As a mother and a wife, Faith Hill‘s protective instincts kicked into high gear on March 11 after her husband, Tim McGraw, collapsed during a show in Dublin. “He looked really bad. He fell down and the whole band rushed over to him,” an eyewitness exclusively tells Closer Weekly of the terrifying incident. After he was rushed off-stage, Faith soon reemerged to alert the crowd that while Tim was OK, he was “super dehydrated,” she said. “And I made the decision he not come back onstage.”

Left to his own devices, the “Live Like You Were Dying” crooner, 50, probably would have pushed himself to finish the show that night, but he knew better than to go against his wife’s decision. “She’s the boss, that’s for sure, and that’s the way I like it. That way I don’t have to think!” Tim quips. Adds a longtime friend of the Nashville power couple, “Faith’s heart just about stopped when she saw him fall to his knees,” likely because it triggered memories from their darker days when Tim’s battles with drugs and alcohol nearly shattered their marriage.

Since he beat his demons, though, he’s developed a new obsession with fitness, which some fear is taking a toll on his health. “Faith fully believes it’s her job to look out for Tim,” the friend adds about her tough-love approach to keeping him well. “There was a real possibility they weren’t going to make it” in the past, the friend adds, so Faith, also 50, is going to protect their happiness at all costs now. The couple’s romance first ignited in 1996, when Faith was an opening act on Tim’s appropriately titled Spontaneous Combustion tour.

They wed that same year and welcomed their first daughter, Gracie, in 1997. Unfortunately, the pressures of staying on top of the charts made Tim become more and more dependent on mood-altering substances. “You feel like you’re supposed to be ‘on’ all the time. You drink and get onstage, and all of a sudden you feel confident and powerful,” he says of how things started to spiral out of control. “I drank too much. I partied too much. And I did other things too much. Chemically,” he confesses.

By 2007, the father-of-three (Maggie and Audrey came along in 1998 and 2001, respectively), Tim was playing with fire — until Faith stepped in. “Her heart was breaking,” the friend says, “so she finally told him point-blank, ‘You can either have your family or you can have this horrible lifestyle. You can’t have both.'” That, the friend adds, was the wakeup call Tim needed. “He quit everything cold turkey because he wanted to be a real father to his girls, and he realized he’d dropped the ball,” the pal says.

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Tim, Faith, and their daughters.

Faith’s belief in their marriage was unwavering. “She saved my life in a lot of ways — from myself more than anything,” Tim says. “I can go down a dark road sometimes, and she pulls me out. My wife makes me a better man.” His recommitment to his family won Faith’s heart all over again. “Tim inspires me every day,” she gushes. “I draw inspiration from watching him be a father and a husband.” Still, she takes her job of ensuring they stay on top while keeping him in check seriously.

“She’s the disciplinarian in the relationship,” a Nashville source tells Closer. “As loving as they are with each other, she’s never afraid to call him on an issue or demand change.” She’ll certainly be raising her voice more now after Tim’s troubles in Dublin. Though he joked with reporters about the debacle upon returning to the US (“I gotta cut short my workout,” he quipped), Faith’s carefully watching her husband’s strenuous workout routines and suggesting he ease things up a little.

“Tim loves to play basketball with his bandmates and tour crew,” their friend says, “so she’ll say, ‘Why don’t you just do that instead of running up a hill with weights around your ankles?'” Her concern is understandable. “He works out three to four hours a day and he never skips a session, even when he’s on the road,” an insider tells Closer of the singer’s grueling mix of CrossFit training, weight lifting, and martial arts.

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He’s even partnered with Snap Fitness to launch Tru Mav Fitness, his own signature line of gyms. “The guy’s in top shape,” Peter Taunton, the founder of Snap Fitness and Tim’s Tru Mav partner, promises Closer. “He’s very lean, and it’s not genetics. It’s hard work. He’s very disciplined.” The insider adds, “Tim doesn’t know any other way. He dedicated himself to getting in the best shape possible after kicking his bad habits, and working out became a replacement for them. His exercise routine would make an Olympic athlete look lazy!” Still, his doctors have expressed concern about the intensity of his regimen.

“They’ve told him that as he ages he might want to dial it back a bit, because in some ways he could be doing himself more harm than good,” the insider shares. And as Tim and Faith headed back out on a demanding 70-city Soul2Soul world tour last April, “Faith saw how it was tiring for him,” the friend adds, “especially since he pushes himself so much. After his collapse, she’s concerned it could happen again.”

That’s why she’ll be keeping extra-close tabs on her man as they gear up for another leg of the tour that begins May 31 and runs through July 24. “Tim laughs and says he knows he’s in for it,” their friend reveals. “Faith’s going to ride hard on him to slow down. To see him physically break down onstage has really made her message to him a bit more pointed.” And, as Faith says, “I like a good fight,” so she’s more than ready to put her foot down.

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Tim and Faith on their Soul2Soul tour.

Tim seems to be coming around to the fact that he can’t keep attacking his career at full throttle. “There are nights when you walk off the stage and think, ‘I never wanna do that again,'” he admits. “It happens, where you lay down and think, Why am I continuing to do this?” The couple have a tropical escape in the Bahamas to help them juice their batteries whenever they’re road weary.

The private island villa has allowed them to focus on each other and their family since they built the home in 2012. “Faith says it feels like they’re the only two souls on Earth when they’re there,” their friend shares. “With all the pressures of show business, it’s a great place to decompress.” Even when they’re back home in Tennessee, Tim and Faith are able to enjoy a lot more one-on-one time these days now that their two eldest daughters are out of the house at college.

And after 21 years of marriage, their romance still sizzles. “Tim’s been enamored with Faith since the minute he saw her,” the source says. “He’ll go to the ends of the Earth for her and he gives her whatever she needs, be it affection, time or gifts.” Faith, who only recently stepped back into the spotlight after taking time off to raise their kids, is thankful for Tim’s support, too. “Tim has given me confidence, and strength, and my foundation,” she gushes. “He makes me feel like I can conquer the world. I love my man, and he knows it!”

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She also loves the happy place their road has led, despite all of its twists and turns. “What makes our marriage work amid all the glare is that my husband is my best friend,” she says. Tim sings his wife’s praises just as enthusiastically. “I think about the fact that we’re married and that we raised these three beautiful daughters. I mean, it’s a pretty cool thing for those girls to have her,” he says, tears welling up in his eyes.

He’s quick to add it’s pretty cool to have Faith around for him as well because her fearlessness to hold him accountable has kept him honest, both at home and onstage. “It’s like Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin, and Brigitte Bardot all rolled into one when she comes out and starts singing,” he raves of her vocal talent, “so you better have your s–t together when you sing because she’s gonna flat bring it every time she opens her mouth!”

For more on Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, pick up the latest issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now — and be sure to sign up for our newsletter for more exclusive news!