On the eve of the release of her new memoir, Becoming Michelle Obama, the former first lady continues to open up like never before about many of the things her supporters have always wanted to know the most about, like her marriage to former president Barack Obama.
Obama was interviewed by Oprah Winfrey for the cover story of ELLE magazine’s December issue and she shared more details about how she and Barack worked through their relationship issues and shaped their marriage.
“I feel vulnerable all the time,” Obama revealed. “And I had to learn how to express that to my husband, to tap into those parts of me that missed him—and the sadness that came from that—so that he could understand.”
The Obamas often spent time apart, with Barack on the political trails, but Michelle says they had to come to a common understanding.
“He didn’t understand distance in the same way,” she continued. “You know, he grew up without his mother in his life for most of his years, and he knew his mother loved him dearly, right? I always thought love was up close. Love is the dinner table, love is consistency, it is presence. So I had to share my vulnerability and also learn to love differently. It was an important part of my journey of becoming. Understanding how to become us.”
Obama has also been very vocal about the fact that there was a point in their marriage where, like so many couples, they needed to seek couples counseling.
“When you get married and have kids, your whole plan, once again, gets upended,” she explained. “Especially if you get married to somebody who has a career that swallows up everything, which is what politics is. Barack Obama taught me how to swerve. But his swerving sort of—you know, I’m flailing in the wind. And now I’ve got two kids, and I’m trying to hold everything down while he’s traveling back and forth from Washington or Springfield.”
But, they did the work and it paid off.
“He had this wonderful optimism about time,” Obama continued. “ [Laughs] He thought there was way more of it than there really was. And he would fill it up constantly. He’s a plate spinner—plates on sticks, and it’s not exciting unless one’s about to fall. So there was work we had to do as a couple. Counseling we had to do to work through this stuff.”
On October 3rd the Obamas celebrated their 26th wedding anniversary, so let’s just say, we can all learn from their willingness to work through their differences and put in the work.