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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.

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 continued...

What's date night like?
Kevin: We're homebodies.

Michelle: We go out with his mom! That doesn't sound romantic, but I really love her. We'll go see a movie or stroll around looking at sidewalk art sales. We're obsessed with Mad Men, and on Sunday nights we'll watch it before I get on a red-eye back to D.C.

Who wins the arguments?

Kevin: One person is always right. If we disagree, I say, "Yes, dear."

Michelle: Well, I like to think that I'm always right, but all those pre-dating years of arguments taught us how to fight fair.

How do you protect your bond against public scrutiny? For example, in a Time magazine story, Michelle was called "just plain mean," while critics have labeled Kevin "power hungry."
Kevin: We have thick skin. It's harder for me when people criticize Michelle unfairly. I've had to restrain myself from firing off an e-mail or making a phone call. Michelle fights hard for kids, which is why she's characterized as "mean." But she's a big softie!

Michelle: I don't care when it happens to me, but I'm very defensive when Kevin is criticized. He's not power hungry. He has very little power to change things. His predecessors never fought for the power it takes to make real changes. But if the criticism is valid, we're honest with each other.

Why did you call off your wedding last September? 
Kevin: We wanted to get married in Sacramento - the publicity would have been good for city business - but it quickly became a media circus.

Michelle: The local paper got a hold of our invitation and printed it. There were security issues.

You both always look so polished. Who chooses your outfits?
Kevin: That's Michelle's department.

Michelle: I like clothes and make an effort to ensure we both look nice. Before leaving Sacramento, I lay out Kevin's out fits for the week, and he often calls me right before an event, asking, "Which tie should I wear? Which shoes?" But I also ask his opinion on what to wear, and he's always right. He has very good taste.

- Andrea Todd

Lisa Ling, 37, host of Our America, and Dr. Paul Song, 45, president and chief medical officer of CytoTech

In February 2006, Paul Song, a radiation oncologist in Washington, D.C., got a phone call from television journalist Lisa Ling. A mutual friend had decided the two were destined for one another. He told Ling to get in touch, promising, "You're going to marry this guy!"

Song knew Ling was a journalist, but he was too busy to watch TV, and he'd never seen her bantering with Barbara Walters on The View, where she became a household name at age 25.

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