INK_BLAST | THE OBAMAS’ MARRIAGE IS A MODEL
By Juleyka Lantigua
As a newlywed, I have spent a lot of time during the presidential campaign observing the Obamas’ marriage. And I have come to the conclusion it is the embodiment of a model, modern marriage.
To begin with, no one is in anyone’s shadow here, even if one is running for president. And they respect each others’ accomplishments.
Barack Obama reminds us every chance he gets that he married a woman of worth, and a partner who complements and improves him. He is sometimes visibly in awe of her. Following her speech at the Democratic National Convention, he beamed as he declared, "How ’bout Michelle Obama? Now you know why I asked her out so many times, even though she said no."
For her part, Michelle walked on stage and honored her husband by introducing herself with these words: "I come here as a wife who loves my husband and believes he will be an extraordinary president."
But the Obamas have also made it clear that theirs is a marriage made of flesh and blood. Through his two books and the ever-present media stories, we have learned of their financial struggles early on, and of the unity that they forged as newlyweds, and which has only flourished under the glare of the political spotlight.
Of being a politician’s wife, Michelle has said, "It’s hard and that’s why Barack is such a grateful man."
It is that deep sense of gratitude for each other that I, as a wife of one year, want to emulate.
Another laudable characteristic I have seen in their marriage is the ability to play to each other’s strengths. In the Obama marriage, Michelle is the taskmaster, the keeper of books and lists, the "defender of standards no one else even knows about," according to one magazine article. She’s the one who organizes activities for the two daughters and carves out family time, even during a run for the White House. She took a leave from her high-powered job to focus on their family during the campaign. He, with his two bestsellers, is the current breadwinner. But, for many years, while he was earning a public servant’s salary, Michelle was bringing home a $200,000 salary.
Their gift for complementing each other seems rooted in an almost effortless ability to make decisions by consensus. You can see it when they are interviewed separately, but especially when they are seated next to each other. They look to each other for cues, as they seek each other’s consent and support. That unspoken thread of communication seems woven firmly into the fabric of their marriage.
I think it’s safe to say that many more marriages would succeed if more of us committed ourselves to achieving that level of communication with our spouse. For my part, I pledge to at least try.
The Obamas will mark 16 years of marriage on October 18, and I wish them many more anniversaries so I — and others committed to their own marriages — can continue learning from them.
"Juleyka Lantigua is a journalist and editor whose work appears in national newspapers and magazines. For more info visit: www.juleykalantigua.com."