Barack and Michelle Obama's Relationship Timeline

Plus, everything else you need to know about the Obama love story.

michelle and barack obama

Getty Images

Former President Barack Obama and wife Michelle's romance dates long before they stepped into the White House (or even started political careers for the matter!). They met as corporate law co-workers, quickly fell in love, and have quite literally become our definition of #MarriageGoals ever since. Between their early days in Chicago to their time in the Oval Office and beyond, here is a complete timeline of Barack and Michelle Obama's relationship.

  • Former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama met in 1989 while Barack was a summer associate at her law office. That summer they went on their first date and tied the knot three years later in 1992.
  • In 1998 and 2001, the couple became parents to daughters Malia and Natasha (Sasha) Obama, respectively.
  • They became the 44th president and first lady of the United States when Barack won the 2008 presidential election.
  • After spending eight years in the White House, the Obama family moved back to Chicago but still stay active in the political scene. In 2017, they celebrated 25 years of marriage.

1989: Co-workers in Chicago

When Barack began working at law firm Sidley Austin LLP in 1989, he was assigned Michelle (née Robinson) as his mentor. Michelle recalled to ABC News in 2008, "Because I went to Harvard and he went to Harvard, and the firm thought, 'Oh, we'll hook these two people up.'"

July 1, 1989: Kisses Over Ice Cream

rock with plague for Barack Obama
Getty Images

It wasn't long into his time at the law firm that Barack asked Michelle out on a date (one month in, to be exact!). However, Michelle found the action to be "completely tacky" and refused. She did, of course, eventually give in and on July 1, 1989 the pair went out for ice cream and the night ended with a kiss. "On our first date, I treated her to the finest ice cream Baskin-Robbins had to offer, our dinner table doubling as the curb. I kissed her, and it tasted like chocolate," Barack told O Magazine in 2007. Michelle on the other hand once said, "We clicked right away…by the end of the date, it was over…I was sold."

July 31, 1991: Barack's Restaurant Proposal

On July 31, 1991, Barack and Michelle went out to Gordan's Restaurant in Chicago to celebrate Barack passing the bar exam. But the night turned into more than just a dinner date—there was a proposal! Michelle explained the simple, romantic engagement in her book Becoming: "As we were reaching the end of the meal, Barack smiled at me and raised the subject of marriage. He reached for my hand and said that as much as he loved me with his whole being, he still didn't really see the point. Instantly, I felt the blood rise in my cheeks. It was like pushing a button in me—the kind of big blinking red button you might find in some sort of nuclear facility surrounded by warnings signs and evacuation maps. Really? We were going to do this now?"

She continued, "Eventually, our waiter came around holding a dessert plate, covered by a silver lid. He slid it in front of me and lifted the cover. I was almost too miffed to even look down, but when I did, I saw a dark velvet box where the chocolate cake was supposed to be. Inside was a diamond ring. Barack looked at me playfully. He'd baited me. It had all been a ruse. It took me a second to dismantle my anger and slide into joyful shock. He'd riled me up because this was the very last time he would invoke his inane marriage argument, ever again, as long as we both should live."

October 3, 1992: A Very '90s Wedding

One year later, the couple wed on October 3, 1992, at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Michelle's brother walked her down the aisle while Barack's brother served as best man. Following the ceremony, the newlyweds held a reception at the South Shore Cultural Center and chose "You and I" by Stevie Wonder for their first dance.

November 5, 1996: Political Life Begins

The Obamas' political life began in 1996 when Barack was elected to the Illinois State Senate.

July 4, 1998: Malia Obama Is Born

And on July 4, 1998, their little family of two become three when they welcomed their first child together, daughter Malia Obama. In Becoming, Michelle revealed that she suffered multiple miscarriages before giving birth to Malia, and even underwent IVF treatments.

June 10, 2001: Sasha Obama Is Born

obama family
Getty Images

Nearly three years after welcoming daughter Malia, Barack and Michelle gave birth to their second daughter, Natasha (Sasha) Obama, on June 10, 2001.

November 2, 2004: Introducing Senator Obama

While Barack served in the Illinois State Senate for eight years, the Obama family wasn't thrust into the national spotlight until he was elected to the U.S. Senate.

February 10, 2007: A Presidential Bid

obama family
Getty Images

By 2007, the Illinois senator was ready to exchange Capitol Hill for the White House and announced his presidential bid with both Michelle and their daughters by his side.

November 4, 2008: Obama Wins the Presidency

obama family
Getty Images

After 21 months of campaigning, Barack Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States. But during his acceptance speech in front of a giant crowd in Chicago on election night, he had one person to thank: his wife Michelle. "I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last 16 years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nation’s next first lady, Michelle Obama," he said.

January 20, 2009: The First Family

michelle and barack obama dancing
Getty Images 

Barack's inauguration was held on January 20, 2009, marking the Obama family's official move into the White House. But it was during one of the Inaugural Ball's that the political duo really stole the nation's heart. Asked the president and first lady danced to "At Last" (performed by Beyoncé!), Barack asked the crowd, "First of all, how good-looking is my wife?"

November 6, 2012: Another Four Years

Obama family
Getty Images

Obama was re-elected in 2012, defeating Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

August 26, 2016: Southside With You

Two decades after their first date, Michelle and Barack's initial night out was immortalized in the film Southside With You, giving fans and supporters a glimpse into their early romance.

January 20, 2017: Leaving the White House

After eight years on Pennsylvania Avenue, the Obama family officially left the White House when the 45th president of the United States was sworn in on January 20, 2017. But the former first family was eager to live a less public life, Michelle explained, "I want to open my front door without discussing it with anyone—and just walk. I want to go to Target again! I’ve heard so many things have changed in Target! I tell my friends they’re going to have to give me a re-entry training for like, 'OK, what do you do at CVS now? How do you check out?'"

October 3, 2017: Celebrating 25 Years Together

Post-presidential life served the Obamas well as the family spent time vacationing in Italy, Hawaii, and the British Virgin Islands. And on October 3, 2017, Barack and Michelle celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. "A quarter of a century later, you're still my best friend & the most extraordinary man I know," tweeted Michelle to mark the milestone.

November 12, 2020: An Open Book About Their Marriage

Barack Obama book
Penguin Random House

CNN has released excerpts from the former president’s upcoming memoir, A Promised Land, (due out sometime this month) that reveal that his and Michelle’s time in the White House put a strain on their marriage. 

"And yet, despite 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," one excerpt reads. "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." 

There was one thing Obama wrote that really broke our hearts:. "...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, and my heart would suddenly tighten at the thought that those days might not return."

Michelle told People in 2019, that since exiting the White House, the two have really spent time finding each other again and focusing on the reasons they initially fell in love.

Related Stories