When you partner with a smart, strong woman, your life will be full and rich, but it also means you won’t be the man anyone defers to. That was what Barack Obama and Dax Shepard signed up for when they married Michelle Obama and Kristen Bell, and they couldn’t be happier with their decisions.
That’s what the two men discovered they had in common when they spoke on a recent episode of Shepard’s Armchair Expert podcast. Former president Obama joined hosts Shepard and Monica Padman to chat via Zoom, and the conversation turned to matters both political and personal. After Shepard called the former First Lady a “brilliant bombshell,” he gave his armchair expert opinion on why the 44th president is attracted to a woman like Michelle Obama.
“I’m only attracted to women that are incredibly industrious hustlers, and I see that parallel [with you],” Shepard told Obama. “Your mom was crazy intelligent, crazy driven, so it makes sense to me you that you would have been attracted to someone like Michelle who’s out there getting it done.”
“I was accustomed to strong women,” Obama said, noting that his grandmother was also a successful woman, rising from the secretarial pool to become vice president of a regional bank . “Pretty early on, I kind of figured out, in contrast to some of my friends, that if I was out with the kewpie doll who was sitting there agreeing with everything I said, and was just looking cute…”
“It’s embarrassing!” Shepard interjected.
“You know that moment when you’re at the dinner, and you’re just trying to keep the balloon in the air, and it’s just sinking and sinking,” Obama continued. “You run out of things to say.”
“You’re asking yourself, how much do I value sex? What percentage of the day can it actually be?” Shepard commented.
“Well, but more than that, part of what you realize is, this won’t be that much fun because there’s nothing that’s stimulating the brain waves here, there’s no humor and push back,” Obama clarified.
We get his point, and the reasons he chose Michelle as his life partner are admirable. They make sense for who he is and what he wanted in life. However, it’s a shame to compare women in this way. The choices aren’t just between “debates at the dinner table” and “completely vacuous.” All women have rich, interior lives and maybe the ones with whom some men have trouble talking to on a date aren’t dumb, but just not stimulated by what the man had to say! There just wasn’t a connection, and that’s cool, but there’s no need to assign superiority or inferiority on either side.
“Part of what you buy into if you have an incredible partner — who’s going to raise your kids with you, by the way, if they’re boring, that’s a big influence on your kids — but part of the deal, part of the package is, everything is kind of up to negotiation,” said Obama, who in October 2020 celebrated his 28th wedding anniversary with Michelle. “They’re not going to defer to you on everything. And there is stress and hassle involved in those daily negotiations, and you’ve got to be okay with that.”
“That’s got to be your expectation, and it’s worth it,” Obama concluded. “It was pretty clear from the start that that’s what I was willing to sign up for, and I was right. By the way, my daughters turned out to be strong, amazing, really sharp, funny, kids, because their mom is all that.”
“My wife, too, is a beast, I love her,” added Shepard about his powerhouse wife Kristen Bell. “There is so much reward out of being with that beast.”
Before you go, click here to see the best presidential love stories in US history.