Michelle Obama has sparked a conversation on marriage and relationships after a recent interview, in which she spoke candidly about how she “couldn’t stand” her husband Barack Obama for ten years.
Speaking about the period of time when they were raising their young children, daughters Malia and Sasha, Michelle spoke with Angie Martinez, Kelly Rowland, Tina Lawson, Winnie Harlow and H.E.R. as part of her book tour for The Light We Carry.
In a clip that has since gone viral on TikTok, she says: “There were ten years where I couldn’t stand my husband… and guess when that happened? When those kids were little, right?”
“Because you know, you can be all great individually when you’re just married. You got your life, he’s got his, you come together… it’s all, ‘ooh, good to see you! Bye, take it easy! You’re travelling? That’s great! Good, I get to hang out and watch the TV I want to watch.’”
She then adds: “But the minute we had kids it was like, ‘Where are you going? And how far?’… It’s like, that’s when the measuring starts, because you got this project… For ten years, while we’re trying to build our careers, and worrying about school and who’s doing what, I was like grrrr, this isn’t even. And guess what? Marriage isn’t 50/50, ever.”
Michelle goes on to say that she’s proud of her 30-year marriage and the many happy years she’s had with Barack. “I would take 10 bad years over 30,” she says. “It’s just how you look at it, right? And people give up after five years.”
Of knowing whether to stick with a relationship despite hard times, she adds: “You’ve gotta know your person. Do you like him? You could be mad at him, but do you still look at him and go, ‘I’m not happy with you, but I respect you. I don’t agree with you but you’re still a kind, smart person.”
She then goes on to discuss “the work” that being in a long-term relationship requires – acknowledging that those initial ‘honeymoon period’ feelings will only last so long.
Many TikTok viewers were inspired by Michelle’s words, and could hard relate. “I think this is the most candid, emotionally mature and real depiction of marriage,” one commented, with another replying: “Bless her for speaking so candidly about marriage/parenting because this is SPOT ON and no one talks about it!!”
But over on Twitter, there was further debate, with some suggesting that Michelle was implying women should stay in unhappy marriages, or settle despite feeling unhappy.
Journalist Alexis Oatman writes: “I want Michelle Obama to stop selling this ‘marriage is pain’ narrative cause, baby… I REFUSE. I don’t want to be in a relationship where it’s expected of me to ‘be prepared for years-long stretches of discomfort in a romantic partnership.’”