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Michelle Obama: “Marriage Counseling Was a Turning Point for Me”

obamaWASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 02: U.S. first lady Michelle Obama and U.S. President Barack Obama wait for the arrival of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore and his wife Ho Ching on the North Portico of the White House August 2, 2016 in Washington, DC. The Obamas are hosting the prime minister and his wife for an official state dinner. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Michelle Obama got real about her high-profile marriage to former president Barack Obama on the Tonight Show this week, telling Jimmy Fallon that the pair went to counseling and are so much better for it.

“Marriage is tough, even for us,” the former first lady told Fallon. (She and Barack celebrated their 26th wedding anniversary in October). “I was one of those wives who thought, ‘I’m taking you to marriage counseling so you can be fixed, Barack Obama.’ Because I was like, ‘I’m perfect.’ I was like, ‘Dr. X, please fix him.’ And then, our counselor looked over at me. I was like, ‘What are you looking at? I’m perfect.’”

Michelle, 54, quickly realized that counseling was not meant to “fix” either of them, but to strengthen their relationship and identify weak spots. And from there on, she said, she had a different approach to both counseling and the marriage itself.

“… marriage counseling was a turning point for me, understanding that it wasn’t up to my husband to make me happy, that I had to learn how to fill myself up and how to put myself higher on my priority list,” she said.

The former first lady writes extensively about their relationship in her newly released autobiography, Becoming, and a big part of the reason she chose to do so, she said, was because she wants to make sure that young people who look up to her and Barack’s relationship realize how much work it takes.

“I want young people to know that marriage is work, even the best marriages require work,” she said. “I call them a vexation. It’s a choice that you make again and again and again, because I don’t want young people to quit the minute they have a hardship.”

Liz Colizza, head of marriage research at Lasting, says the newly-minted author is right on the money when it comes to being transparent about the challenges (and rewards) of marriage.

“Feeling unhappy in a marriage is normal,” Colizza says. “All relationships have ups and downs, happy seasons and difficult seasons, agreements and disagreements. For most people, marriage is harder work than they anticipated, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the investment.”

Download Lasting, an app that helps build healthy and happy marriages.