Glossy fashion magazines aren’t usually a reputable source of sound marriage advice, but Hailey Bieber left Harper’s Bazaar readers with a glimpse of marriage wisdom in a cover series interview published Tuesday.
“Life is changing all the time, day to day, week to week, year to year,” said Hailey, who is married to pop star Justin Bieber. “I think a perfect example of that is over the last six months, both of us have gone through very serious health issues. You have to figure out how to deal with this sh-t as it comes, you know? There’s a reason they say ‘for better or for worse.’ Like, that’s for real!”
It’s not a groundbreaking point, or at least it shouldn’t be, but by celebrity marriage standards (and even by the standards of our culture at large), Hailey’s outlook is something refreshing. Rachel Tashjian, the feature’s author, described the Biebers’ outlook as “paradoxically progressive” and a “figure-it-out-as-you-go approach.”
‘Get Married and Figure Things Out’
“Many people in their 20s and 30s see matrimony as something one does once life has reached stability,” the magazine noted. “But Bieber, who wed at 21, sees it as only the beginning: You don’t figure things out and get married but rather get married and figure things out.”
That analysis grasps part of the point. Bieber seems to understand that life is inevitably unpredictable and that marriage is a bedrock of commitment and stability in the midst of it, rather than something to top off an unforgiving 30-year plan and then be discarded when it no longer easily fits.
But there’s another part of the point that Bieber at least appears to be espousing. It’s not just a lackadaisical “figuring it out as you go” approach that doesn’t take marriage seriously, but rather one of taking marriage so seriously that every other life circumstance to be figured out is secondary.
Hailey’s comments mirror what she said in 2019, emphasizing that marriage is “always going to be hard. It’s a choice. You don’t feel it every single day.”
“But there’s something beautiful about it anyway — about wanting to fight for something, commit to building with someone,” she continued. “We’re going to change a lot. But we’re committed to growing together and supporting each other in those changes.”
Marriage Isn’t Designed for Finished People
In the Harper’s feature, Tashjian is right that many in Bieber’s (and my own) generation see marriage as an afterthought to “getting your life together,” the joining of two successful, finished, polished people who have already “found themselves” and therefore do not need each other but simply find the partnership pleasant, convenient — and often dispensable. A 2021 study found that the median age for a first marriage was 28 for women and 30 for men, up from 21 and 23 in 1970. We can’t possibly be expected to make that kind of commitment so young, the rationale goes. What if we change our minds?
I’m not advocating for rushing into marriage without serious and prayerful deliberation and preparation, for marrying in high school, or for getting hitched without some degree of financial stability and grasp on adulthood. But it’s also dangerous to think of marriage as an “extra” topping on an already completely settled life.
If you think of your life (or yourself) as an already-finished product, you likely won’t see your own need for being sanctified by and growing with your spouse. Deliberately putting marriage off to spend an entire decade of adulthood focused on yourself might very well leave you self-focused, while one of the chief blessings of marriage is the sanctification of mutual self-sacrifice. And while getting married isn’t necessary to live a fulfilled life, a default view that devalues marriage as secondary to “self-discovery” or “self-love” fractures families and societies alike.
The idea that people can be “finished” by 30 (or 40 or 60) is ridiculous, anyway. No matter how “together” their lives are, they never stop changing and growing (and that’s a good thing!). Their spouses will change and grow, too, even if they waited to marry until making partner and establishing a nest egg. If two people both think they’re done growing, though, it may be a lot harder to adjust as those changes inevitably come.
Liberation by Commitment
Alternatively, it’s liberating to enter marriage with the understanding that your spouse is not a convenient roommate or earned reward for your previous successes but someone you will choose to love a thousand times after your wedding day, in a thousand different circumstances. You no longer have to worry about whether your marriage will “fit” into your other plans because all of those plans become secondary.
Maybe that’s the paradox Tashjian was picking up on. Choosing one person and forsaking all others — as Hailey noted, “for better or for worse” — confers the delightful freedom that only such foundational commitment can harbor. It offers, as Hailey’s husband Justin put it last year, the rewarding security of “just us showing up for each other every day, being consistent, me seeing that she wasn’t going anywhere.” With that at your back and by the grace of God, you can “figure out” anything else.