From their many adorable Instagram tributes to each other to rocking out together at Jay-Z concerts, Barack and Michelle Obama's marriage seems to be the stuff of fairy tales. But even America's favorite #couplesgoals couple has had their fair share of relationship struggles.
In a new interview for the December issue of Elle, the former First Lady admitted to Oprah that their marriage of 26 years has not always been as easy as they make it look. "When you get married and have kids, your whole plan, once again, gets upended. Especially if you get married to somebody who has a career that swallows up everything, which is what politics is," Obama said, noting that being married to Barack taught her how to "swerve." "But his swerving sort of—you know, I’m flailing in the wind," she added.
She went on to explain that both she and her husband had a lot on their plates—he was traveling between Washington and Springfield while she was trying to hold things down at home—so they decided to go to counseling to work on their relationship.
"Well, 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," she says. "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."
For Obama, counseling also helped her learn to communicate and understand love in a different way, she explained: "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." She continued, "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."
In an interview with Good Morning America on November 9, Obama also elaborated on why she's chosen to speak publicly about her and her husband's decision to go to counseling. “I know too many young couples who struggle, and think somehow there’s something wrong with them,” Obama told host Robin Roberts. “I want them to know that Michelle and Barack Obama—who have a phenomenal marriage and who love each other—we work on our marriage and we get help with our marriage when we need it.”
She noted that while it may often feel like marriage is “supposed to be easy,” counseling can be a good opportunity to learn.
“What I learned about myself was that my happiness was up to me and I started working out more, I started asking for help, not just from him but from other people,” she said. “I stopped feeling guilty.”
Obama, who is currently promoting her upcoming memoir, Becoming, also shared to GMA how she had a miscarriage 20 years ago, and how she hopes telling story will help destigmatize fertility issues.
"I felt lost and alone, and I felt like I failed," she said. "Because I didn't know how common miscarriages were, because we don't talk about them. We sit in our own pain, thinking that somehow we’re broken."
Becoming hits shelves on Tuesday and will no doubt be filled with even more marriage advice from the house of Obama.