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by Dr. Boyce Watkins, BlackLikeMoi.com
A new book says that in the year 2000, Michelle Obama prepared divorce papers that were going to be used to part ways with her husband, Barack. The new book, “The Amateur” by former New York Times Magazine Editor Edward Klein, also claims that some of Barack’s friends felt that he might even be suicidal as a result of the split.
“After Obama’s humiliating defeat he was broke and deeply in debt and it looked as though he might be finished in public life,” wrote Klein.
“During the dark days that followed his defeat, he turned to Michelle for comfort. But she was in no mood to offer him sympathy. After all he had refused to listen to her warnings about taking on the formidable Bobby Rush. He had put his family in a precarious financial position. And he had dashed Michelle’s hopes of creating a stable and secure future.”
I am not sure what Klein’s objectives are in writing this book, for he is obviously biased. The use of selective information, as well as his imbalanced analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, shows that he clearly has an agenda. But that’s not the issue, at least as far as I’m concerned.
What I find most interesting about the book is that Klein’s “explosive” revelations about the Obamas are built upon tearing down the “perfect loving couple” image that the Obamas have worked so hard to cultivate. He tells us that the Obama marriage isn’t as perfect as it may seem, which might throw some people off.
I am, however, quite happy that some of this “damning” information about the Obama marriage has been made public, in the same way I had no problem with historians revealing that Dr. Martin Luther King might have had extramarital affairs. It is sometimes necessary to be soaked in a bath of ice cold realism to get us to let go of crippling illusions of endless marital bliss.
The Obama family has been seen as a model relationship for millions of African Americans across the country. Scores of women want to be like Michelle and some are seeking their own Barack. But the truth is that we can sometimes seek to fulfill our ambitions without a realistic assessment of the challenges that might lie before us. While many black women might want to be like Michelle, the fact is that most women don’t have what it takes.
Most long-term marriages are not the cute fairy tales of continuous excitement that some people might expect. Instead, succeeding at marriage can be like winning a long and bloody war, where your friends have died along the way, and you’ve endured nightmares that lie beyond your wildest dreams. The sacrifices can be immeasurable and those who survive are able to make it through with sheer determination and singularity of purpose. The words “I will not quit” can be critical in getting your butt to the finish line.
Black women who are looking for their own Barack Obama might need to take a hint from the good and bad decisions of Michelle. On one hand, the fact that she was able to ride with Barack through the bad times to get to the good means that she deserves credit for her determination. After all, they did go broke as he pursued his “unrealistic” goal of one day becoming the first black president.
At the same time, a lesson can be learned by the mistake that Michelle almost made: Giving up on her man during his darkest moments. While one cannot be certain of the circumstances that led Michelle to consider leaving Barack, the fact is that a good woman does all she can to support her man even during the toughest of times. If Michelle wasn’t ready for the difficult and volatile ride she might endure to get to the top, then she could have easily married someone with more stable and “realistic” ambitions. One of the greatest fears of any man who might consider marriage is that his spouse will only support his dream when it is profitable to do so.
So far, the Klein book is proving one simple fact: The Obama marriage isn’t perfect. But if you didn’t know that from the beginning, then you really haven’t lived. Marriage is not a fairy tale, even if you are in the Oval Office. It’s one of the most difficult things you’ll ever do.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and author of the forthcoming book, “The RAPP Sheet: Rising Above Psychological Poison.” To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.