It's OK to admit it: You didn't kick off 2018 with "Justin Bieber will get married this year" on your bingo card.
"My favorite thing about being married is honestly the companionship I feel we have," Hailey, 26, said earlier this year in an interview for Vogue Australia—conducted at the couple's Beverly Hills home with her husband posing the questions. "Genuinely, you are my best friend in the entire world. There's nobody I would rather spend more time with or do anything with."
And, for the record, Justin kicked off the conversation by telling his wife he loved her—"Love you," she said back immediately—and later noted that watching her build her Rhode skin care brand had been "the coolest." She also divulged that one of the songs she couldn't stop listening to was the one her husband just recorded, but "nobody knows what that is yet."
Almost as if these two are in the habit of enjoying the occasional secret.
Suffice it to say, Hailey and Justin don't need to be in coordinated ensembles to show how in tune they are, having supported each other through respective health scares, social media toxicity, a global pandemic... Pretty much everything. (Including a lot of good stuff, like Hailey's rise in the business world and Justin's 13 Grammy nominations over the past three years. And he didn't even need to get out of his sweats last month to cheer the launch of her strawberry-glaze Rhode lip treatment.)
"I just think life is changing all the time," Hailey told Harper's Bazaar in July 2022. "Day to day, week to week, year to year. 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 s--t as it comes, you know? There's a reason they say 'for better or for worse.' Like, that's for real!"
But the "silver lining" of those challenges, she noted on Good Morning America, "is that it brings us a lot closer, 'cause you're going through this together, you're being there for each other, you're supporting each other and there's just something that really bonds you through these times."
Of course, the at-times bumpy road they've been on since getting married—or perhaps since they first met backstage at the TODAY show in 2009 when Hailey was 12 and luxuriously coiffed Justin was 15—makes these epitomes all the sweeter.
"We had talked about wanting to be married young and having a family young and building a life," Hailey told Elle for its April 2021 cover story. "But we always knew that we were aligned on what we wanted in our future. Even before we knew we wanted to be with each other."
Still, even though Justin, then 23, asked for future father-in-law Stephen Baldwin's blessing to propose to his 21-year-old daughter, when she and Justin turned up engaged in July 2018—less than two months after rekindling their off-and-on relationship— it came as a bit of a surprise to the outside world. And then they went ahead and tied the knot at a New York courthouse two months later, letting the paper trail—and their apparent honeymoon in Italy—speak for itself.
But five months after their whirlwind nuptials (which were eventually supplemented with a dreamy destination wedding in South Carolina on Sept. 30, 2019), Mr. and Mrs. Bieber were ready to talk about marriage.
Like, really talk about it.
"The thing is, marriage is very hard," Hailey told Vogue for its March 2019 issue. "That is the sentence you should lead with. It's really effing hard."
While that might have made their still only months-old union sound a little tenuous at the time, it was really refreshing candor. Because there's no law saying the honeymoon phase has to be perfect and if you're not synched up with your spouse every second of every day you've failed at matrimony.
And Mr. and Mrs. Bieber were starting off under a massive spotlight, one that might have been looking for shady nooks in the beginning but ultimately illuminated a partnership that has surpassed many jaded expectations.
Reflecting on why assorted naysayers may have had a difficult time wrapping their heads around the couple's fast-track to forever, Hailey said on Alex Cooper's Call Her Daddy podcast last September that she could see, in hindsight, why it was hard to Belieb in the beginning.
"I think the timing was obviously very rapid and very fast, which now, being four years past that, looking back on it, I totally get it," Hailey said. "I'm like, 'Yeah, that seemed really drastic and really crazy.' But that was what we felt was a decision between the two of us and it felt correct for the two of us at the time and clearly we were right because here we are four years later."
Not to mention, just because the world at large wasn't intimately familiar with their trajectory didn't mean that she and Justin didn't know what they were doing.
"The only people that really know the truth of the situation and what the timeline really was and how it happened and how it went down are, like, me and him," she noted. "Perception is a really tricky thing because when you're watching something from the outside you can see it one way when it may not really be the reality of what happened behind closed doors."
"You just reach a point where you have to just ignore it and be like, 'OK,'" she said.
But as Justin's longtime friend before they were ever anything more, when the page was finally turned on that chapter, Hailey thought "it was the best thing that could've happened for him to move on and be engaged and get married, and move on with his life in that way."
And timing really was everything.
Justin was "at a stage of his life where he could make decisions like, 'I'm done with girls, and I'm done with fooling around, and I'm done with partying,'" Hailey told Elle in 2021. Yes, they were really young—"sounds almost ridiculous when you say it out loud," she cracked—but, by then, they'd both already "seen a lot" and "lived enough life to know that's what we wanted."
And, looking back, Hailey said on their 2020 Facebook Watch show The Biebers on Watch, "it was the best thing that we took time apart and had time to do our own thing and I felt like I found my footing...in my career and on my own and as a young adult."
Justin admitted to Vogue in 2019 that he was the "emotionally unstable one" in the relationship, more in need of validation than his model bride.
"Hailey's very logical and structured, which I need," the "What Do You Mean?" singer explained. "I've always wanted security—with my dad being gone sometimes when I was a kid, with being on the road. With the lifestyle I live, everything is so uncertain. I need one thing that's certain. And that...is my baby boo."
Hailey acknowledged that she was still learning how to "be in touch" with her emotions, while Justin "gets there immediately."
Talking to Vogue, it had been less than a year since their chance reunion in Miami sparked forever vibes in Justin's heart.
"I just forgot how much I loved her and how much I missed her and how much of a positive impact she made on my life," he explained. "I was like, Holy cow, this is what I've been looking for."
Still, getting hit with the thunderbolt didn't automatically fix everything else in his life. And he kinda had been hoping it might...
"I remember when I first got married, I hit a little bit of an emotional breakdown because I thought marriage was going to fix all my problems and it didn't," Justin shared on The Ebro Show in the spring of 2022. "It just kind of was a reflection of, like, 'You're a bit of a hypocrite man. Like, you want your wife to do something that you're not doing.' And it's like, I mean, it's hard sometimes to look in the mirror and really have to realize, 'Man, maybe you're not the person that you necessarily thought that you were.'"
In early 2019, he sought out-patient treatment for depression, a source telling E! News at the time that Hailey was serving as "the rock" for him and "doing whatever she can to help."
And, she wrote, "The truth is no matter how amazing life may look from the outside I struggle...I'm insecure, I'm fragile, I'm hurting, I have fears, I have doubts, I have anxiety, I get sad, I get angry."
They had also been to counseling together, "fighting to do this the right way, to build a healthy relationship," Hailey told Vogue around that same time. "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...But there's something beautiful about it anyway—about wanting to fight for something, commit to building with someone."
On The Biebers on Watch, Justin reiterated to his wife that there were "a lot of things" he still needed to work on when they first got married. "Forgiveness things. Jealousy things. Insecurities that...I didn't even realize I had until I chose to spend my life with you."
But putting in the work is... well, it's working.
"He's still the person that I wanna be rushing back to," Hailey told Harper's Bazaar. "I might fly somewhere and go do a job, but I can't wait to come back and hang out."
Scroll on to see Justin and Hailey Bieber's romance in pictures:
(Originally published March 1, 2023, at 6 a.m. PT)