Barack Obama Says Michelle Is Finally More Forgiving of His Flaws

All it took was 30 years of marriage, raising two perfect daughters and running the free world

Barack And Michelle Obama Speak At Obama Foundation Summit
Barack and Michelle Obama speak at Obama Foundation Summit in 2019
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Over the roar of “Pomp and Circumstance” blaring at their youngest daughter’s college graduation, Barack and Michelle Obama have heard plenty of rumblings about their own accomplishments this week — primarily their marriage of more than 30 years. And though it appears strong from the outside, their union, which has long been a fascination of the American public, has been anything but smooth sailing. Barack, who was interviewed on Tuesday’s edition of CBS Mornings, was asked about how he turned around his marriage after a decade-long stint in the proverbial dog house.

Host Nate Burleson poked at the former President, recalling comments shared by the former first lady on the same program a month earlier. “For about 10 years of the marriage, [Michelle] really didn’t like you,” Burleson teased.

Barack tossed his head back with impish charm. “Aw, man.”

Burleson inquired about how the political icon got “back in good graces” with the missus. “Asking for a friend,” he muttered. (Naturally.)

“It sure helps to be out of the White House,” Barack mused. “To have a little more time with her.” 

Not only is it difficult to support a marriage while residing at America’s most famous address, but raising two young kids only complicates things, he explained. “When our girls were growing up, [they were] priority number one, two, three and four,” he said. “I did not fully appreciate, as engaged of a father as I was, the degree of stress and tension for [Michelle], knowing that not just me and Michelle were under scrutiny in this strange environment but that we were raising our daughters in a kind of situation that just wasn’t normal.”

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Now that their kids are officially all grown up, he said his dynamic with his wife has shifted. “Now that [Sasha and Malia are] doing good, she is, uh, a little more forgiving of all my flaws,” he said of Michelle, with a smile. “What she’s told me is, ‘Looking back, you did okay as a dad.’ And if I pass that test, then she’ll forgive me most of my other foibles.”

Since last year’s release of her book The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times, Michelle has been searingly candid about the realities of married life and her dedication to her principles through the worst years of her marriage. “People think I’m being catty by saying this,” she said last year during a roundtable discussion for Revolt TV. “It’s like, there were 10 years where I couldn’t stand my husband. And guess when it happened? When those kids were little.”

To her fellow panelists — Kelly Rowland, H.E.R., Winnie Harlow and Tina Knowles-Lawson — she described the imbalance in their relationship and how she was forced to be the primary caretaker of their young children as her husband’s political career began to take shape.

“And for 10 years while we’re trying to build our careers and, you know, worrying about school and who’s doing what, I was like, ‘Ugh, this isn’t even,’” she said. “And guess what? Marriage isn’t 50/50, ever, ever.”

Last month, addressing those comments again, she told Gayle King that she thinks it’s “incumbent” upon people who have had successful marriages to be “really honest” about the compromises you make when you commit to a partner. “In this day and age, marriage is more about the dress, and the dresses, and the proposal, and the honeymoon and all the stuff around it,” she told King. “And young people aren’t ready for the real of marriage.” 

“Compromise ain’t always fun,” she said. But the other 20 years of a great marriage has made it all worth it.

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