5 Ways Barack and Michelle Obama Are the Ultimate #CoupleGoals
They have both dreamed of being effective in social change
1. Barack and Michelle Obama are their own people.
Why this matters: Any relationship counselor worth his salt will tell you that love is about two individuals—two independent people—who choose to be together because they are invested in their own and their partner’s growth.
Before they started dating, Barack Obama was a director in a church-based community organization where he helped set up job training programs and college preparatory programs from 1985 to 1989. After that he was an associate at law firms—one of which (Sidley Austin) was where he would meet his future spouse and first lady. Michelle Obama (née Robinson) was an associate in a law firm and the mentor of Barack; in 1991 to 1993 she would later hold positions in the public sector as an assistant to the mayor in Chicago and as an assistant commissioner of planning and development. There, she set fundraising records.
In their early years together, Barack campaigned for a shot at the U.S. government. On the other hand, Michelle worked as the associate dean of student affairs at the University of Chicago and as the executive director for community and external affairs of the University of Chicago Medical Center. She helped run Barack’s campaign for senator in 1996 and later for president in 2006, all the while juggling work and raising their two daughters Malia and Sasha.
As Barack made history by becoming the first African American president and the first president born outside the contiguous United States (he was born in Hawaii), Michelle would become not only a fashion icon but also an advocate of poverty awareness and healthy living (from proper nutrition to exercise)—a very clear role model for women.
2. They’re realistic.
Why this matters: As much as ideals are important in leading us all to live them out, being realistic keeps us grounded, humble and connected to our experiences and those of other people. It helps us understand and empathize with our partners.
Just in case you thought it was easy for the Obamas to navigate through the dizzying maze and spiral of politics, you couldn’t be more wrong. The couple knew marriage itself is a challenge, let alone adding the Obama presidency in the mix. Just how difficult it would be, they had to live it to find out for themselves. Barack has bore the weight of running for public office as someone whom people did not know much less trust, being ignored by colleagues when he became senator; and when he became president, of the issues (like the ’08 financial crisis) that plagued his countrymen and he has had to find his rhythm being a family man.
The early campaign period and when Barack retreated to Bali to write his first book Dreams from My Father were especially hard for Michelle. The couple were newly married when Barack worked to fulfill his political ambitions, leaving Michelle usually to herself with two baby girls with little money. As if that wasn’t enough, she also had some form of identity crisis. Michelle, strong woman as she is, has needed to carve her own path, one separate from “Barack Obama’s wife.” According to Susan Sher, her boss at the hospital, Michelle was practically a single parent with Barack busy in politics and with the rest of the United States.
“I’ve had to come to the point of figuring out how to carve out what kind of life I want for myself beyond who Barack is and what he wants,” Michelle told the Chicago Tribune in 2004, when he was campaigning for senate.
The two have made their share of compromises; the public isn’t privy to these but Michelle has dispensed marriage advice over the years. Clearly coming from someone who has endured and loved greatly, she has said:
“Marriage is hard work. Even the best of marriages require a lot of work—even if you’re married to your soulmate who has very few flaws. Building a life with a person other than yourself and raising kids and dealing with all of the bumps and the bruises and the joys and the pains that go along with life, that creates the natural state of marriage, and it’s a challenge. I say that to people not to discourage them but to say that you will inevitably hit those bumps. Don’t view that as a shortcoming of yourself or your spouse or your marriage. Don’t give up on it. Just understand that you’re going along the path that everybody else goes on. Go in ready for the work.”
3. They have the same vision.
Why this matters: A number of young couples believe that being in the same field with your partner and having the same hobbies and interests make for a lasting and healthy relationship. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. What’s more important is to have the same vision and direction, since this means that you and your partner are guided by the same values and principles. Interests and hobbies, while they make leisure time fun, obviously pale in comparison.
Barack has believed that politics was the way to create change. He pressed officials to be more active and he ran for office himself. Michelle, on the other hand, was more “skeptical of politicians,” trying to go around them and seeking to help communities help themselves without politicians’ aid. In spite of these differences, Barack and Michelle Obama have dreamed of being effective in social change.
Having settled at the White House, their desire for change hasn’t left them. Injustices get Michelle smacking-tables kind of riled up. Barack seeks her views for policy making like for health care; she stirs him toward issues that matter most to the people.
It’s not for us Filipinos here in the Philippines to say if the Obamas, through the Obama Administration, have been able to significantly contribute to social change in America. With the U.S. having a newly elected president, the Obamas will have more time in their hands to review what their goals were exactly when they got themselves involved in government and to evaluate their own performances. Nevertheless, it is safe to say Barack and Michelle strove to move in the same direction.
4. Through quality time and moral support, they’re there for each other as much as possible.
“As much as possible,” which is to say the Obamas could have spent more time together and supported one another more at some point, as some would argue. Yet taking Point #2 into consideration, Barack and Michelle did what they could to keep themselves, their marriage and their family intact throughout his political career. He has done the groceries, paid the bills and made sure to return home after work albeit past midnight. She has let him chase his ambitions in spite all her misgivings.
As President and First Lady, they have shared more quality time together than before. Barack has read to the kids, they’ve redecorated the White House, they send their kids to school, they play tennis. Michelle has told Good Housekeeping, “When the kids go to bed and after he’s done a little reading, we’re usually curled up in our den and we’ll watch a show together. Or we’ll talk and catch up. It’s nothing major, but that’s what marriage is about...the little day-to-day sharing and routines and rituals that we still have.”
It is difficult to stay together in times of hardship for obvious reasons. But staying together in times of success is a whole other ball game. Rumors and smear campaigns are inevitable, regardless of their distance from the truth. In 2014, tabloids were abuzz with stories of infidelity and a rotting marriage, coupled with stolen shots of an unhappy, uptight Michelle. But as 2016 has proven, the Obamas have stayed together and have still graced the Internet with tender photographs. In terms of their being #CoupleGoals, it shouldn’t be that big of a deal if they stayed together for political or personal reasons, assuming that the rumors are true. That’s because both reasons show that Barack and Michelle respect one another—a complex form of love.
5. They make difficult adjustments.
Why this matters: Reality calls us to bend and make compromises for the people and the things we love the most. When dreams and a country are at stake, there are more important things than one’s own pride and comfort zone.
Michelle Obama had for a long time reservations about Barack Obama’s political career, in as far as she wasn’t “ready to share” her husband with the rest of the Americans—according to campaign manager Carol Anne Harwell. However, Michelle helped Barack in his first run for senate in 1996, even if knocking on doors and petitioning for signatures “was the dumbest thing [he] could have ever asked [her] to do.” But she became Barack’s most energetic volunteer, writes Kantor. She did withdraw from politics afterwards by not sitting through his speeches. But when it came to the chances of his gaining the highest position in the country, Michelle pushed Barack, again in spite of her reservations. She helped him define his reasons for running for president. She learned to love campaigning for him and to enjoy the crowd.
One of the couple’s closest friends, Valerie Jarrett, has shared, “They both rallied to each other’s defense and support. By having to work hard at it, it strengthened their marriage.”
It sure seems that Michelle has sacrificed more, but there’s no scoreboard in mature relationships; only more love, respect and more adjustments as compelled by the next chapter. Now that's relationship goals.
Main source: The New York Times