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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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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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