Has there ever been a cuter couple than Michelle and Barack Obama? The charming couple enamored the world before ever setting foot in the White House, and continues to do so years after the end of Barack's presidency. Together with their daughters, Sasha and Malia, the former first family is still beloved, and their life seems like the stuff of fairy tales.
Things have not always been easy for the Obamas, though. Michelle and Barack have an epic love story that spans decades, but, like any other couple, have faced their fair share of hardships. In many ways, their challenges were even greater because they have been in the public eye for so long. Yet, through it all, they manage to stay happy and in love. What's their secret? To figure that out, we need to take a closer look at their relationship. Here's everything you didn't know about the Obamas' marriage.
Sparks flew from their very first meeting
While they were drawn to each other from the first time they met, Michelle was reluctant to date Barack. She was 25 and he was 27, but as a first year associate at Chicago's Sidley & Austin, a corporate law firm, Michelle was Barack's mentor when the first-year law student worked at the firm in the summer of 1989. "He sounded too good to be true," Michelle told David Mendell, author of Obama: From Promise to Power (via The Washington Post). She initially dismissed him as a "good-looking, smooth-talking guy." The fact that he was her subordinate, and her belief that "the only two black people" at the firm dating would be "tacky," delayed the beginning of their relationship.
Barack told Oprah that he was "struck by how tall and beautiful [Michelle] was," saying that working with her was "the luckiest break of my life." After Michelle turned down multiple requests for a date saying it would be inappropriate, she finally agreed to go out with him after he offered to quit his job for her. Michelle took Barack up on the date, but didn't make him leave his job.
Barack's desire to help the African American community won Michelle over
Even after she began dating Barack, Michelle wasn't sure right away that it would work out. Growing up in a family that lived paycheck to paycheck, Michelle worried that a life with Barack might be unstable. She told the Hyde Park Herald (via The Washington Post) that the future president "was really broke." He had a "cruddy" wardrobe and a rusted out car. "I thought, 'This brother is not interested in ever making a dime,'" she said.
Still, Michelle was drawn to Barack. On a date at a Chicago church, where Barack was meeting with people he had worked with as a community organizer, Michelle saw his passion for helping poor African-Americans. "He talked about the world as it is, and the world as it should be," she said in a speech at the 2008 National Democratic Convention. "And he said that, all too often, we accept the distance between the two, and we settle for the world as it is, even when it doesn't reflect our values and aspirations." Michelle was won over by Barack's idealism, and the rest is history.
Barack didn't want to get married at first, believing it to be a "meaningless institution"
Impossible as it is to imagine, the Obamas' celebrated marriage might not have happened if Michelle had been a little less persistent. At the end of the summer of 1989, Michelle continued to work in Chicago while Barack returned to Harvard to finish law school. According to The Washington Post, Barack was dedicated to the relationship and madly in love with Michelle, but he didn't believe that marriage was necessary, calling it a "meaningless institution."
Michelle kept turning up the pressure, though, wanting a decades-long marriage like her parents who, at the time, had been going strong for 30 years. In 1991, Barack finally surprised Michelle with a ring after she began to talk once again of marriage, telling her "That kind of shuts you up, doesn't it?" It might not have been the most conventional of proposals, but it was an effective one. The two were married the following year, taking their commitment to the next level.