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Health & Sex

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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.

Louanne Brickhouse (left), 40, VP of production at Walt Disney Company, and Ilene Chaiken, 53, cocreator, writer, and executive producer of the TV series The L Word

How did you two meet?
LouAnne: I'm a former club girl, and a friend asked if I would take Ilene to the gay venues and show her the nightlife, so my friends and I picked her up in a limo and took her out. At the time, I was dating someone and always trying to set up Ilene on dates and get her into trouble. Years later, when I was single, I realized I wanted to date her. On our first date, I was so nervous that I had to bring a friend along! I also brought a dictionary on the date. Ilene has the most amazing vocabulary and always uses words that I don't know. I wanted to make sure I fully understood every word she said!

Ilene: A mutual friend said I had to meet LouAnne, describing her as attractive, smart, and stylish - and that she knew all the good clubs and parties. One night I was out with the great film director Garry Marshall, and he asked about my love life. I told him there was nobody rocking my world. He said, "If she were available, LouAnne would be perfect for you."

What's your morning routine?
LouAnne: We typically wake up at 5 a.m. If I don't have to read a book or script, we go to the gym. By 6:30 a.m., we're home, and I make protein smoothies. Then we feed the dogs and talk about our days ahead. Often, it's the only time we get to talk the entire day!

Ilene: When we're in production on The Real L Word, I read story reports from our field producers about what they shot the night before. Then I talk with LouAnne while she's dressing, and our new puppy climbs all over me and makes us laugh.

Which one of you spends more on clothes?
LouAnne: Ilene loves to shop, and she has very exclusive tastes! I'm a country girl and spend my money on cars. I love American muscle cars and have two customized trucks. Before Ilene knew me, she had never been to Target, driven a Ford-150 pickup truck, or had a Chick-fil-A sandwich. All of that has changed.

Ilene: Me, I've done my best to corrupt LouAnne, and she's acquired a taste for some things that I cherish. I love clothes and shopping, and I am definitely the one with the habit. I once had an entire room lined with shelves to contain all of my shoes. I've since pared down, but I still have a considerable collection. As Pam Grier once said, "Shoes are my crack."

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