Kicking off her national speaking tour and the release of her new memoir, Becoming, Michelle Obama has opened up about her personal life, and what it’s like to be married to the president. In a new interview with Oprah Winfrey for Elle, the former First Lady reveals she went to marriage counseling with Barack after the birth of their two daughters.
With Barack traveling constantly, Michelle described the necessity of couples therapy to “explore my own sense of happiness”:
You go because you think the counselor is going to help you make your case against the other person. “Would you tell him about himself?!” … And lo and behold, counseling wasn’t that at all. It was about me exploring my sense of happiness. What clicked in me was that I need support and I need some from him. But I needed to figure out how to build my life in a way that works for me.
Winfrey brought up a line from the book, in which Obama writes, “When it came down to it, I felt vulnerable when he was away.” Michelle elaborated on this, discussing the the importance of communicating and channeling vulnerability in her relationship.
I feel vulnerable all the time. 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. He didn’t understand distance in the same way. 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.
By opening up about her marriage struggles, Michelle hoped to dispel the notion that she and Barack have a flawless relationship — or that such a thing exists. “I share this because I know that people look to me and Barack as the ideal relationship,” she said. “I know there’s #RelationshipGoals out there. But whoa, people, slow down — marriage is hard!”