Stop the presses and mark your calendars, because this doesn’t happen too often. Justin Bieber—yes, that Justin Bieber—and Hailey (of the Baldwin family) are right. Not only are they right, but they’re right on a rather unexpected set of subjects: abstinence, faith, and marriage.
If you’re reeling right now, don’t worry, because you’re not alone. Looking to the Bieb for marriage advice might seem bizarre, backwards, misguided. It wasn’t that long ago that headlines around him were centered not around a quiet marital life but trashed hotel rooms, excess of the most vile sorts, and even nude photographs. What possibly could there be to learn from a child star turned pop icon, known as much for shenanigans as any actual talent?
Justin Bieber is not yet 25, and his new bride Hailey is a mere 22. In a day and age when the average marriage age is the highest it’s ever been—29.5 years old for men and 27.4 years old for women, their decision to get hitched in their early 20s is countercultural. It’s also refreshing, and exactly what their fans and this generation need to see. A new long interview with both of them sheds a lot of light on their views on the past, their marriage, and their hopes for the future.
A Short Courtship But A Long Friendship
Understanding the relationship between Justin and Hailey, and how a 12-week courtship led to a marriage, means following the path of their friendship. A decade ago, the two met at “The Today Show,” when Hailey was 12 and he was nearly 15. Their families were acquainted, as so many Hollywood families are. They reconnected later at Hillsong, a megachurch, while both were still in their teens. Justin recalls this is when he noticed Hailey had grown up, and his interest in her began to change.
It’s impossible in a discussion on Justin’s teenaged years to gloss over the well-documented issues he had at the time. His excesses, missteps, mistakes, and wrongs will forever follow him. Paparazzi were there to catch his lowest moments when, as a teenager with too much money, too much ego from fame, and too little guidance, he acted out in ways he now admits were wrong and unacceptable. This humility and introspection is another part of what he’s now getting right, especially in an era where so many politicians and other famous people are trying to flee the sins of their youth. Wrongs committed in the past don’t disappear because you’re a different person now, but they can be learned from, apologized over, and used to help others avoid those same mistakes.
That’s the place Justin, with Hailey’s help, is in, over those well-publicized teenaged blunders. He explains how drug use contributed to some of the ways he was acting, without using it as an excuse:
“I found myself doing things that I was so ashamed of, being super-promiscuous and stuff, and I think I used Xanax because I was so ashamed. My mom always said to treat women with respect. For me that was always in my head while I was doing it, so I could never enjoy it. Drugs put a screen between me and what I was doing. It got pretty dark. I think there were times when my security was coming in late at night to check my pulse and see if I was still breathing.”
Religion plays an important role in their story, from the early days when they reconnected at Hillsong, to the end of Justin’s drug use with the help of Carl Lentz, to their current church attendance together. Hailey remembers Justin’s drug use, and the end of it, and how hard it was to watch:
“I grieved very intensely over the whole situation. I just wanted him to be happy and be good and be safe and feel joy. But I’m really proud of him. To do it without a program, and to stick with it without a sober coach or AA or classes—I think it’s extraordinary. He is, in ways, a walking miracle.”
Reconnecting Through Church
Past the worst of his issues, Justin and Hailey reconnected at yet another church function—a conference hosted by the celebrity pastor who married Kim Kardashian and Kanye West.
“The common denominator, I promise you, is always church. By then we were past the drama. I just gave him a hug. By the end of the conference, he was like, ‘We’re not going to be friends.’ I was like, ‘We’re not?’”
Less than a month later, the two were engaged, with Justin’s public announcement of the relationship on Instagram highlighting their faith and his hopes for a long future together.
And that future together included something that will probably shock a lot of fans, and others who know Bieber by his lengthy reputation—abstinence. Justin says that in the past he had “a legitimate problem with sex” and had been celibate for over a year prior to reconnecting with Hailey. Speculations that they rushed into marriage because of pregnancy couldn’t have been further from the truth, because they chose to wait for marriage to have sex. Justin had decided, he explained, that celibacy would bring him closer to God:
“He doesn’t ask us not to have sex for him because he wants rules and stuff. He’s like, I’m trying to protect you from hurt and pain. I think sex can cause a lot of pain. Sometimes people have sex because they don’t feel good enough. Because they lack self-worth. Women do that, and guys do that. I wanted to rededicate myself to God in that way because I really felt it was better for the condition of my soul. And I believe that God blessed me with Hailey as a result. There are perks. You get rewarded for good behavior.”
Marriage doesn’t mean putting dreams on hold or losing part of yourself. Marriage doesn’t need to be only entered into once you’re a fully formed person, sure of every characteristic in your own psyche. As generations passed knew, marriage was a chance to learn and grow together, where two different people came together to create something new, unique, the sum better than any of the parts. Creating a healthy relationship is something that can only be done with two people, working together—something both Biebers note. “It’s just that I’m fighting to do this the right way, to build a healthy relationship,” Hailey said.
“I want people to know that. We’re coming from a really genuine place. But we’re two young people who are learning as we go. I’m not going to sit here and lie and say it’s all a magical fantasy. It’s always going to be hard. It’s a choice. You don’t feel it every single day. You don’t wake up every day saying, ‘I’m absolutely so in love and you are perfect.’ That’s not what being married is. But there’s something beautiful about it anyway—about wanting to fight for something, commit to building with someone. We’re really young, and that’s a scary aspect. We’re going to change a lot. But we’re committed to growing together and supporting each other in those changes. That’s how I look at it. At the end of the day, too, he’s my best friend. I never get sick of him.”
Realistic Portrayals Of Marriage
This is a realistic portrayal of marriage, especially marriage once the honeymoon has ended and the work has begun of figuring out how things will actually work. Too often marriage is viewed as soulmates, a perfect union where any issues are grounds for dissolution and divorce, fleeing the other person and the trials of working through issues. The Biebers have a message here, too, for their fans, one in line with conventional marital advice: “The thing is, marriage is very hard. That is the sentence you should lead with. It’s really effing hard.” They don’t stop there, with generic words on the difficulty of marriage, but explain that relationships can and do involve disagreements and working through issues: “Fighting is good,” Justin explained to Vogue.
“Doesn’t the Bible talk about righteous anger? We don’t want to lose each other. We don’t want to say the wrong thing, and so we’ve been struggling with not expressing our emotions, which has been driving me absolutely crazy because I just need to express myself, and it’s been really difficult to get her to say what she feels.”
No matter your opinion of Justin’s music, Hailey’s modeling, or the past actions of either Bieber, it’s worthwhile to read their words on marriage and its importance and consider why they decided to center God in their relationship. Whether you’re part of Gen Z or someone much older than either Justin or Hailey, they’re showing wisdom and discernment in their choices together, and should be congratulated. Hopefully they’re a celebrity couple that will stand the test of time, weathering the storms of fame and coming out stronger together.