Chip and Joanna Gaines Get Candid About Their Difficult First Year of Marriage: 'We've Had Our Challenges'

"We're either going to go at each other and blow this thing up . . . or we can figure out how to come together as a team," Chip recalls of navigating the early days of their relationship

THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 1799 -- Pictured: TV personalities Chip Gaines and Joanna Gaines pose together backstage on Tuesday, February 14, 2023
Photo: Todd Owyoung/NBC via Getty

Chip and Joanna Gaines admit the beginning of their marriage wasn't all smooth sailing.

In a new special edition of PEOPLE, Chip & Joanna Gaines: 20 Years of Marriage and Magnolia, the couple opened up about some struggles they faced in the earliest days of their life together.

"In the first months of our marriage, we were always flipping a house. We were working on this little shop. We had babies early in the process. We pretty quickly had to say, 'We're either going to go at each other and blow this thing up, you and I trying to fight each other about every nook and cranny, or we can figure out how to come together as a team,'" Chip tells PEOPLE.

But the pair soon found their footing and turned their differences into their strength as a couple.

"We've had our challenges. I don't want to belittle that piece of the equation," Chips says. "But Jo and I — I don't know if it's our hearts — we're aligned in this sweet way to where we've just always been there for each other."

He adds: "When adversity came against us — when your natural tendency is [to be] almost the ugliest to those people you love, especially in times of real pressure — with Jo and I, we felt adversity and would get together like a little team and say, 'What do you think the problem is?' As opposed to maybe typically being like, 'Well, it's because of that thing you bought' or 'because of that dumb thing you did.'

Joanna Gaines Instagram

While learning how to better approach disagreements didn't come "naturally," Chip says it didn't take "tons and tons of effort." Joanna attributes it to knowing what each other's strengths were.

"The biggest thing is we met at a time when both of us felt pretty grounded in who we were as people by ourselves. I feel like Chip, he was a visionary. He had these businesses," says Joanna. "And I was at a place of fully knowing who I was. It wasn't the 'you complete me' thing."

Learning how to address "adversity" within their marriage was ultimately beneficial for the couple. Chip adds, "We made each other stronger.

Adds, Joanna, "The best is that we're growing together."

chip and Joanna gaines book cover

Figuring out how and when to draw the line between work and their relationship is something the Gaineses are still actively work on.

"I think the challenge is it's hard to shut off. It's hard to figure out the line of 'Oh, that's business. Okay, this is marriage.' It all kind of blurs," she says. "We've tried to be like, 'Let's go on a date and not talk about business.' So we'd sit there and be like, 'The garden is doing great today. . . ' You had to exercise these new muscles. When we go on dates, sometimes we get energized by talking about how to problem-solve. So I don't know. Sometimes there's no clocking out."

For more from the Gaineses, as well as interviews, recipes, and home ideas from Magnolia Network experts including the Maine Cabin Masters, Zoë François, Hilton Carter, chef Erin French, garden guru Jamila Norman, and many others, pick up PEOPLE's new special edition, Chip & Joanna Gaines: 20 Years of Marriage and Magnolia, available now wherever magazines are sold.

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