Say what you will about the president and about the republican nominee. Although they are obviously quite different and many of us have strong opinions about one or both candidates, one wonderful similarity stands out: they both seem to have exceptionally happy marriages. The emotional health of their marriages is inspiring and is a stark contrast with some of the high profile infidelities of past candidates and high office holders.
Obviously, looks can be deceiving. John Edwards is a particular standout in this category. None of us knows the behind-closed-doors reality of the marriages of others. That said, since President Obama burst onto the national political scene at the 2004 convention, everything we have learned about him reflects what seems to be an exceptionally healthy, happy, loving marriage. The president and the First Lady prioritize date nights. (As a DC resident, I have been caught in more than one traffic jam that was the result of one of their date nights!) They talk about keeping each other real. Many of my psychotherapy clients have mentioned, over the years, how the way the President and First Lady speak of each other inspires them to try harder in their own marriages. For example, at the Democratic Convention, when Michelle Obama said, "we were so young, so in love, and so in debt" she helped young couples know that they can get through challenging financial times and that love can and does make a difference. The next morning my client reacted to her words:
It's easy to resent each other for all of our student loans and the stress of trying to get by. Hearing Michelle Obama put it together like that -- 'so young, so in love, and so in debt' -- what can I say. She helps me appreciate the love in my life and helps me regain a positive perspective.
Not dissimilarly, many of my clients (regardless of their political affiliation) have felt deeply moved by the way Ann Romney describes the exceptional support her husband has showed throughout her struggle with multiple sclerosis. Hearing Mitt Romney's description of falling in love at a high school party is one of many examples of their love story that has had a positive impact on others. As one of my clients pointed out:
My marriage isn't perfect, and it sometimes feels like such hard work, but I know that my wife would be there for me if I needed her, and I want to make sure that she knows I am there for her. When Romney talks about how what his wife was doing at home was more important that what he was doing at the office, I respect that. My wife works part-time and takes on the majority of the day-to-day childcare. I should be saying the same thing to my wife.
Our political leaders influence us on so many levels. The campaign will focus on the most relevant, obvious spheres of influence, such as the economy, and rightfully so. However, for those of us who focus on marriage and emotional health for a living, it is wonderful to see two such strong, respectful, inspiring marriages highlighted for our nation.