Most analysts have overlooked one of the most defining characteristics of Barack Obama’s presidency: His marriage. Yet even the casual observer cannot help but notice that the Obamas’ friends-and-lovers-too relationship helped the President to get reelected.
Why is that?
The answer is that people identify with the Obamas because lovers, who are best friends, are the type of couple that we admire most. So we notice—perhaps unconsciously—that the Obamas are relaxed and spontaneous when they are in the public eye. And we acknowledge that they actually are having fun together, kids and all, despite the demands of their positions as president and first lady.
Many Americans also realize that the Obamas share similar goals, including raising their children in a nurturing environment. Yet the Obamas’ relationship goes much deeper than what we see in the video clips.
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On the night that Barack and his team of advisors decided to make the run for the presidency, Michelle was there as Barack’s supportive best friend. She knew him so well that she interrupted the politicos’ discussion and asked him right in front of everyone what he hoped to achieve by making a run for the White House. That forced Barack to cut to the chase.
The future president pondered the thought for a moment, and then he said he wanted to make America a place where every child could fulfill his or her dream. As an afterthought, he added that every child in the world should have a similar opportunity. After hearing that, no one in the room felt that he or she could back out or back down. And the race was on.
The team had discovered its mission with the help of Michelle Obama, who had prodded Barack—her best friend—to either get it on or get over the idea of running for president. This is just one of many examples of how the Obamas’ friendship relationship works in uncanny ways.
In their pressure-cooker world, the Obamas’ combined social and verbal skills help them to continue to discover a shared purpose together, founded on shared values. This doubles their power to make good decisions in their domestic and public lives, as well as with their careers. It also gives them a satisfying common ground on which their romantic relationship is played out.
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To better understand the Obamas’ friends-and-lovers-too relationship, let’s look at the qualities it contains:
• Mutual trust and cooperation
• Emotional honesty
• Encouragement for expressing one’s true feelings
• An active listening processes where they hear each other out
• Support for each other’s goals and emotional growth
• A collaborative helping process whereby they solve problems together
• A sense of equity that both partners really matter
• Mutual affirmation and validation
• Common concern and care for their children
• Supportive mutual friends
• Celebrating their successes together
That is an unusual list of qualities for a romantic relationship. Yet it shows the kinds of attributes that it takes to support a low-stress romance that offsets your high-performance career.
Some people find the Obama marriage easy to imagine. Others see it as a long-term solution to the problems that they keep repeating over and over, ad infinitum, in their own relationships. But if you are under thirty years old and single, you might be moving too fast to imagine being friends with your lovers. Still, there is a lot that young people can learn from the example the Obamas have set.
To simplify your journey in discovering a friends-and-lovers partnership like the Obamas, follow these 15 Methods for Developing a Successful Romantic Relationship:
1. Look at your current and past relationships as learning experiences
2. Don’t hold grudges and do not keep a list of your partner’s faults
3. If you get angry with your partner, let it go after you cool down
4. Learn to feel confident and relaxed around your lover
5. If there’s a problem, talk it over and try to find a solution together
6. Be honest with your partner or else admit that you are with the wrong person
7. Know when to concede that you are not ready for a mature relationship
8. Stay away from potential partners whom you do not trust
9. Realize that crazy love passes and transforms into reward love or fades away
10. Understand that true love means feeling rewarded to be around your partner
11. Realize you might meet the perfect person yet not be ready for the perfect relationship
12. Stop searching for ‘the One’ and start learning intimate communication skills
13. Understand that you will eventually get tired of your partner if you are not good friends
14. Realize that feeling like family with your lover is one of life’s most rewarding experiences
15. Know that you cannot expect your partner to change just because you demand it
These relationship understandings are not that hard to learn if you work on one of them at a time. Remember, you have to move at your own speed in developing a meaningful, exciting, best-buddies partnership. Lost opportunities only mean that you weren’t ready for a serious relationship at the time.
Above all, you must realize that the hardest part of achieving a friends-and-lovers-too relationship is taking the first step and truly believing that you can do it. If you believe in it, you will attract partners who believe in being best friends with their lovers just like you do.
Dr. Kidd is senior researcher at the Romantic Relationship Institute, LLC. For more information on how to establish a friends-and-lovers-too partnership, see Dr. Billy Kidd’s webpage at BillyKidd.com.