Barack and Michelle’s Love Story: How They Met

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Becoming" by Michelle Obama. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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How did Michelle and Barack Obama meet? How did their love blossom despite Michelle not wanting to get in a relationship?

After she graduated from Harvard Law School, Michelle moved back to Chicago, lived with her family, and worked at a law firm. She was tasked with mentoring a summer associate, Barack, and his earnest attitude towards community work and self-assurance impressed Michelle.

Continue on to learn about Michelle and Barack’s love story.

How Michelle and Barack Obama Met

At 25 years old, holding degrees from Harvard and Princeton, Michelle moved back to her hometown of Chicago. Her new law office was on the 47th floor of a building she had passed by many times on her way to high school. She became an upwardly mobile lawyer who worked 70 hours per week, owned a closet full of Armani suits, had a wine subscription service, and drove a Saab. She didn’t know this job would be the beginning of the Barack and Michelle love story.

Michelle moved back into her old South Shore home, living in the upstairs apartment she was raised in. Her parents lived downstairs in the space where great-aunt Robbie, the piano teacher, lived before she died. (Robbie willed them the house.) 

Michelle enjoyed visiting with her parents every day before and after work. Her brother Craig, now an investment banker, had also returned to live in Chicago with his new wife. 

Mentoring a Summer Associate

One day at work, a senior partner asked Michelle to mentor a summer associate who had just finished his first year at Harvard Law School. The young man had already acquired a reputation for exceptional intelligence. Michelle felt skeptical about the hype surrounding the new guy and thought that his name, Barack Obama, was strange. 

Barack showed up late for his first meeting with Michelle, which annoyed her. As Barack apologized for his tardiness, Michelle noticed his smile. She also noticed that he seemed humble and not jaded by his brilliant reputation.

As Barack’s mentor, Michelle was required to take him out to lunch. While they chatted, he told her that before he went to law school, he worked for three years as a grassroots community organizer in Chicago, rebuilding neighborhoods and creating jobs. Barack’s earnest attitude and breezy self-assurance impressed Michelle. 

A Friendship Grows 

Barack and Michelle became friends at work. The pair formed an unspoken bond over the fact that they were two of a very few Black people at the law office (out of more than 400 lawyers in the firm, only five full-time attorneys were Black). 

The two had lunch together once a week. Michelle learned that Barack was three years older than she was, that he read literature and political philosophy, that he played basketball, and that his hometown was in Oahu, Hawaii. 

The only thing she disliked about him was that he smoked cigarettes—a habit she detested since her parents smoked when she was a child. But despite Michelle’s fondness for Barack, she had no romantic interest in him. She was solely focused on her career at the firm and staying on track to become an equity partner before she turned 32. 

Michelle even invited Barack to a happy hour at a local bar, thinking her girlfriends would want to meet this brilliant, successful, handsome guy. He went along but wasn’t interested in dating any of her girlfriends. 

Over time, Michelle learned more about Barack, including his staunch belief that progress can only happen if ordinary citizens work together with the government. She learned about his thriftiness and his introverted habits—he said he would rather spend an evening alone reading about urban housing policy than making chit-chat with 1980s yuppies at a bar. 

Slowly their relationship began to change, and Barack tried to convince Michelle to date him. Although she resisted initially, Michelle soon realized she had romantic feelings for him. She felt drawn to Barack, but she was concerned about what her superiors at the law firm would think of their relationship. 

Love Blossoms  

About a month before Barack headed back to law school for his second year, Barack and Michelle bought a couple of ice cream cones and sat down to eat them on the curb outside Barack’s apartment. He asked if he could kiss her, and Michelle couldn’t resist his charm. For the next month, the pair spent all their free time together. 

Since Michelle was living in the same house with her parents, the couple hung out at Barack’s sparsely furnished apartment surrounded by piles of books and clothes. They got to know each other more deeply over dinners, walks, movies, and long conversations. It was clear to Michelle and Barack that they were opposites: She was organized; his apartment was a mess. She loved the Cubs; he loved the White Sox. She watched romantic comedies; he preferred serious drama. He wasn’t interested in material goods; she drove an air-conditioned Saab. But they appreciated each other’s differences and found commonalities in music, particularly Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye, and in their backgrounds—both had grown up in modest, middle-class households, and both had family members who deeply loved them. 

Barack and Michelle’s Love Story: How They Met

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Michelle Obama's "Becoming" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Becoming summary:

  • How Michelle Obama went from the South Side of Chicago to the White House
  • Why much of her success came from her being determined from a young age
  • How Michelle Obama continues to push herself and discover new opportunities

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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