Familiarity and Mystery

by President Barack Obama

Michelle is a tremendously strong person, and has a very strong sense of herself and who she is and where she comes from – but I also think in her eyes you can see a trace of vulnerability that most people don’t know, because when she’s walking through the world, she is this tall, beautiful, confident woman. There is a part of her that is vulnerable and young and sometimes frightened, and I think seeing both of those things is what attracted me to her. And then what sustains our relationship is I’m extremely happy with her, and part of it has to do with the fact that she is at once completely familiar to me, so that I can be myself and she knows me very well and I trust her completely, but at the same time she is also a complete mystery to me in some ways. And there are times when we are lying in bed and I look over and sort of have a start. Because I realize here is this other person who is separate and different and has different memories and backgrounds and thoughts and feelings. It’s that tension between familiarity and mystery that makes for something strong, because, even as you build a life of trust and comfort and mutual support, you retain some sense of surprise or wonder about the other person.

6S

President Barack Obama gets underway today. His six sentences are excerpted from an interview conducted by Mariana Cook on “Couples in America.” His words were spoken on May 26, 1996.