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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.

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

It was a defining moment, and Song's reaction made it worse. "As a physician, I know miscarriage is common," he says. "But I should have taken my doctor hat off and been there for her as a husband."

By now Song was president of a biotech company, and Ling was working for Our America, a show on Oprah's new network. For most of 2010, they spent, on average, one weekend a month together, eating out and talking about work. Scrolling down Song's Facebook page, "I wouldn't know the people he was hanging out with," says Ling. Though their salaries were about equal, they kept separate finances and traded off expenses. The ambition and independence that made them successful professionals were working against them.

By November, the new house was almost done, and they began moving their furniture in from storage facilities across the country. "We were moving into this four-bedroom house, just the two of us. It started to feel a little scary," says Ling. After dinner at their favorite Italian place that night, they sat down and agreed they'd been leading separate lives.

"I've always been very blasé about divorce if things didn't work out," says Ling, but she still deeply loved her husband. For Song, the frequent celebrity divorce news was wearing on him. "Ryan Reynolds and Scarlett Johansson were on the Huffington Post every day. We didn't want to be a Hollywood cliché." They agreed to try therapy.

Ling polled her friends with the strongest marriages for a male therapist so Song would feel comfortable opening up, and they see him once a week. Now when Ling travels, she and Song Skype or video chat so they can see each other's eyes (a therapist recommendation). Their new bedroom is filled with pictures of just the two of them, and they've pledged to get away together one weekend a month to see something new. Ling reconfigured her travel schedule to be home more. They're opting out of social engagements and ramping up the lazy time together, pigging out on Chex mix, talking politics, going for runs, or cooking gumbo or vegetarian lasagna together. They're merging their finances at Song's mother's suggestion, planning a trip to Bali, and talking about trying to have a baby again.

"We're both extremely independent people," says Ling. "We thought we could bring our lives together, but in order to have a successful marriage, you have to learn how to compromise. Work can't be more important than your relationship."

- Sophia Banay Moura

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