Marriage Be Hard

12 Conversations to Keep You Laughing, Loving, and Learning with Your Partner



About the Book

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.”
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Praise for Marriage Be Hard

“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 Hard is 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

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Marriage Be Hard

Chapter One

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.

About the Author

Kevin Fredericks
Kevin Fredericks is an NAACP Image Award–winning 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. More by Kevin Fredericks
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About the Author

Melissa Fredericks
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 to date. More by Melissa Fredericks
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