"Relationships in the long term can be challenging, and they have their ups and downs. You've got to take that ride and be willing to take it," Buckingham tells PEOPLE in this week's issue of PEOPLE

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lindsey and kristen buckingham
Credit: Christopher Polk/ACA2012/Getty

It's been a tumultuous three years for rock hero Lindsey Buckingham.

After his firing from Fleetwood Mac in 2018 and an intense recovery from open-heart surgery the following year, the singer relied on his wife Kristen Messner and their three children for support during the shaky time. However, fans of the Mac guitarist were shocked to hear that Messner had filed for divorce from the rocker in June.

Opening up to PEOPLE in this week's issue about his solo music and his future, Buckingham, 71, reveals how the pandemic affected his marriage and why he and Messner, 51, whom he married in 2000, are hoping to mend their relationship and are putting their divorce on hold.

"Relationships in the long term can be challenging, and they have their ups and downs. You've got to take that ride and be willing to take it," Buckingham, who releases his self-titled album on Friday, tells PEOPLE. "I think a lot of relationships were somewhat tested by the lockdown."

"Over the last year Kristen felt she needed some time to herself, and I have been completely supportive of that," Buckingham explains. "Before this all went down, I was not aware that many people file for divorce and then choose not to follow through."

"Kristen and I agree that is the best course to follow, focusing instead on working on our relationship," he adds. The couple shares children William, 23, LeeLee, 21 and Stella, 17.

As he continues his tour promoting the new record, the guitarist tells PEOPLE that despite writing and recording the album's tracks more than two years ago, the songs — such as "Swan Song," "I Don't Mind" and "Blind Love" — have taken on new meaning for him given the state of his marriage.

"Love with someone is initially built on a set of illusions and probably continues to exist with those illusions to some degree," he says. "I think part of having a long-term relationship is accepting that you're never going to really know everything about another person and that you've got to concentrate on the things that bring you together and that define you as a single entity and try to let go of some of the other things."

"We came out the other end with some stuff to sort out," he adds. "I think that did make the material speak a little louder and more specifically."

Speaking about "I Don't Mind," which features Buckingham's iconic finger-picking sounds and catchy chorus, the rocker says the track is "an analysis of a long-term relationship" and how it can be "joyful, challenging and sometimes painful all at the same time."

"It's perhaps celebratory of the fact that joy and sorrow must coexist very close to each other," he adds. "And that acceptance of that larger sense of relationship is what can keep it going."

Despite his status as a rockstar, Buckingham maintains that as soon as he enters the doors to his home, the "capital letter Lindsey Buckingham" disappears — especially when he's around his kids.

"They are proud of me and think Dad is pretty cool or whatever, but I don't try to live that," he says. "I can be up on stage doing what I'm doing, but at home, I'm just another schlubby dad like everybody else."

"I've just tried to be a dad who's been supportive and interested in what they're doing. They're all pretty normal kids," he adds of his children. His eyes light up as he speaks of his kids: William just finished an internship with the Wasserman agency and is "quite musically inclined" as he loves to DJ, LeeLee is studying business at the University of Southern California and his youngest Stella loves riding horses and could become an Olympian one day.

"They all seem to be on their own path, and that's the main thing," he says.

For more on Lindsey Buckingham, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands everywhere Friday.