As a young married couple, we have several friends who are still single and many who are in relationships wanting to be married. Many of our friends ask us for advice on their relationships. How do you know when your significant other is the right one? How do you move forward from single, to engaged, to married? What is your advice for the difference? How do you navigate your relationship in healthy ways? We don’t have all the answers, no couple does. Each relationship is unique. But we agree one of the most important skills and principles we think is core to marriage is adaptability. When we get married, we must adapt in ways we are often not taught prior to being married. Here are 4 ways we see adaptation as key to moving from relationship to marriage for those who want to be married.
1. Your mindset must adapt
From the time most children can reason they are being shaped with expectations for what romantic relationships should be. Parents, peers, and popular culture shape our mindsets for better or worse. Many of those mindsets are unrealistic and toxic. When we have serious relationships as adults, we do not have a sense of what marriage is really like or what it should be like. Many of us expect our spouse to do what we want, agree with us about big and small plans, be present with us for everything we find important, and generally not exhibit any human flaws. Moreover, we expect them to think like us. And this is a big area of necessary adaptation. It does not matter how much or how well you communicate (and most of us don’t do that well), your partner is an entirely separate person from you who will think differently than you. You must adapt your expectations with humility and grace to thrive in sustainable ways. For example, you know that people should ask if you are hungry when they get something to eat. You believe that is what loving spouses do. But your partner may have been raised to believe you speak up if you want someone to get you something to eat. You can avoid a lot of arguments by first discussing this difference and then allowing that each person will not get the action “asking if you are hungry” right even if you talk about it 10 times. It may take two conversations for them. It may take 27. It doesn’t make them bad spouses. It doesn’t make them uncaring. They may get better in the future. They may not. In either case, they will think the way they think, not the way you think.
2. Your heart must adapt
Opening our hearts is a challenging task. It was much easier when we were younger, just venturing into the world, filled with enthusiasm to embrace everything life offered. During our adolescent and young adult years, navigating through life seemed effortless. We were influenced by social media, television shows, and the experiences of our elders and communities, all guiding us on how to coexist with our significant others or what society deemed as finding a “successful” partner. We internalized notions about the ideal height of our spouses, the number of children they should have, and the careers they should pursue. We even hesitated to consider anyone who didn’t meet these expectations. Consequently, societal influences and challenges compelled us to guard our hearts, never settle, and cling tightly to our preconceived ideas of the perfect spouse. Now, understand me; having personal boundaries and standards is healthy. However, the problem arises when our expectations become unrealistic and hinder our ability to form deep connections and intimacy with our partners. Some of us may find ourselves grieving over unmet expectations that arose when we initially began dating, got engaged, or entered marriage. Our partners may face career setbacks that limit our financial freedom, or one partner may not share the same desire for the number of children they may have together. Reality may not align with the idealized image we envisioned in our minds and hearts. This fear can cause us to retreat inwardly, creating a sense of distance from one another. However, when we choose to let go, we open space for love to find its way into our lives. Letting go involves recognizing our agency, embracing vulnerability, and granting ourselves the opportunity to receive love, even when it may bring difficulty. Opening our hearts to the intricate complexities of marriage can be terrifying, but relinquishing unrealistic expectations is essential for growth in our relationships. It demands intentional effort from both partners and a willingness to release our fears, allowing genuine and unfiltered love to flourish. Let go of the burden of expectations and embrace one another for who you are, remembering that love can overcome fear.
3. Your behavior must adapt
We behave in ways that are consistent with our context. Our behavior is one of the most adaptable things about us as human beings. We are very good at adapting our behavior to new schools, new jobs, new organizations, new friends, and new situations but sometimes we have a hard time adapting to our romantic relationships. We feel like we shouldn’t have to adapt to our spouse. They should accept us for who we are. But as followers of Jesus, we should be willing to change how we behave as an act of love. If we know our spouse is allergic to a certain food, we wouldn’t cook it for them just because we like it. We might make a separate version for ourselves or make something entirely different. Adapting what we would normally do to show care for our partner is an act of grace. This does not mean we need to conform to all our partner’s desires. They won’t conform to ours either. But if we yell to express our anger because that’s the way we were raised, and our partner hates yelling because they grew up in an abusive house, we should find a way to express ourselves without yelling. We can always change our behavior and our spouse can work on changing theirs. We can only work on ourselves they must work on themselves.
4. Your plans must adapt
The concept of sacrifice in relationships often triggers resistance. It brings to mind feelings of pain and discomfort, especially when we have meticulously planned our lives through spreadsheets, vision boards, and journals, envisioning how they should unfold in the coming years or even decades. But what happens when those carefully constructed plans are unexpectedly threatened or fall apart? How do we navigate the decision to uproot our lives or relocate across the country for the sake of our spouses or families when we are happy, successful, and settled? Or how do we cope when an unforeseen injury or illness disrupts our envisioned future for our families? In such moments, whether to embrace or reject the idea of sacrifice becomes increasingly crucial. Sacrifice is undeniably challenging; it may be one of life’s most difficult lessons and being in a relationship can make this concept even more difficult. Most would likely choose the former if given a choice between experiencing life without pain, challenges, and uncertainties or enduring a painful journey with inevitable bumps and bruises. However, the truth is that without sacrifice, joy cannot fully exist in our relationships. During those difficult moments of sacrifice, the presence of joy serves as the adhesive that holds our relationships together. Maintaining open and honest communication during the process is crucial, as it keeps both partners informed about each other’s feelings and helps them adapt to the changed plans. Engaging in weekly check-ins with your spouse can be particularly helpful, as they allow each person to express their emotions and articulate their needs without the fear of judgment. By fostering a safe space for open dialogue, couples can navigate the challenges of sacrifice while maintaining a solid and connected relationship. We are each responsible for our own feelings, not our spouse’s feelings. But being aware of how our partner is coping during challenging transitions enables us to meet each other’s needs in healthy ways and intentionally throughout the week. Consistently practicing this awareness and consideration is crucial in building connection and intimacy, particularly during difficult moments faced together. By actively supporting and understanding one another, a solid foundation is created, and bonds are strengthened while navigating the ups and downs of life as a team.
Marriage is one of the most important institutions in the lives of believers. Unfortunately it is rarely spoken about beyond the headlines of culture wars in the news or as the excuse some believers hide real conversations about sex behind. A lot of believers have a hard time keeping it real about how hard it is to be married. Kevin and Melissa Fredericks, aka KevOnStage and MrsKevOnStage, rarely hold back on keeping it real in conversations.
With over a million followers on social media (which don’t happen for church folks), they are some of the most busy and influential believers on the internet. Their authenticity and creativity have helped them connect with the “churchy” and unchurched alike. But like all married folks they have had challenges in life and in marriage. Their new bookMarriage Be Hard is a candid look at their marriage and the lessons they have learned along the way through reflection, therapy, The Love Hour podcast and real work. They hope to help couples everywhere to get past “just making it” in marriage to thriving through their insights.
UrbanFaith sat down with Kevin and Melissa to talk about their journey and their book. The full interview is above, more information on the book is below.
ABOUT MARRIAGE BE HARD
Discover the keys to upholding your vows while staying sane in this hilariously candid guide to relationships, from the husband-and-wife team of comedian Kevin Fredericks and influencer Melissa Fredericks
Growing up, Kevin and Melissa Fredericks were taught endless rules around dating, sex, and marriage, but not a lot about what actually makes a relationship work. When they first got married, they felt alone—like every other couple had perfect chemistry while the two of them struggled. There were conversations that they didn’t know they needed to have, fears that affected how they related to each other, and seasons of change that put their marriage to the test.
Part of their story reads like a Christian fairytale: high school sweethearts, married in college, never sowed any wild oats, with two sons and a thriving marriage. But there’s another side of their story: the night Melissa kicked Kevin out of her car after years of communication problems, the time early in their marriage when Kevin bordered on an emotional affair, the way they’ve used social media and podcasts to conduct a no-holds-barred conversation about forbidden topics like jealousy, divorce, and how to be Christian and sex positive. (Because, as Kevin writes, “Your hormones don’t care about your religious beliefs. Your hormones want you to subscribe to OnlyFans.”)
In Marriage Be Hard, the authors provide a hilarious and fresh master class on what it takes to build and maintain a lasting relationship. Drawing on interviews with experts and nearly two decades of marriage, they argue that• Compatibility is overrated. • Communication is about way more than simply talking. • Seeing divorce as an option can actually help your marriage. • There’s such a thing as healthy jealousy.Real marriage is not automatic. It ain’t no Tesla on the open road. Sometimes it’s a stick shift on a hill in the rain with no windshield wipers. But if you get comfortable visiting—and revisiting—the topics that matter, it can transform your bond with your partner and the life you’re building together.Written for those tired of unrealistic relationship books—and for anyone wondering if they’re the only ones breaking all the rules—Marriage Be Hard is a breath of fresh air and the manual you wish existed after you said “I do.”
Sex is a good thing. For all human history, human beings have had sex and been aware of their sexuality. It is a fundamental function of creation to reproduce that God instituted from the beginning. But sexuality is not simply about reproduction. It is about the awareness and expression of our bodies. We are spiritual beings, but we are also natural beings. God created us that way on purpose. If we were meant to be all spiritual, we would have been created like angels, but God made us from the earth on purpose. Jesus Christ came to us IN THE FLESH, not as a spiritual principle, a vision, or a disembodied being. Jesus was circumcised on the 8th day according to Jewish law, as all Jews were. This was a sexual act with spiritual meaning that is literally at the heart of the Old Covenant. Unfortunately, as New Covenant Christians we often overfocus on the spirit and miss the fact that the New Covenant is literally made because of Jesus’ BODY broken for us and blood shed for us. It is Jesus’ humanity, not spirit that is the sacrifice that reunites us with God. The conversation is different depending on your stage of life. Believers who are married with kids need to have different conversations than single believers in early adulthood, or teenagers, or those who are divorced, or single after the death of a spouse. But regardless of our age or station in life we need to do a better job having these conversations as Christians. Here are 3 major reasons why Christians need to talk about sex.
God created us to be sexual beings
Every person was designed to be sexual, and that goes far beyond having sex. When God created Adam and Eve, they were meant to relate to one another sexually and their relationship to be closer than parent to child in future generations. They were naked and unashamed of their bodies (Genesis 2:24-35). There are any number of reasons why believers are ashamed of their sexuality today, many of them unfortunately from bad teaching in churches. But that is not the design of God. We were created to relate to one another sexually BEFORE sin entered the world.
Christian sexuality is meant to be different
A lot of our confusion, angst, shame, sorrow, and frustration with reconciling our sexuality with our faith is because of a Biblical principle that Christian sex is meant to be different than sexuality for those who don’t follow Christ. The covenant between God and Abraham made Israelite men sexually different from their neighbors in other nations (Genesis 17). The Law of Moses set up sexual limitations and regulations that were meant to distinguish Israel from other nations. The principle always pushed toward relationship with God reflected in our sexual relationships with others. The word used in scripture is holy, but to translate that our modern culture we might say intentional, purposeful difference that honors God. Paul picks up this Jewish principle in the New Testament by articulating a vision of sexual relationships that is monogamous, mutual, caring, and loving that reflect Christ’s love. We have often been caught up on the restrictions and missed the vision in the church. We have to be responsible with our sexuality because we are accountable to God in a different way as followers of Christ. We are called to be vulnerable, loving, and intentional with our sexuality in a way that is different than the world around us.
We should love and not fear our sexuality
1 John 4:18 reminds us that perfect love casts out all fear. The world has set false standards that promote fear, violence, and mistrust in sexual relationships. We have no need to rehearse the many ways popular culture, corporate interests, and sociopolitical forces use and abuse sexuality. Often their goals are to use sex to make money and create false intimacy. But for many believers we have been taught to fear sexuality to maintain holiness. It has caused believers to have arrested development, face shame and ridicule, leave churches, and seek unhealthy sources to define their sexuality. We rarely speak of the difficulties many newly married Christian couples face around sexual expectations, communication, and formation because of ignorance, self-rejection, and fear. We do not talk about the struggles teenagers face with loving their bodies instead of hating and fearing them. We do not deal with the choice to not have sex as young adults instead of treating sex as an uncontrollable inevitable impulse. We are afraid of the word intimate because we have been taught it is dirty. Our bodies are not beasts to be tamed. They are part of us to be loved. Paul Himself would agree with this, treating our bodies as a Temple of God means loving and tending to them with the utmost care (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Not fearing and avoiding them as we abuse them and let them be abused by others. But Jesus loves us. He loves our bodies. He wants us to love God with our bodies just as we do with our minds and hearts. And we make sexual choices that build intimacy and protection with our romantic partner. We do not discuss the why of a holistic view of Christian sexuality which sets us up for pain before and during marriage. But we should talk about sex. We should love our bodies and our sexuality. We should define what sexual holiness means as believers in terms of what we choose to do instead of what we feel we can’t do. We should honor God’s design for sexuality by loving our neighbors as we love ourselves, sexuality included.
Let’s set aside our inhibitions and have a real conversation about sex, relationships, and abstinence.
Despite biblical teachings (1 Thessalonians 4:3), tons of people would argue that, in today’s society, it’s almost unrealistic to think that anyone would wait to have sex until marriage. The world we live in today tells us that abstinence is an antiquated practice or that no one in their right mind would marry someone without determining whether the sexual chemistry is there first. The list goes on and on, but luckily, some people out there still advocate for waiting until marriage to share something so intimate with their future spouse.
Before we really dive in, I would first like to point out that there is, in fact, a distinction between abstaining from sex and just not having sex. A person might not be sexually active for a variety of reasons. However, abstinence is defined as an intentional and deliberate action to refrain from sexual activity; it is making the decision to save all sexual acts until marriage.
In her book The Naked Truth: About Sex, Love and Relationships, abstinence advocate Lakita Garth says that “abstinence is the art of self-control, self-discipline and delayed gratification.” I get it. You’re probably thinking, Who wants to work that hard for something that is supposed to bring you pleasure? But Garth reminds her readers that there is, in fact, a wonderful reward in the end.
“The fact is, the happiest sex lives are found among those who wait until marriage to have sex,” Garth says. “Those who wait are richly rewarded.”
Waiting to have sex has so many benefits, but here are a few points to start:
Abstinence is more common than you think.
Studies show that only 3%, or 1 in 30 Americans, waited until marriage to have sex. Sure, this number sounds a bit disheartening, but if you stop to think about just how many people that is, it’s not too bad. In fact, that figure means that about 10 million people in America, as we speak, have abstained until marriage. And of course, these stats are even greater within religious groups.
Secondary virginity is a real thing.
Yes, secondary virginity is “a thing.” More and more singles have made the decision to rededicate their lives—and bodies—to God by abstaining from sex. Regardless of their past, they made the decision to start over and choose abstinence even though they initially made the decision to be sexually active in the past. It’s no secret that having sex before marriage has its own negative consequences, including unplanned pregnancy, higher chances of being a single parent, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), the list goes on and on.
In fact, studies show that 40 percent of children were born to unwed mothers, with nearly two-thirds of those mothers under the age of 30. Nine million new cases of STDs are reported among teens and young adults each year. And regardless of whether you have experienced these negative consequences, making the decision to be a secondary virgin means you can look forward to a future free from exposure to these previous hazards. After all, who has time to stress about an unplanned pregnancy or STDs?
“The Wait” is so worth it.
Making the decision to be abstinent is so much deeper than the physical. It provides the opportunity for your relationship to become stronger mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It’s the beauty in sharing something so intimate with your spouse and the idea of knowing that you are both truly committed to one another.
Hollywood couple Meagan Good and DeVon Franklin wrote an entire book on the power of abstinence in The Wait. In addition to being more spiritually and emotionally grounded, the couple is open about how amazing sex can be with your partner after making the decision to abstain until marriage. “There is nothing wrong with sex and sexuality,” the couple says in a recent interview with Essence magazine. “God created both for the enjoyment of married couples.”
The intimacy that happens within one’s marriage is much greater knowing that sex is something that is only shared between you and your spouse. It’s definitely the icing on the cake.
Can you think of a better option?
Let’s face it, you might have already tried other options besides abstinence, and none of them have worked. Then again, you might be one of those people who made the decision to be abstinent from the very beginning and chose to stick with it until your wedding day. Meagan Good actually chose the former and initially opted to do it her way instead of God’s way. “God had let me make my mistakes,” she says. “Now it was time to do it [His] way.”
In a society of instant gratification, abstinence certainly doesn’t seem ideal for today’s couples, especially people who are seriously attracted to one another. However, I think we all can agree that waiting to have sex until marriage just might be the best decision of your life.
Did you catch Meagan Good and DeVon Franklin on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday? Check out what they had to say about the benefits of abstinence below:
Is it unrealistic to expect people to wait to have sex before marriage? Share your thoughts below.
For a single Christian, what to do about sexual intimacy can be tough and confusing. You harbor physical urges that God gave to you, but to have sex outside of marriage is a sin. The church’s response has generally been pithy and poor – “Just say no”. Meanwhile, the enemy has seized the void by providing a counterfeit of the sexual love God intended. Through R-rated movies, explicit music and advertising, we are inundated with it. What in the world is a single person supposed to do?
Minister Pamela Bell, founder of Serenity Pastoral Counseling and Consulting
Minister Bell recently hosted a Valentines Day engagement ceremony for her single clients in the Baltimore area. They celebrated their love affair with the Lord. The ceremony offered the participants an opportunity to renew their vows to God and to increase passion in their relationship with him throughout the year. “Being physically alone does not necessarily equal loneliness”, Bell said. The church needs to reclaim the truth that we are never alone when we are in relationship with God. Being single is actually an opportunity to turn your full attention to your relationship with God. Being married, in fact, can bring complications and opportunities to worship your mate instead of the Lord.
Bell, who has been married 26 years to the same man, says “God allows us to have mates to be able to show our love for him onto a living breathing human being. That mate presents a physical way for us to express our love for God. Whether you’re single or married, what we all have in common is an inseparable relationship with God.”
Humans are spirit first. We are made in the image of a triune God, who is spirit. Our physical bodies are vessels for us to journey on earth until it’s time to return to God. Certainly, we want to express ourselves physically with another human being, but the object of that expression is still God, Bell said. If you understand this, your single status is not a negative, it just means less distractions to God. “It might sound like a cop out to a single person, but a mate is not your source to fulfillment. God is our source,” Bell said.
Ok, that sounds good, but let’s keep this real. What do we tell the single person who is struggling with their sexuality? Bell said she counsels her clients based on what they reveal they are struggling with and yes, many people are struggling with issues such as pornography and sex. “God gave us the ability to imagine and create,” Bell continued. “What we entertain in our minds is important because we are creators. Fantasizing about sexual acts that are against God’s will, creates sin in our lives and sin, whether it is physical or mental, causes us to turn away from God.”
Bell teaches her clients that they can master their bodies through physical exercise, eating healthy and getting proper rest. She also suggests, professional massage, meditation and relaxation techniques to release pent up tension in the body and of course there is prayer. “I often suggest that my clients start a private prayer journal in which they’re writing letters to God about their intimate thoughts and feelings,” Bell said. “David demonstrated the power of prayer journaling. He wrote about his struggles, desires and his victories in what has become the Psalms. He gives us a good example about being in a relationship with the Lord and God referred to David as a man after God’s own heart. We tend to keep our sexual frustrations separate from our relationship with the Lord but He made us and is not uncomfortable talking about sex. By keeping a journal, people can learn from their own experiences and in the future they can go back to that prayer journal and remind themselves that ‘this too shall pass.’”