The Obamas may be one of America’s favorite first couples, but there was a time when Barack Obama and Michelle Obama almost broke up during his presidential run.
In Barack’s new memoir, A Promised Land, the former President of the United States recalled how his marriage took a turn for the worse when he told Michelle he wanted to run for president. In the book, Barack wrote about how he excitedly sat down with his wife to tell her about his presidential plans. But instead of joy, Barack recalled Michelle locking herself in a room and refusing to talk to him.
“She gave me a hard look and got up from the couch. ‘God, Barack…When is it going to be enough?'” Barack wrote. “Before I could answer, she’d gone into the bedroom and closed the door.”
Barack revealed that their relationship didn’t become better when he was elected as the 44th President of the United States either. Barack recalled an “undercurrent of tension in [Michelle], subtle but constant” and a “loneliness” with his wife that made him worry if they fell out of love.
“There were nights when, lying next to Michelle in the dark, I’d think about those days when everything between us felt lighter, when her smile was more constant and our love less encumbered,” he wrote. “And my heart would suddenly tighten at the thought that those days might not return.”
In an interview with People, Barack explained that Michelle was “less optimistic” about his political career than him, which is what led to their marriage issues. “That was the truth of our time in the White House,” Barack said. “Michelle very much believed in the work I did but was less optimistic about what I could get done. … She’s more skeptical about politics and more mindful of the sacrifices to the family.”
He continued, “During the time we were there, Michelle felt this underlying tension. The pressure, stress, of needing to get everything right, to be ‘on’ at every moment.”
Barack also revealed that Michelle would often not voice her concerns about their relationship due to her husband’s busy career. “There were times where I think she was frustrated or sad or angry but knew that I had Afghanistan or the financial crisis to worry about,” he said. “So she would tamp it down.”
In the end, Barack reveals that what saved their marriage was when they left the White House in 2017 as the 45th President of the United States and First Lady, Donald Trump and Melania Trump, moved in.
“It was like a big exhale right after we left office.” For both of them. “It took some time to talk about how she had felt,” Barack said. “Once [the presidency] was done, there was possibility of her opening up … but more importantly just her being able to let out a breath and relax.”
The former President also told People, “I think we came out of it whole. There were great joys in the White House. There was never a time where we didn’t recognize what an extraordinary privilege it was to be there. Most importantly, our children emerged intact and they are wonderful, kind, thoughtful, creative — and not entitled — young women. So that’s a big sigh of relief.”
As for his and Michelle’s relationship now, Barack said that his wife has “has been more relaxed and more joyful since we left office. That allowed us to just enjoy the deep love that comes with a marriage this long. But also to be friends again.”
Barack and Michelle married in October 1992 after more than a decade together. The couple share two daughters: Malia, 22, and Sasha, 19. In his interview with People, Barack also revealed that his daughters living on their own at college has also taken stress off his relationship with Michelle. “Now that [our daughters] have turned out pretty good, [we can] laugh and goof off and have more time with each other,” Barack said.
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