Chip And Joanna Gaines Are TV’s Ultimate Power Couple, But Their Journey Hasn’t Always Been Easy

Best-known for their stint on HGTV’s Fixer Upper, Chip and Joanna Gaines appear to have an ideal relationship on both a personal and professional level. However, the home-renovating power couple have endured their fair share of hardships since getting together in the mid-2000s. And in 2019 they opened up about a period that was more challenging than any fixer-upper.

Chip and Joanna have been described as a model couple for the way they interacted with each other on their renovation show. Not only did they work perfectly as a pair to bring countless homes back to life, but they were also playful and affectionate while doing so. And Chip, in particular, has never been afraid to show his romantic side.

In 2020 Chip commemorated their 17th wedding anniversary by putting out various throwback images on his Instagram account. One sees him kissing Joanna on the day they tied the knot with the obligatory “Just Married” notice attached to their vehicle. The other is a more recent pic that shows his wife posing happily on a set of stairs.

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Chip wrote next to the post: “Everything about you has made everything about me better. And 17 years later I’m still learning from and loving on the most incredible woman in the world. After all these years Joanna Lea Stevens, you really are the girl of my dreams… Happy 17th sweet girl. I love you.”

Speaking to Jason Kennedy on E! show In the Room that same year, Chip reiterated just how strongly he felt about his wife. He said, “You know, at the end of the day I love Jo more than anything in the world.” But he also hinted that their romance isn’t the one of a kind thing that many believe it to be, adding, “I think anybody can have it.”

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In fact, the pair’s love story didn’t exactly get off to a promising start. In a May 2020 piece for their own lifestyle publication Magnolia Journal, Joanna admitted that she’d initially dismissed Chip as a potential life partner during their first date in 2001. She said, “For one thing, I was typically attracted to guys who were more on the quiet side… it was clear that Chip was anything but quiet.”

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To make matters worse, Chip had turned up 90 minutes late for the date and didn’t even offer an apology. However, over the course of the evening Joanna’s feelings began to change. Indeed, as the star revealed in their 2016 book The Magnolia Story, by the time the bill arrived she’d even started to think about the sound of wedding bells.

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“I never told him this until later, but on that first date, as he was talking, everything kind of went away and I just saw his mouth moving,” Joanna revealed. “And I remember having this internal dialogue: ‘This is the guy I’m going to marry?’ ‘Nope, it’s not. He’s a talker and you always wanted a quiet guy.’ ‘No, this is the guy!’ And I kind of held on to that last one. I’d never had that instinct before.”

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In her piece for the Magnolia Journal, Joanna explained how Chip managed to turn things around. “All the ideas and dreams he held for himself were anything but ordinary, and he talked about the world around him through the lens of untapped potential,” she wrote. “When Chip did eventually stop talking, if only to take a breath, I found myself wanting to fill the silence with plans and dreams of my own.”

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“Ideas that I kept close and half-baked for fear that I didn’t have what it would take to turn them into realities,” Joanna continued. “Dreams that I knew required the heart of a risk taker, a quality I’d long considered to be one I simply didn’t possess. Somehow those aspirations felt real, achievable even, in Chip’s company.”

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Furthermore, Joanna admits that this particular experience helped to shape her as a person. “Chip and I had already proved in our own relationship what can happen when I let something grow on me instead of making a snap judgment or an unwavering conclusion at first glance,” she wrote. “Chip calls it my ‘slow yes’ and I’ve learned to trust it above all else in matters of both work and home.”

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Chip had first become enamored with Joanna after spotting a photo at her father’s car garage in Waco. Appearing on Harry Connick Jr.’s talk show, he confessed, “I mean, I got my brakes fixed once or twice a month whether I needed them or not just to try to have the opportunity to meet this fox.” However, Chip wasn’t exactly Mr. Smooth when he finally had the chance to speak to her.

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In the 2020 book What Makes a Marriage Last, Joanna recalled, “One day, I was walking out of my dad’s store and Chip was walking in, so we kind of hit each other. He said, ‘Hey, you’re that girl in the tire commercials.’ And I thought to myself, ‘Oh, no, this is one of those guys.’”

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Nevertheless, Chip soon managed to lay on the charm. Joanna added, “Even though he kept asking me ask these questions – ‘Why are you staying in Waco?’ ‘Tell me your story’ – it was the first time I’d ever sat with a guy without questioning his motives. We talked for about an hour, and he was a wonderful listener.”

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A year later, Chip proposed to Joanna at a jewelry shop. In 2003 the couple walked down the aisle together in their Texan hometown, before enjoying a honeymoon in New York City. And a couple of years on they welcomed their first child into the world with the birth of son Drake. Chip and Joanna went on to have four more kids: Crew, Emmie Kay, Duke and Ella Rose.

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During their early years together, broadcast-journalism graduate Joanna spent her days working in the Waco store she owned. Business alum Chip, meanwhile, was busy gaining invaluable experience as a house flipper. On the surface, then, they appeared to lead an idyllic lifestyle – but the reality was a little more complicated.

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Indeed, in What Makes a Marriage Last, Joanna admits she initially found it hard to cope with her husband’s impulsiveness. “I was used to having everything scheduled,” she reveals in the book, which was written by another married couple: Phil Donahue and Marlo Thomas. Joanna found it particularly challenging whenever Chip would buy another rundown house on a whim.

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Moreover, these concerns weren’t unfounded – the couple often struggled financially before their rise to fame. On one occasion, for example, Joanna had to use all the money in her boutique’s register to keep her husband from spending time in prison, after he was arrested for failing to pay parking tickets.

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Luckily, though, their situation changed dramatically when a TV executive contacted Joanna after spotting her design work online. They asked the boutique owner what she thought about the prospect of appearing on the small screen with her spouse. Chip, however, initially thought it was a hoax and advised Joanna not to respond.

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Curiosity thankfully got the better of them and after returning the phone call, the couple met up with the production company. During their trip to Waco, the film crew witnessed Joanna laying her eyes for the first time on a ramshackle houseboat that her husband had just bought. The combination of Chip’s unrelenting enthusiasm and his wife’s anxiety prompted producers to green-light an episode focusing on the Gaineses’ renovation efforts.

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Joanna further explained how Fixer Upper came about in The Magnolia Story. “That evolving business model was just the thing that pushed the concept of a Chip-and-Joanna TV show over the top,” she stated. “The folks at HGTV loved the idea of following home buyers through the process from start to finish, from selection through renovation, with a big reveal at the end when they finally saw the finished product.”

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In a remarkable bit of timing, the first episode of Fixer Upper aired just over a week prior to the couple celebrating a decade of marriage in the summer of 2013. And audiences couldn’t get enough of Chip and Joanna’s natural rapport. The show quickly racked up a big audience and received award nominations.

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When asked by Texas Monthly why she thinks the couple were so warmly received, HGTV executive Allison Page replied, “I think it is their perfect imperfections. They have the kind of marriage and family you’d want. It’s not perfect. He does silly things, and they occasionally trip over their words or sweat on each other. They are the best of what’s real in life.”

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Of course, the Gaineses have had to put the work in to reach the top of the reality-show ladder. According to People, in 2019 they revealed just how difficult things had once been at Boston’s INBOUND convention. “The four or five years before we did the show, when the housing crisis hit, things were so hard for us,” Joanna told the audience. “For four or five years every Friday, we were saying, ‘Are we gonna make it?’”

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But Joanna also believes that this struggle made the relationship stronger. “We kept pressing through, even in those hard times,” she added. “The value of what we learned in that is something I’d never want to do again, but I’d never not want that. The hard is what makes us appreciate this.”

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Joanna and Chip may look like they’re having fun 24/7 on camera. But the former admitted that sharing your job and home life can bring its fair share of pressures. “This is a very hard thing to do, to work together with someone you also have a relationship and a family with,” he said. “We definitely disagree. It’s not perfect. But for Jo and I, it really is a special bond we’re extremely proud of. We work really well together.”

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Chip then discussed how the differences that initially seemed a problem in their early days have often worked in their favor. “We’re this odd yin and yang, this whole ‘opposites attract,’” he explained. “It really was this powerful chemistry that happened early in our marriage. We enjoyed spending time together, taking on challenges together.”

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Moreover, Chip revealed that he and his wife soon came to a realization that would continually help them both at home and in the workplace. He stated, “I would argue that at the end of the day, we learned early that we’re a lot stronger and powerful when we’re pulling together, as opposed to pulling against each other. We’re a powerful force when we operate like that.”

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Of course, it isn’t just struggles as a couple that Chip and Joanna have had to deal with. The latter told the INBOUND crowd that she experienced significant self-doubt about her abilities for much of her early career. She began, “I spent so many years just insecure, not believing I was good enough.”

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“I think of all the years I would sit there and not believe my value,” Joanna continued. “I would go back and say, ‘You’re not only good enough, you’re extraordinary, and the thing you have is a gift.’ And I’m the only one with that gift, period. We all have a gift that we have to offer to the world. The sooner you know and believe it the better.”

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The Gaineses were also happy to discuss their hardships in a 2020 interview with the Salesforce.com website. They began by reflecting on how difficult things became in the early days of their business empire. Joanna recalled, “Not seeing the end; not understanding you could actually get through it. We would look at each other and say, ‘Do we just bail and get out?’ That seemed so much easier than having to figure out how [to] make it through this.”

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Nonetheless, the couple managed to find some inspiration from their nearest and dearest. “Chip and his family have always had this thing that Gaineses never quit,” Joanna explained. “So he’d say, ‘Jo, we’re not going to quit, we’re going to make it through this.’ We would look at each other every night and say, ‘We are not quitting.’ That level of commitment even when it felt hard helped me just know quitting isn’t an option.”

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Joanna also went on to discuss how their differences helped them to persevere. “I think we leaned on each other’s strengths in those moments of weakness where I would typically only see the glass half-empty, and Chip would see the glass half-full,” she said. “Just that kind of thinking really helped me go, ‘OK, I can do this.’”

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So, what advice would Joanna give to those business owners who are going through similar struggles? Well, speaking to Salesforce, she made it clear that there aren’t any quick fixes. “It could be a decade before you actually see the other side of this,” the star warned. However, she also acknowledged that perseverance can reap rewards, adding, “We would have missed a lot if we would have just pivoted and gone in another direction because it was easier.”

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Chip also advised that any business partners with wildly different approaches should learn how to compromise as quickly as possible. “I would say people get lost on both sides of those extremes,” he told Salesforce. “But to be successful, you need to be someplace in the middle. The goal is to become an expert at whatever your craft is and then to scale your expertise. You need a little gut, a little intuition and a little business plan.”

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However, Joanna was also keen to point out that work isn’t the be all and end all. “I try to run the business and not let it run me,” she stated. “I make space to do things at home that bring me life, then when I go to work I feel full and energized.”

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And it’s fair to say that the Gaineses know what they’re talking about. Having overcome their early difficulties, the pair have established a hugely successful business, Magnolia, which incorporates everything from home construction and design to hospitality and retail. They have ambitions to expand their impressive empire even further, too.

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In fact, despite being warned about the pitfalls of cable TV by various acquaintances, the Gaineses are in the process of launching a network of their own. Joanna revealed at INBOUND that its programming would include everything from business to lifestyle shows. And she can’t wait for the general public to see the results.

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An excited Joanna said, “That’s been the most fun part, finding these stories, either people we’ve known, we’ve met, we’re meeting via social media. What we are finding is amazing people who are great in those specific genres and highlighting their stories. There’s amazing stories that are waiting to be told.”

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Despite being a regular fixture on our TVs since 2013, though, Chip and Joanna aren’t particularly interested in watching the small screen themselves. In fact, perhaps the most surprising revelation from their INBOUND conference talk centered on their own viewing habits: Joanna claimed that the Gaineses’ household doesn’t even contain a television.

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