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On paper, Nicole Richie and Joel Madden‘s love story didn’t have the most auspicious beginning. When she met the Good Charlotte frontman in 2006, their lives were a bit messy.

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She had just been arrested for DUI, and while his record was clean, he was still a touring rock star. They’d been dating for just a few months when she became pregnant with their daughter, Harlow, born January 2008, and,
a source says, “nobody thought the relationship would last. Her family and friends were worried that Nicole would end up a single mom.” But almost eight years later, the couple are still going strong: They welcomed son Sparrow in 2009 and tied the knot in 2010.

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“It’s been great,” Nicole said of her marriage on Oprah Winfrey’s Where Are They Now? last July. While she admitted that she and Joel have had their ups and downs, she added, “From the second we found out we were going to be parents, we looked at each other and, ‘Okay, our parents are divorced… we don’t have a strong example of what a healthy family life is. But we’re recognizing that now, so let’s work at it and get through this
together, as a team.’ “

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Their parenting styles were a source of friction at first. Nicole, 32, is the disciplinarian, while Joel is more indulgent. “Nicole is adamant that the kids eat organic, whereas Joel would feed them donuts and Doritos,” says the source. But soon enough Joel realized it was easier to get on the same page as his wife. Through good times and bad, the pair have also worked hard to maintain their sexual connection.

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“Intimacy is a priority for them,” says the source. “Nicole likes to buy lingerie to spice things up. She spends a good $20,000 a year [on lingerie!] Even with Joel shooting The Voice in Australia for months at a time, they Skype and text daily to keep the spark alive.”

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Right now, they’re in a great place. Nicole’s career is picking up again with her new VH1 show, Candidly Nicole, and Joel and his brother Benji [Madden] are putting out an album this fall. Their marriage, the source says, isn’t perfect—but unlike many Hollywood couples, they’ve found a way to keep the passion alive. “They genuinely love each other and will keep doing everything in their power to make their relationship last.”

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Do you think Nicole and Joel are cute together? Why do you think they work so well? Did you think they were going to last? Tell us in the comments below or tweet us @OKMagazine.

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