Barack Obama's New Memoir Reveals the Strain the Presidency Put on His Marriage

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama dance during the Commander in Chief Inaugural Ball on January 21, 2013, in Washington, DC.
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama dance during the Commander in Chief Inaugural Ball on January 21, 2013, in Washington, DC.
Photo: Alex Wong (Getty Images)
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“If I were able to run for a third term, Michelle would divorce me.” Barack Obama told Jimmy Kimmel in October of 2016. It was obviously a joke, but in the first volume of the upcoming presidential memoir, A Promised Land, our favorite former president reveals that the pressures of the White House did add pressure to his marriage to our forever first lady, Michelle Obama, per an excerpt reprinted by CNN.

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“[D]espite Michelle’s success and popularity, I continued to sense an undercurrent of tension in her, subtle but constant, like the faint thrum of a hidden machine,” Obama writes. “It was as if, confined as we were within the walls of the White House, all her previous sources of frustration became more concentrated, more vivid, whether it was my round the clock absorption with work, or the way politics exposed our family to scrutiny and attacks, or the tendency of even friends and family members to treat her role as secondary in importance.”

President Obama had indicated the same when speaking to Kimmel immediately before the election of Donald Trump.

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“Michelle was never wild about politics,” he shared. “Michelle once explained to me, ‘I try to organize my life not to have a lot of mess around, and politics is just a big mess.’”

The American public had the pleasure of seeing a scandal-free presidency in the Obamas, and not only a happy family but a president and first lady clearly deeply in love. (Remember when we had a first lady who was not only happy to hold her husband’s hand, but affectionately groomed him in public?) In his memoir, President Obama reveals the toll the demands of public life took upon the couple privately.

“[L]ying 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, and my heart would suddenly tighten at the thought that those days might not return,” he wrote.

It was a rough spot in a now 28-year marriage; one Mrs. Obama also shared insight into in her 2018 bestselling memoir, Becoming. As she explained to fellow author John Green in O Magazine, while her marriage story is anything but conventional, challenges are to be expected in any sustaining union.

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“One of the reasons why I chose to share so much about our marriage is because I think about young couples and how little we know when we get married about what marriage is,” she said. “I mean, nobody’s giving us a guidebook on how to do this thing called building a life with a whole ‘nother person.”

Maiysha Kai is Managing Editor of The Glow Up, co-host of The Root Presents: It's Lit! podcast, and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door...May I borrow some sugar?

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DISCUSSION

“[D]espite Michelle’s success and popularity, I continued to sense an undercurrent of tension in her..

Uh-huh, especially that time your ass got all cozy with Karen of Denmark while the cameras were rolling.