WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama says only once since Jan. 20, his first day in office, has White House life annoyed him.

It was the Saturday in May when, trying to be a good husband, he kept a campaign promise to take his wife, Michelle, to New York after the election for one of their "date nights" - dinner and a Broadway play.

Conservative commentators and Republican officials criticized him for doing so.

"People made it into a political issue," Obama told The New York Times magazine for an article about the Obamas' marriage, appearing in the Nov. 1 issue. The article was posted on the Times' Web site on Wednesday.

"If I weren't president, I would be happy to catch the shuttle with my wife to take her to a Broadway show, as I had promised her during the campaign, and there would be no fuss and no muss and no photographers," he said. "That would please me greatly."

Presidents, however, do not travel by any means other than secure, government aircraft or vehicles.

Obama added: "The notion that I just couldn't take my wife out on a date without it being a political issue was not something I was happy with."

The article explores the effects of the presidency on the couple's 17-year union, and revisits well-documented tension between them in earlier years as Obama pursued his political career in Illinois, leaving Mrs. Obama largely home alone in Chicago with their daughters.

It also delves into her roles in the presidential campaign and in the White House.

Mrs. Obama, who sat with her husband for the interview in the Oval Office, said marriage does not necessarily become easier just because a couple moves into a big, white house with servants and security at every turn.

"The strengths and challenges of our marriage don't change because we move to a different address," she said. Mrs. Obama said "the bumps" happen to everybody all the time, "and they are continuous."

"The last thing we want to project," she said, is image of a flawless relationship.

"It's unfair to the institution of marriage, and it's unfair for young people who are trying to build something, to project this perfection that doesn't exist," Mrs. Obama said.