A new book claims former President Barack Obama proposed to a different woman twice before he married Michelle Obama.
According to David J. Garrow’s “Rising Star,” the former president had proposed to Sheila Miyoshi Jager two times before he met Michelle, and then continued to see Jager on and off during at least the first year of his relationship with the future first lady, the Daily Mail reports.
Obama dated Jager when both were in their 20s, and Jager reportedly told Garrow that their relationship felt like “an island unto ourselves,” and that Obama would “[compartmentalize] his work and home life,” according to Batimatec.
She said Obama had a “deep-seated need to be loved and admired.”
“In the winter of ’86, when we visited my parents, he asked me to marry him,” Jager said. Her parents were reportedly concerned about the former president’s job prospects, since he was a community organizer at the time.
Jager’s parents were also reportedly concerned that their daughter was too young for marriage — he was 25 and Jager was 23 at the time. Jager says she told Obama “not yet,” about his marriage proposal, but the two stayed together.
She added that in 1987, around the age of 25, Obama became “so very ambitious very suddenly.”
“I remember very clearly when this transformation happened, and I remember very specifically that by 1987, about a year into our relationship, he already had his sights on becoming president,” Jager said.
According to Jager, who is white, the couple began to argue about race and politics during this period. Garrow writes that in Chicago, having a non-black spouse as a black politician may have be seen as a detriment to Obama’s career.
Jager said the “resolution of [Obama’s] black identity was directly linked to his decision to pursue a political career,” but that he “felt trapped between the woman he loved and the destiny he knew was his.”
Jager said Obama asked her to marry him one more time before he left for Harvard Law School. She said she felt like the proposal was “out of a sense of desperation over [the couple’s] eventual parting and not in any real faith” in their future.
The couple broke up shortly after, and at Harvard, Obama met Michelle Robinson. As the two became closer, Jager also went to Harvard for a teaching fellowship.
“Barack and [Jager] had continued to see each other irregularly throughout the 1990-91 academic year, notwithstanding the deepening of Barack’s relationship with Michelle Robinson,” writes Garrow in his book.
“I always felt bad about it,” Jager said of continuing to see Obama, according to the Daily Mail.
After Obama and Michelle were married, Jager and Barack only spoke in occasional letters and phone calls.
Neither of the Obamas have spoken publicly about Garrow’s book.
Sources: Daily Mail, Batimatec / Photo credit: Pete Souza via U.S. Embassy New Delhi/Flickr