Michelle Obama has talked about the marriage counselling sessions she attended with Barack, saying it helped them to work through ‘tough times’ after their daughters were born.

She was speaking to Oprah Winfrey at Barclays Center in New York on Saturday in front of a crowd of 15,000 people when she opened up about the ups and downs of her marriage to the former president.

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She said counselling helped her to discover that she was responsible for her own happiness.

“Sometimes you need an objective person to just hear you out. If I’m going to show up equal in this partnership, I have to be able to make myself happy and so I had to stop focusing on what he wasn’t doing and start thinking about how to carve out the life that I wanted for myself, with or without Barack.

“The more I succeeded in defining myself for myself, the better I was in my partnership.” 

She said she tries to get across to young people just how difficult a partnership can be: “Marriage is hard and raising a family together is a hard thing. It takes a toll.”

With an empty nest – Malia, 21, is at Harvard University and Sasha, 18, is at the University of Michigan – they now have more “emotional time, emotional energy”.

“We had to worry about what parties they were going to, whether there was alcohol, I had to know who the parents were, so every weekend for me was hard. And they’re gone, thank God.

“We have more emotional time, emotional energy. It’s just me and him and [dogs] Bo and Sunny and dinner. And they don’t talk, the dogs.”

Her marriage comments ended on an uplifting note, in which she said friendship is at the heart of their relationship.

“We’re coming back to that point where we see each other again because some of the hardest times in our lives we just escaped, we survived it.

“We went through a tough time, we did some hard things together. But now we’re out on the other end and I can look at him and I still recognise my husband. He’s still the man I fell in love with.”

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The couple met at a law firm in Chicago, and will celebrate their 28th anniversary on October 3.

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