If we had to name a poster couple for marriage goals, Barack and Michelle Obama would be at the top of our list. The two, who tied the knot in 1992, and celebrate their 28th wedding anniversary next month, have a solid marriage, and all while under the intense scrutiny of the public eye.
In the latest episode of Michelle Obama’s Spotify podcast, the former FLOTUS, together with American television host, comedian, writer, podcaster, and producer Conan O’Brien, opens up about her role as Mrs Obama.
And these are the marriage tips we took away from the session. Some of them may seem pretty obvious, but they’re also what we often tend to overlook.
Choose a team player
When it comes to the qualities of choosing a romantic partner, the Becoming author likens it to “picking your basketball team”. She says, “We’d have better marriages, because if you’re looking at a team, the people you want to win with, then number one, you want everybody on your team to be strong, right? You don’t want any weak links, you don’t want somebody that you can dominate.”
“Also, if you’re on a team, you’ve got to be able to do everything, especially in basketball, it’s like, you would never pick somebody that says, ‘I only dribble. I don’t shoot, I don’t defend, I just dribble,’ ” she adds.
“If we look at marriage as a real team, you’d want LeBron (James). You don’t want the guy third row on the bench who didn’t make the team, but we often don’t think about that.”
It’s only normal to want to be on your best behaviour when you’re starting to date someone, but it’s also important to stay true to yourself and what you want in a relationship.
The mother of two shares how Barack Obama had impressed her with his honesty and lack of pretense before they started a relationship.
“Once we started talking and became friends, he was very clear. He was like, ‘I want to date you.’ At least in my experience, up until then, men would be coy, they would look around the room. It was all so complicated and it felt a little immature.”
“He didn’t know if I liked him back. He was like, look, this is what I think about you. I think you’re special, you’re different and I would like to take you out. And that was rare and attractive.”
It takes time to truly know someone
It’s crucial to take time to see the person you’re dating “in an array of situations.”
If you’re looking to build a relationship with a person “there’s no magic way to make that happen except getting the basics of finding somebody, being honest about wanting to be with them, to date them seriously, to plan on making a commitment, to date them, seeing where it goes, and then making it happen,” she says. “You can’t Tinder your way into a long-term relationship.”
There are going to be times when you can’t stand each other
The pair also touch on how going through tough times, like raising kids, can affect a marriage. “The division of labour becomes real clear when a child comes,” Michelle points out, elaborating on the missed opportunities and sacrifices that mothers often face.
This time in her marriage was the first she’d “felt the sting of gender roles.”
“And I had to be there, I had to go (for appointments), and it was my body, while my husband was still living his life. The resentment starts to build up. But it’s not the time to start grading your marriage paper. Because these are unique times. But when young couples hit these hard periods, they give up.”
There will also be times that you can’t stand each other. “The feelings will be intense, but that doesn’t mean you quit. And these periods can last a long time, they can last years.”
“If I had walked away from those tough times (during her marriage), then I would have missed all the beauty that was there as well.”
“The biggest (relationship) cancer to me is resentment,” quipped Conan O’Brien, who had visited a marriage counsellor with his wife. “I dont want to resent my wife, and I don’t want her to resent me.”
He lets on, “We have this pact that if I make passive-aggressive jokes, she’s really good at saying, ‘You’ve made that joke three times now, you really don’t make the way I make the broccoli?’ And we’ll have it out. We’ve had fights where we’re both emotional. Then when the storm clears, we’re better than we were before.”
“It’s important to have two whole people. Both people have to have a voice, and they have to know themselves well enough,” Michelle adds on.
Listen to the full podcast here.