas Sparks drama The Last Song on Tybee Island in 2009 — were more than willing to put in when they got a second chance at love with one another.
“Miley went through a lot of soul-searching as she grew up and became her own person,” says a music source about the former Hannah Montana star, who got engaged to Hemsworth for the first time at just 19 years old. Adds another insider: “Miley had trust issues and Liam felt she was needy. After years, they finally figured out ways to meet halfway and respectfully deal with each other’s differences.”
For all the details on Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth’s surprise wedding and their plans for the future, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
Despite being “madly in love,” the young entertainers were often forced apart by their booming careers while also trying to figure out what they wanted personally and professionally.
“When they got engaged the first time, they were just kids. There was no way they were ready for that kind of commitment,” says a source in Cyrus’ circle. “When the Disney-era of her life was over, Miley was a bit lost and wanted to break out of that image. Liam’s career was also blowing up with Hunger Games, and they were being pulled a million different ways. He didn’t know how to handle the attention and drama.”
After calling off their engagement both stars went on to date other people during their time apart, but Hemsworth always remained “special” to the singer.
“Most couples that start dating young split up and never speak again. Miley and Liam were always different,” says the insider. “She would often talk about Liam even though she was dating other people. When they eventually got back together in 2015, it seemed meant to be.”
These days, Cyrus remains a chameleon — her 2013 song “Wrecking Ball” marked a rebellious time in her post-Disney career while her latest album Younger Now reflects her newfound confidence — but now the couple are both on the same page when it comes to their life and future together.
“Miley adores his sense of loyalty, adventure and independence,” says the friend. “Her career is thriving and so is Liam’s. And now her best friend is also her husband. There’s no better way to start the year.”