The Real Reason Michelle Obama Went To Marriage Counseling

The Obamas are a first family that Americans (and the world) will talk about for years to come. The power couple has been called #relationshipgoals across age groups and managed to successfully merge politics and pop culture — even more so after former President Barack Obama and his family moved out of the White House.

Former first lady Michelle has launched many of her own campaigns and even published a best selling novel, Becoming, which has grossed more than $60 million as of 2019, per NBC News. During her press run for the memoir, Michelle spoke candidly on intimate details about her family, including marital disputes with Barack. She doesn't paint the couple to be "perfect" in any fashion and even reveals that she and her husband utilized couples' counseling for a variety of reasons. During these sessions, Michelle revealed that she learned a lot about herself and the intricacies of her marriage.

Let's take a closer look at the real reason Michelle Obama went to marriage counseling and why she's opening up about the experience.

Michelle Obama reveals her 'tacky' love story

At first glance, Barack and Michelle Obama's backstory feels like a romantic novel waiting to be written. According to Insider, they met in 1989 at the Chicago law firm where she worked as an attorney. Twenty-five-year-old Michelle Robinson was tasked with mentoring a 28-year-old law student named Barack. Michelle assumed, per ABC News, that this pairing made sense to the law firm since both professionals had attended Harvard University. "There was a little intrigue," Michelle said, but when Barack asked her out about a month into the gig, she recalled thinking "no way. This is completely tacky."

She eventually agreed to a first date at a museum, and two years and many dates later, Barack and Michelle were engaged. They wed in October 1992. In his marriage vows, "Barack didn't pledge riches, only a life that would be interesting," she recalled. On July 4, 1998, Michelle gave birth to their first daughter, Malia Ann, and on July 10, 2001, Natasha (aka Sasha) was born.

In 2004, things really started to get interesting when Barack was elected to the U.S. Senate for Illinois. Four years later, Michelle stood next to her husband as he was elected the 44th President of the United States.

Throughout their tenure in the spotlight, there was never a time the power couple appeared to struggle. However, Michelle later shed some light on the darker corners of their marriage and the counseling that helped them endure.

Marriage counseling was a 'turning point' for the Obamas

During sit-down interviews following the release of her memoir, Michelle Obama spoke candidly about her experience with marriage counseling. The former first lady told late-night host Jimmy Fallon that she went into it thinking a professional would help her partner change. "I was one of those wives who thought, 'I'm taking you to marriage counseling so you can be fixed, Barack Obama. Because I was like, 'I'm perfect.'" 

"And lo and behold, counseling wasn't that at all," she told Oprah Winfrey. "It was about me exploring my sense of happiness and my voice ... I couldn't look to Barack and he couldn't look to me to be everything." Michelle said learning how to ground herself and her kids was vital. She determined that her life with "this swerving dervish of a person" (aka Barack) would require her to set boundaries (e.g. bedtime for the kids at a set time), and it would be his responsibility to "catch up to them."

"Marriage counseling was a turning point for me," she told Fallon. "...I had to learn how to fill myself up and how to put myself higher on my priority list." Michelle now hopes to help others learn from her experience.

Michelle Obama keeps it real for young couples

While many couples of all ages see Barack and Michelle Obama as the perfect pair, the former first lady says she wants to be open about their relationship's pitfalls and struggles because there are many young partners looking at their marriage through a filter — without their everyday relationship dilemmas on display for the world to witness.

"I want young people to know that marriage is work. Even the best marriages require work," she said during an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. "It's a choice that you make again and again and again." Michelle urged young couples to not quit when it gets difficult or problems arise. "If you're married for 50 years and 10 of them are horrible, you're doing really good," she quipped.

NBC News reported in 2019 that Becoming was becoming among the best-selling memoirs in history. The book was also the inspiration behind the Netflix documentary of the same name, which debuted May 6, 2020.