For the last six years, Obama's been in a bad relationship. He started off thinking Congress would like him for who he was. He cultivated friendships on both sides of the aisle; he made bright-eyed promises like pledging to close Guantanamo; he used high-flying words like "hope" and "change"
Pretty soon, though, it became clear that just being the charming, audacious Obama that had gotten him in this position wasn't good enough for Congress. The Senate passed a bill swatting down the funds needed to actually move Guantanamo detainees, and started complaining Obama wasn't doing enough in the bedroom. This all came to a head when Obama underwent his "shellacking" in the 2010 midterms, when 63 more seats in the House of Representatives came under Republican control.
So Obama switched it up, hoping that a little more compromise might fix things up at home and give the relationship a breath of fresh air. He tried some new things in the kitchen, offered a generous compromise on the expiring Bush tax cuts, and hoped that Congress would stop harping on his flaws and give him a compliment once in a while.
He did insist on keeping Obamacare, though, and that was a big mistake, as only a few years later the House went into a rage and decided it would rather shut down the government than swallow a routine annual fund-renewal legislation that contained measures related to the Affordable Care Act. The wild, self-destructive look of "I'll take us both down, just watch me," on the House's face scared Obama and he ended up staying a few nights on his best friend's couch until the whole thing blew over.
Despite Congress' repeatedly obstructionist behavior, Obama kept attempting to find some middle ground, only to find, after each attempt, his dreams belittled and feelings stepped upon. Every time he tried to negotiate he ended up with a black eye.
None of Obama's efforts at reconciliation made much of a difference anyway, since this week Congress finally decided it had had enough and called the whole thing off. Republicans took over eight seats in the Senate and enjoy majorities in both legislative bodies.
But ironically, despite what appeared to be a devastating breakup, Obama has never felt freer. He has realized all the things he can get done without Congress' permission. All the energy he poured into mollifying Congress' anger he can direct to his own passions and pursuits. Now he can call his own shots, like nominating a new Attorney General. He can go out in public and issue bold statements about net neutrality, and not have to worry about whether Congress agrees with him or thinks he looks nice in that shirt. He can go hang out with China and make deals on greenhouse gas emissions without even telling Congress where he's been. He can even make plans to help millions of immigrants stay in America with a powerless Congress looking on enviously.
For years, Obama had been deceived into thinking he needed Congress. Congress was so domineering and aggressive, it had convinced Obama he couldn't do anything without it. He felt insecure doing things without its permission, till by the end he was so despondent he mostly just stayed indoors, compulsively checking the roast to make sure it was hot when Congress got home.
With this breakup, a whole new world may open for Obama. He may see how stifled he has been, how dependent he has been on Congress for approval. Unconstrained by this old ball-and-chain, Obama may soon find himself enjoying the most productive -- and most well-adjusted -- two years of his presidency.