HGTV stars Chip and Joanna Gaines never imagined they’d be famous. But in four short years, the couple went from unknowns to the beloved stars of Fixer Upper, with an accompanying mega-empire that will soon include a house wares line at Target. “These past several years have been such a mind-blowing season of blessing for us,” Chip writes in his new book, Capital Gaines. “They have also been a very real struggle.”

It’s been more difficult than anyone knows. After announcing their decision to walk away from the TV show that made them household names, Life & Style is exclusively revealing secrets from their 14-year marriage. The lives of the renovation experts are hardly picture-perfect.

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This guy right here… I get to live life with him. I get to hear his thoughts and benefit from his wisdom and encouragement on a daily basis. The reason I am who I am today is because Chip pushed me to go for it. People think of him as a jokester, and he is. It’s a huge part of why I fell in love with him in the first place. But he is so much more than that. He is the ultimate cheerleader, coach and dream maker. I am so thrilled that his book releases today mostly because I believe it holds truth that the world is in desperate need of. I am always proud to be Chip’s wife but today more than ever. I know this book was a true labor of love. Well done, Chip Carter Gaines! #CapitalGaines @chipgaines

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“Every now and then there are times when we notice we’re getting off track and have to regroup,” Chip, 42, confesses. “But it’s like everything we care about, everything that’s important to us — we know it’s going to require work.”

Spending time with Jo wasn’t always Chip’s priority, though. The couple once nearly split up. Six months into their relationship, Chip decided to head to Mexico for a three-month-long Spanish-language immersion program, leaving his then-girlfriend to care for his businesses. While Joanna was supportive at first, the situation soon turned to chaos. “’You have three days to get back to Texas, or this relationship is over,’” he remembers Joanna yelling at him.

Clearly, the Chip made things right, and they went on to welcome Drake, 12, Ella, 10, Duke, 9, and Emmie, 7. Stepping away from the spotlight will be healthy for the couple, believes Beverly Hills–based psychologist Julie Armstrong, who does not work with them. “It’s kind of hard to see the negative,” she tells Life & Style. “It has the potential to bring new life, joy, and fun into the relationship again, to freshen it up. Just like they freshen up a home!” Chip’s mom, Gayle Gaines, agrees. “They earned some time to rest,” she tells Life & Style. “I would say their marriage is very sound.”

Still, controversy will no doubt continue to follow the duo. Season 5 of Fixer Upper begins airing in November and will continue into 2018. They’re also still the heads of a multimillion-dollar brand. It’s more than either Chip or Jo could’ve ever imagined they’d have on their plate. But they’re navigating the madness together. “I have no clue what the future holds at this point,” said Chip. “God surely has a few more surprises in store for us.”