Relationships

Michelle And Barack Obama Did Couples Therapy, She Says In Memoir 'Becoming'

In her new book, the former first lady talks marriage counseling — and disputes the idea that she and Barack Obama are "relationship goals."
11/12/2018 02:58pm ET | Updated November 12, 2018

In advance of her new memoir Becoming, Michelle Obama is getting real about the challenges she and Barack Obama have faced in their 26-year marriage.

Speaking with Oprah Winfrey in an OWN special set to air Nov. 15, the former first lady revealed that she and Barack went to marriage counseling after their two daughters, Malia and Sasha, were born.

She told Winfrey:

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 and my voice ― the notion that you come to a relationship whole and that I couldn’t look to Barack and he couldn’t look to me to be everything. We had to make our everything on our own. 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.

Elsewhere in the memoir, which will be published on Nov. 13, Obama discusses the difficulties of being married to “somebody who has a career that swallows up everything, which is what politics is.”

Winfrey brought up a line from the book, in which Obama writes of her husband’s travels: “When it came down to it, I felt vulnerable when he was away.” The former FLOTUS told Winfrey she had to learn how to express that vulnerability to her husband:

I had 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.

Obama said she hopes that writing about the struggles she and Barack experienced will counter the public’s idealized version of their marriage. Marriage is hard work for any couple.

“I know that people look to me and Barack as the ideal relationship,” she told Winfrey. “I know there’s #RelationshipGoals out there. But whoa, people, slow down — marriage is hard!”

Obama’s candidness is on display throughout her book. Earlier this month, it was revealed that she details how she had a miscarriage and used in vitro fertilization to conceive the couple’s two daughters.

“I felt like I failed because I didn’t know how common miscarriages were because we don’t talk about them,” the former first lady said in an interview broadcast last week on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “We sit in our own pain, thinking that somehow we’re broken.”

Michelle Obama