President Obama and the First Lady open up about their life together and last days in the White House. Subscribe now to get instant access to this exclusive interview plus the events and people that shaped 2016, only in PEOPLE!
With only six weeks to go until they leave the White House after eight transformative years, the Obamas are reflecting on how life at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and the pressures that come with President Barack Obama’s title have changed their relationship — for the better.
“It’s definitely brought us closer,” First Lady Michelle Obama tells PEOPLE editor in chief Jess Cagle and White House correspondent Sandra Sobieraj Westfall in a joint issue for this week’s cover story.
The first lady says that her husband’s previous roles as an Illinois state senator, then U.S. senator led to frequent travel and time away from the family in Chicago.
“It wasn’t until the White House that we were together seven days a week, that we could have dinner together, he had time to coach the girls’ teams and go to all their events,” the first lady, 52, explains. “Yes, the job carries its stresses for sure. Nobody knows what it feels like to wake up and look at the morning paper and know that every headline, good or bad, is your responsibility. Wherever it’s happening in the world.”
She adds, “There is a weightiness to that that no other person really understands.”
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But the couple — who have been married for 24 years and are parents to daughters Malia, 18, and Sasha, 15 — have found the perfect remedy for the strain: “You really have to fall back on the normalcy and the love of your family.”
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Demonstrating that love, the president further praises his wife for much of their continued marital success.
“I also think that watching Michelle as first lady has just increased my awe and respect for her,” the 55-year-old says. “She had to adapt to a life that she might not have chosen for herself, but also there’s no blueprint for being first lady. And to see her and her team be, at once, really impactful on policy but also fun? You know, it’s fun when you see your spouse shine. And she’s shone.”