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Health & Sex

The New American Couple

In the age of commuter marriages and BlackBerry wars, what really makes it work? We asked five real couples how they bulletproof their relationship.
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Freed from the financial worries that have undone many marriages, the pair argue over small issues: He eats standing up, which drives her batty. (She recently warned him that if he does it again, she'll exile him to the nearest hotel. "The Four Seasons?" he quipped.) While Itzler is an involved parent, their nanny, while always on call, isn't full-time, and Blakely, like many working moms, is in charge. "Sara's assistant put Lazer's doctors' contact info" - he has pediatricians in two states - "in my phone, but it would take me a while to find it," Itzler confesses.

On weekends, she'll watch Lazer, while Itzler, a marathoner, goes for a run. Every morning, she must get Starbucks (Grande Soy Chai Tea Misto, no foam, splash of water), no exceptions. Tiffs over where to order dinner or what movie to rent are settled with a rock-paper-scissors shootout. Full-blown arguments, while rare, typically erupt about Itzler's BlackBerry use. These disputes are resolved when he extends his hand and the pair slow dance. Seriously. "It's really helpful," Blakely chirps. "We respect that each of us moves at a fast pace. That might bother some, but we get it."

- Lea Goldman

Michelle Rhee, 41, former chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools System and founder and CEO of StudentsFirst, an advocacy group for children in public education, and Kevin Johnson, 45, former NBA player and current mayor of Sacramento, California

How did you initially get together?
Kevin: Michelle and I met in Washington, D.C. at a Teach for America event. Ironically, we both ended up in public service, which we never imagined.

Michelle: We had a business relationship for three years. I was on the board of the charter school he founded, St. HOPE Academy, in Sacramento. When Kevin asked me out - after I became chancellor of D.C. schools and quit the board - I said, "That's crazy. We disagree a lot." He said, "That's just work. It doesn't have to be that way." We were in Denver for the 2008 Democratic Convention and had dinner on the rooftop of a Mexican restaurant. He was very different from what I thought he would be.

What was the attraction?
Kevin: Our passion for education.

Michelle: Definitely the work ethic. He had e-mailed, asking me to get involved with his school. I e-mailed back and said I couldn't do it. It was 2 a.m. when I sent the e-mail, and just a few seconds later, I heard the ding! on my computer. He'd e-mailed back one word: "Nope." I was impressed that he was working so late. And I loved the fact that he wouldn't take no for an answer.

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