Marriage Be Hard (2022) offers advice on how to effectively communicate important topics with your partner. Chronicling the ups and downs of the authors’ own marriage, it shows how to form loving, lasting relationships.
Introduction: A guide to communicating effectively with your partner
Everyone has their picture-perfect view of what a marriage should be like. You might think that because you found your person or married your best friend, you two will know exactly what the other is thinking and feeling at all times. That’s what the Hollywood version of marriage looks like, anyway.
But maybe you’ve found that, despite being in a beautiful union of two people who care for each other, marriage isn’t exactly as smooth and easy as others made it out to be. That’s because marriage takes hard work. And it’s hard work that never really ends.
Too often, we expect an immediate happily-ever-after once we’ve tied the knot. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The hard work is just getting started. And the key to this hard work comes down to one thing: communication.
In this summary to Kevin and Melissa Fredericks’ Marriage Be Hard, we’ll discuss the importance of having “constant, honest conversations” – and dive into the various ways communication is essential for maintaining any healthy relationship.
Marriage Be Hard is organized into twelve different conversations, but in this summary we’ll cover just three topics – expectations, sex, and marital roles. Anyone in a committed relationship can use these insights to gain a better understanding of how to communicate effectively with their partner.
So with that, let’s get into it!
Expectations can spell trouble
Everyone has expectations when it comes to relationships – and these expectations can have a negative impact if they’re not communicated properly.
What kind of expectations are we talking about, exactly? Well, if you took the more traditional approach of not living together before tying the knot, for instance, you’re in for a surprise: dating and marriage are two different things. We typically find ourselves on our best behavior when we date – but marriage is a whole different story. When you and your partner are finally living together, you’ll get a crash-course in all of their vulnerabilities and quirks.
If you don’t clearly communicate with your partner, you might end up expecting one thing while they expect another. This is especially true if you and your partner aren’t necessarily compatible – which Kevin and Melissa Fredericks say isn’t required in a relationship.
Opposites attract – or so the saying goes, right? Maybe you have a Type A personality, and your partner is Type B. Or you like going out and they like staying in. Or you like dressing up, and they like wearing casual and comfy clothes.
Prioritizing time to check in with your partner is what will help you continue to build and maintain your relationship. There are three important questions that you should discuss with your partner when it comes to checking in on expectations:
First, Were there any assumptions that you brought into your marriage or relationship?
Second, Has your marriage or relationship lived up to your expectations?
And third, What about your marriage or relationship is better than you thought it would be?
While it differs for everybody, a couple of the most common expectations people have revolve around sex and marital roles. We’ll discuss each of those in more detail in the next sections.
Communicating sexual desires
Sex. There’s a lot to talk about – in fact, it’s probably one of the relationship areas that requires the most communication. That’s because our wants and needs are often drastically different from our partners’. And if you don’t discuss these things, how will you know each other’s desires? These kinds of conversations are tough and can seem awkward at first, but it’s important to have them all the same.
Many individuals, including Melissa and Kevin, are raised with a stigma around sex. In their case, they knew they wanted to wait until marriage to have sex. But their conversation had always been focused on that part – they’d never been told what to do after they were married. This created a lot of unhealthy expectations on the individual level, and as a couple.
For instance, Melissa had the expectation that she would immediately be comfortable with sex and her own sexuality once she consummated her relationship. She found that this wasn’t the case – she continued to feel insecure for a long time after.
Her husband, on the other hand, thought that once they had sex for the first time, he could expect sex all the time – which also wasn’t true. This ended up creating a need for communication between the two.
One had a high sex drive, while the other’s was lower. When this is the case, the higher-desire individual may feel personally offended when their sexual advances are turned down.
Melissa describes several recurring instances where this happened between her and Kevin. Her advice? If your desire is lower, be open about it – and make sure your significant other understands it’s nothing personal. You might be wildly attracted to your partner; that doesn’t mean the sexual desire is always going to be there.
She also suggests trying to get comfortable having sex sometimes, even if you aren’t really in the mood. Don’t force yourself, but keep an open mind. If you let your lack of spontaneous sexual thoughts take over, you might end up putting off sex indefinitely – which could harm your relationship in the long run.
Fulfilling marital roles
Having expectations on marital roles – or the roles each person fulfills in a relationship – without having an open discussion about them can be damaging.
Traditional marital roles portray women as the ones who stay home and take care of the house and kids while the husband goes out and works. These roles have become a little more equal in modern times, but many people still live with the expectation that they already know who will do what and where.
This typically becomes a point of discussion when kids come into question. Someone has to take care of the kids while the other works. Or maybe both partners prioritize working.
Before they had children, for instance, Melissa and Kevin both worked nine-to-five jobs. On the side, Kevin pursued his dream of being a comedian. He always felt like it was his duty as a man to provide for and support his family. Melissa, however, saw herself as a realist while Kevin was the dreamer. She wanted security in case his dream didn’t work out, so she also worked – which he took personally.
Once their children came into the picture, their support for each other changed. Melissa wasn’t able to attend Kevin’s rehearsals as much. She was working an 8-hour job, picking up the kids from daycare, and coming home to cook dinner.
This created some resentment in the relationship. Kevin felt like Melissa no longer supported him, while Melissa felt like he had all this flexibility to do whatever he wanted.
When children enter the equation, it can shift a relationship into new territory – it’s no longer just you and your partner. Kevin and Melissa eventually realized that in this new context, it would have been extra helpful to communicate their marital roles. Expressing their feelings was essential in understanding their own marital roles and reconnecting with each other.
Melissa says, “Our communication around Kev’s career was lacking. We could have, and should have, been more deliberate about taking the journey together, about dreaming together and celebrating the wins.”
So sit down with your partner and discuss what’s important to both of you. Discuss how you’ll each support your family – and how you’ll remain connected with one another when life gets in the way.
We all have expectations about what we want out of marriage, which are often informed by what we’ve experienced or been taught in the past. But expectations can have a detrimental impact on marriage, especially when it comes to sex and marital roles. Expressing your feelings, and talking about your expectations on a continual basis, is critical in maintaining a healthy relationship.
After all, marriage isn’t easy work. Just because you married your best friend, the person you love the most, does not mean you two will know what the other is always thinking. Constant communication is the key to staying in touch with each other – and with reality.
About the author
Kevin Fredericks is an NAACP Image Award–nominated comedian, the founder of KevOnStage Studios, and a superstar on social media. His work and commentary have been featured by Good Morning America, Complex, Ebony, Newsweek, The Daily Beast, and MSNBC.
Melissa Fredericks is a Los Angeles–based influencer dedicated to helping women become the best versions of themselves through honesty, transparency, and vulnerability. Together, she and Kevin are the founders of The Love Hour, a podcast that has been downloaded millions of times.
Kevin and Melissa Fredericks are two social media influencers who have been married for nearly two decades. They cohost The Love Hour podcast. Marriage Be Hard, a New York Times best seller, is their first book.
Communication Skills, Sex, Relationships, Self Help, Marriage, Christian, Humor, Family
Table of Contents
1 Expectations Be Hard 3
2 Communication Be Hard 18
3 Sex Be Hard 50
4 Jealousy Be Hard 77
5 Marital Roles Be Hard 92
6 Fidelity Be Hard 108
7 Fighting Be Hard 124
8 Parenting Be Hard 143
9 Quarantine Be Hard 156
10 Divorce Be Hard 169
11 Self-Worth Be Hard: A Love Letter from Melissa to You 182
12 Lessons from Eighteen Years of Marriage 198
We’ve all heard the rules about sex, dating, and getting married but what happens AFTER I do? What happens after Happily Ever After? Well, it’s not easy but it can be fun and funny with Kevin and Melissa Fredericks.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • 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
FINALIST FOR THE NAACP IMAGE AWARD • “Kev and Melissa are not afraid to tell the truth!”—Tabitha Brown, New York Times bestselling author of Feeding the Soul
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.”
“Honey, listen, I’ve been married for nineteen years, and the title of the book lets me know that Kev and Melissa are not afraid to tell the truth! They had me at chapter 1, ‘Expectations Be Hard.’ Baby, this book ain’t hard to love!”—Tabitha Brown, actress, vegan foodie, and New York Times bestselling author of Feeding the Soul
“While Kev and Melissa show us how hard marriage can be, they also show us how beautiful it can be if you’re willing to be vulnerable and really do the work. This is essential reading for anyone married or for anyone remotely considering marriage.”—Tommy and Codie Oliver, creators of Black Love, Inc.
“Marriage Be Hardis a relatable, honest take on life, love, and relationships. In their typical style, Kev and Melissa are authentic and engaging, playful and downright hilarious. They humbly offer readers real talk that both models healthy relational skills and vulnerably pulls the curtain back on some of the most common marital concerns. As a relationship counselor, I’d recommend the book to any couple wanting a fun, structured way (with awesome prompts!) to approach some deep, growth-promoting conversations.”—Morgan Johnson, MA, LPC, relationship counselor and trust recovery specialist
“As a licensed marriage and family therapist, I was particularly interested in the ‘Communication Be Hard’ chapter. I know from my work that all aspects of communication can impact relationships for better or worse. The ‘check-ins’ at the end of each chapter cause the reader to engage in reflective evaluation of their own behavior. Written with the same authenticity and honesty that Kev and Melissa operate with on their podcast, this book will undoubtedly help folks improve their relationship with their partner and themselves.”—Stevon Lewis, licensed marriage and family therapist
“Kevin and and his wife Melissa Fredericks dial up the laughs in their candid debut about the trials of marriage. . . . The authors’ humor and willingness to probe intimate details of their relationship contribute to the appeal. The result is a funny and deeply sincere look at improving one’s marriage.”—Publishers Weekly
Video and Podcast
Read an Excerpt/PDF Preview
Expectations Be Hard
When you grow up in the church, marriage is set up for you as a fairy tale, a promise that if you follow the rules, you’ll get everything you ever wanted and more. But sometimes that promise doesn’t deliver. We had those expectations, but when we got to the reality of what marriage is—the reality we didn’t see at the end of movies, when the prince and princess ride off on beautifully groomed horses—we weren’t prepared for much of what we found.
I’ll never forget the first time I saw Melissa. It felt like the beginning of a fairy tale; I’m not gonna lie. It was August 1999, the first day of eleventh grade, and I walked into Ms. Chapman’s U.S. history class. There was Melissa, sitting in the fourth row, and she was the most beautiful person in the classroom. Not only was she gorgeous, but she was talking to three or four other people and commanding the conversation. Everyone looked gripped by whatever she was saying. I took a seat in the fourth row, as close to her as possible, and sat there thinking about how to approach her.
All of a sudden, I received a tap on my shoulder. The young gentleman behind me, in his braids and glasses, handed me a note and asked me to pass it to the girl two seats over. I thought, Oh no, he likes her too. But she gave the folded piece of paper a cursory glance and put it down without reading it. I took that to mean I had a chance. That guy was going to be no competition.
I could tell you about the girl in our chemistry class that Kevin liked. Or the other girl at our church that he had his eye on. Or so many other girls. In fact, I used to call him the Fisherman because he would just cast out his line and whichever girl bit, he would date her. It was Madison; then it was Abigail; then it was Hannah. He was a player, and that was not for me.
I had someone in each of Melissa’s classes campaigning for me to get her to date me. It didn’t work until May of our junior year, when Tony (my friend and Melissa’s cousin) practically begged her to go out with me. “Come on, cuz. Give my boy Kev a chance.” She was so annoyed, she grabbed my hand and said, “Fine, Tony. I will date him. Are you happy now?” And then she threw my hand away from her.
Melissa was the worst girlfriend I ever had. The absolute worst. Of all the girls I dated, she cared the least about me. She didn’t want to hold my hand. She didn’t want to hug or kiss me. She acted like she didn’t care if we were together or not. My previous girlfriends wrote me notes. They fried up chicken for me and brought it to my basketball practices. I used to tickle my girlfriends on their knees (it was sort of my move), but when I tried it with Melissa, she asked me what I was doing and told me never to do it again. Melissa didn’t even care if I walked her home from the bus. She was cold as ice. She sucked as a girlfriend. But I loved her so much, I didn’t care that she sucked.
After junior year, I went to El Paso for the summer to see my grandma, and Melissa and I did the long-distance thing. This was before I had a cellphone, and there was no way my grandma was going to let me run up her long-distance bill. Melissa and I wrote real letters back and forth, but we didn’t see each other all summer. Something changed over those months. On the first day of twelfth grade, I walked home with a friend of mine. Melissa was mad, talking about “I haven’t seen you all summer and you don’t even want to walk me home?” I was like, “You have never cared about anything I have done or said. Ever.” It was then that I realized she actually liked me. Four months after we started dating.
In the spring of our senior year, we went on a youth church retreat to Ocean Shores, Washington, which is the ugliest beach ever. When you picture a beach, you might imagine white sand, clear blue water, and a gentle breeze blowing in your hair. Ocean Shores was the opposite: all rocks, muddy water, and cold, harsh wind. We were sitting together on the church van and Fred Hammond’s “Thank You Lord” was playing. I was overcome with emotion, and I said to Melissa, “I’m thankful to Jesus for you, and I love you.” To my great surprise, she said it back.
I was not playing hard to get. I actually was hard to get. I finally warmed up in twelfth grade. I realized I was being stubborn and difficult for no reason. I asked myself, What more does this guy have to prove? He was a good person, and I knew that. We dated through senior year; then Kev followed me to college at the University of Washington.
On Easter Sunday 2003, our sophomore year, we were all in church. Kev got up in front of the packed pews and started talking about how important God’s sacrifice was and that the church was the bride of Christ. I wasn’t sure of his point, but there was something about how the ring is a symbol of a union like the cross is the symbol of the Lord. He was going on and on about the commitment to love and God’s commitment to us. Then he asked me to go up and stand with him in front of the 112 people packed into that church. Next thing I knew, my two sisters and two friends walked in, each holding a poster board. One by one, they turned their poster board around, revealing a word at a time: Will. You. Marry. Me. And the Me sign had a drawing of two rings.
I had no idea it was coming. In fact, the day before Easter, I went shopping with my mom and our church’s first lady, and they were pushing me to buy a new outfit for Easter. I was like, “First of all, it’s Easter. Why are we worried about a new outfit? That’s the problem with the world today. Too many people think Easter is about the outfit. I don’t really care.”
I’m actually angry that they didn’t force me to buy something that day or at least make me choose something prettier out of my closet. I ended up wearing a long-sleeved tunic with an attached cape. It was so bad. I looked like a pilgrim. When Kevin called me up in front of everyone, it still didn’t occur to me that he was going to propose. Not until the card Marry was flipped over did I realize what has happening. I was shocked. He got down on his knee and gave me the ninety-nine-dollar ring that we had picked out together at the military post exchange. (Yes, I had helped pick out the ring, and I still didn’t know that he was proposing.)
It goes without saying that I said yes. Kevin had all the things I knew were important in a husband—the list many of us make in our heads when we’re picturing our lifelong partner. Now listen, I’m not talking about superficial stuff like “tall, dark, and handsome.” I didn’t care about Kevin’s career path or family money. I’m talking about the morals, values, and character that make men who they are. Even at twenty years old, I knew that those were the nonnegotiables that carry a relationship in conflict and hard times.