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Barack Obama opens up about how the White House strained his marriage — and how he and Michelle got back on track

“There were nights when, lying next to Michelle in the dark, I’d think about those days when everything between us felt lighter,” the former President recalls in his new memoir.

Former President Barack Obama, right, and former first lady Michelle Obama appear at the Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago. Oct. 2017.
Former President Barack Obama, right, and former first lady Michelle Obama appear at the Obama Foundation Summit in Chicago in October 2017.
Charles Rex Arbogast, Associated Press

On Nov. 17, former President Barack Obama released a new memoir titled “A Promised Land.” The tome is a 768-page retrospective on the former president’s 2008 campaign, his first term in the White House and, among other things, the stresses the presidential mantle left on his marriage.

Obama recently sat down with People to discuss the new memoir, and during the interview he opened up about the struggles he and the former first lady endured as a couple while living in the Executive Residence.

The weight of the White House

The former president addressed how the rigorous White House schedule offered little time for respite. Obama expressed that throughout his entire eight years in office, there was minimal opportunity for the couple to get on the same emotional frequency. He said (via People):

”I think we came out of it whole, there were great joys in the White House. There was never a time where we didn’t recognize what an extraordinary privilege it was to be there. ... But, during the time we were there, Michelle felt this underlying tension. The pressure, stress, of needing to get everything right, to be ‘on’ at every moment.

There were times where I think she was frustrated or sad or angry but knew that I had Afghanistan or the financial crisis to worry about, so she would tamp it down,”

The notion that his relationship with his spouse was becoming irrecoverably damaged sometimes kept former resident awake at night. In an excerpt from “A Promised Land,” he wrote (via ET).

“There were nights when, lying next to Michelle in the dark, I’d think about those days when everything between us felt lighter, when her smile was more constant and our love less encumbered, and my heart would suddenly tighten at the thought that those days might not return.”

Enjoying ‘deep love’

The former president and first lady felt a huge burden lifted from the their shoulders once they left the White House. The couple found themselves with the time they were longing for and were finally able to relax, reconnect and enjoy one another’s company. Obama told People:

“It was like a big exhale right after we left office.” For both of them. “It took some time to talk about how she had felt. ... Once (the presidency) was done, there was possibility of her opening up ... but more importantly just her being able to let out a breath and relax. ...That allowed us to just enjoy the deep love that comes with a marriage this long. But also to be friends again.”

It also doesn’t hurt that the Obamas are now empty nesters. With their daughters are out of the house and in college, the former president says he and Michelle “laugh and goof off and have more time with each other,” according to People.