Maybe it’s because we all need a break from the big problems the world faces, but some media attention has turned to a picture of the First Lady listening to an Ipod while sitting next to her husband as they head off for vacation. In the Boston Herald, for example, in a piece entitled “First couple no longer in tune with each other?” Margery Eagan wonders what this picture means about the First couple’s relationship. She musses about how the rest of us regular folks can take heart by this picture because apparently even the woman married to the President seems to find him a little boring and their marriage has lost their spark.
That’s a ridiculous interpretation of this photo. It’s also a part of a larger problem that our culture often implies that for a marriage to be happy or functioning, the couple must be falling over with excitement each time they see each other.
Those who embrace such expectations are bound to be disappointed. Being married typically means you spend a lot of time together. That means you don’t have to talk all the time, and there isn’t always a lot of news to report each time you see each other. And sometimes you just want to be by yourself or do your own thing, even if you are enjoying the presence of your family.
I remember a similar story last year, when a few eyebrows were raised because the First Lady and one of their girls left for their Spanish vacation on President Obama’s birthday. It was supposed to be surprising that the couple wouldn’t be together on his “special day.”
Special day? The President is an adult, and, in most of the families I know, the adults’ birthdays aren’t a cause for fireworks. I presume that they did something to acknowledge his birthday, maybe just a day or two before the actual “special day.” This seems perfectly normal to me. My second daughter and husband’s birthday are just three days a part, which means that his birthday will likely be a bit of an afterthought for the next decade or so., and he’ll probably sometimes have to blow out his candles a couple days before or after his actually birthday sometimes.
I’ve appreciated the First Lady’s comments about her marriage, which she’s described as good, but something that they work at. Far, far better for her to give this honest assessment of what a good marriage is than to pretend that they bask in constant bliss. Those who are already married or who plan to marry one day need to understand that putting on your Ipod, rather than chatting with your spouse for a few hours, isn’t a symptom of a problem. It’s real life.