KUALA LUMPUR – All men are equal, but Barack Obama learnt it the hard way one day, and has till today resigned to the fact that some are “more equal” than others.

Even as he spoke on the theme of gender equality, the former president opened up to his audience in Kuala Lumpur about a life lesson he got while he and wife Michelle were dating.

He said Michelle was someone who has kept his ego in check, so that whenever she praised him, he knew it was honest.

“It means a lot. But it’s not always a two-way street,” he told some 200 emerging leaders who gathered for an event organised by his Obama Foundation in Bangsar South, here.

“We were dating and she would tease me all the time, about my ears, my bad car, how I walked too slow and how I talked too slow. She’s teasing me all the time.”

Obama said he once decided to pay in kind and teased Michelle, but she was not amused.

President Barack Obama and wife Michelle have been married for 27 years. (AFP pic)

“She wasn’t talking to me, I was lonely. I said why are you mad at me, you’ve been teasing me for months.

“She said, ‘there’s a rule, I can tease you, you can’t tease me.

“We’ve been living by this rule for 27 years. I don’t mind,” he said to laughter from the audience.

Obama, America’s first black president and the father of two daughters, described Michelle whom he married 27 years ago as an “incredibly strong partner”.

“I have a strong wife and two strong daughters who are not impressed with me at all

“They love me but they think I’m just another dad. I’m often checked by them.”

But he said it was important to surround oneself with those who speak with honesty.

“If you don’t have people in your organisations who you respect enough to tell you when they disagree with you, you are doing yourself a disservice.

“Not only will you not grow and improve, you’re gonna make big mistakes.”