Relationships

Michelle Obama shares how marriage counselling helped her and Barack through troubled times

Despite appearances things haven't always been picture prefect for the much idolised couple.

By Judy Kean

Their marriage is often seen as the epitome of the perfect relationship.

And yes, Michelle and Barack Obama really do have a strong bond and are still deeply in love.

But things between them haven't always been wonderful, admits Michelle, and there have been times when the former US President and his First Lady have needed help.

Michelle reveals in her newly released memoir, Becoming, that she and Barack (57) have had counselling during tricky times in their marriage.

She says she deliberately included those details in her book so other couples could see that a successful marriage takes hard work and that there's no shame in seeking professional advice.

"Marriage counselling for us was one of the ways where we learned how to talk out our differences," says Michelle (54).

"I know too many young couples who struggle and think that somehow there is something wrong with them. And 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."

Among the road bumps they faced was their difficulty having a baby.

In her book, Michelle tells for the first time that she suffered a miscarriage, and later used in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) to conceive her daughters Malia (20) and Sasha (17).

Around the time she was trying to get pregnant, Barack had recently gone into politics, leaving her at home where she had to administer the IVF shots herself.

And then, when the girls were small, he stepped up his political ambitions, meaning corporate lawyer Michelle had to shoulder much of the child-rearing alone.

Michelle says this period of time was "irritating and hard" but fortunately, she and her husband were aware that great marriages need work and both were willing to put in the effort to get through the situation.

"Because we're role models, it's important for us to be honest and to say, 'If you're in a marriage and there are times you want to leave, that's normal' – because I felt that way. There were definitely times when I wished things were different, but I don't think I ever thought, 'I'm just checking out of this'."

She says she wanted her daughters to know that, "Mum and Dad had to work through some stuff. And people you love and people you want to build a life with, you're going to have to work through stuff with."

Michelle has disclosed how she and former US president Barack used IVF to conceive daughters Malia and Sasha.
Michelle has disclosed how she and former US president Barack used IVF to conceive daughters Malia and Sasha.

When Michelle and Barack married in 1992 they were both lawyers, but by 1996, Barack had decided he wanted to try politics.

It was a move Michelle was not very happy about, thanks to her experience with public figures.

Her father, Fraser Robinson III, had been an elected official in the Democratic Party, and she'd got a close-up look at politics while working for the office of the Chicago mayor in the early 1990s.

She'd also been friends with the daughter of civil rights activist and politician Rev Jesse Jackson.

"I could see how disruptive it could be to family life, how all-consuming it could be. Politics was never anything I would have chosen for myself. It was very difficult being married to a man who felt like politics was his destiny," she says.

Michelle admits in her book *Becoming* that Barack's political ambitions meant she had to shoulder much of the child-rearing alone.
Michelle admits in her book Becoming that Barack's political ambitions meant she had to shoulder much of the child-rearing alone.

Michelle could "feel the force of his beliefs" and agreed with his ideas, but was worried being married to a man with such a strong personality would cause her to lose herself.

Then there's the fact that she is someone who likes order, while Barack is a "swerver" who goes where his heart takes him.

"It was destabilising, but it was a motivator so that I didn't just become his woman, which I knew I didn't want to be."

She has been able to carve out her own path, but admits it was still a shock to find herself in the spotlight when Barack decided to run for president in 2008.

Michelle was criticised for being "an angry black woman" and was described as Obama's "baby mama", negating everything else she had to offer as an intelligent, well-educated, caring person.

She wrote about those attacks in her book because "I want young people to know there are highs and lows and rough patches and things you have to overcome."

Michelle and Barack constantly work on their marriage and get help when they need it.
Michelle and Barack constantly work on their marriage and get help when they need it.

Michelle speaks up about fertility issues

Michelle has been praised for speaking out about her fertility issues and for encouraging others to do the same.

The mum-of-two reveals that after suffering a miscarriage, she felt like "I had failed because I didn't know how common miscarriages were, because we don't talk about them.

"It's important to talk to young mothers about the fact that miscarriages happen," she adds. "I think it's the worst thing we do to each other as women, not share the truth about our bodies and how they work."

She says after getting to the age of 34 she realised that the biological clock is real and egg production is limited.

"We were trying to get pregnant and it wasn't going well," she tells.

"We had one pregnancy test come back positive, which caused us both to forget every worry and swoon with joy, but a couple of weeks later I had a miscarriage, which left me physically uncomfortable and cratered any optimism we felt."

Michelle then went on to have IVF, resulting in Malia and Sasha.

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