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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 continued...

How do you handle finances?
LouAnne: We share a lot.

Ilene: There are many things that we share and some that we keep separate - I have teenage daughters in private school and the associated responsibilities. I've never been good at finances. LouAnne is helping me to become better at it. She's more organized than me. She's helped me to plan. I feel less compulsive with her in my life and don't really need the things that I once believed essential.

Who usually works later?
LouAnne: I often have dinners, screenings, and events that keep me out until late. And although Ilene is usually home, she writes all night long.

Ilene: That's LouAnne - she has an executive life. When she doesn't have a screening or a dinner, she comes home between 7 and 8. I have a sporadic freelance life. When I'm writing, I usually start early in the morning, and normally I stop around 6 p.m. When I'm on a deadline and feeling inspired, I may get up in the middle of the night and go upstairs to write.

How do you prioritize your relationship with your demanding careers?
LouAnne: We both love what we do, but the workload is intense. I try to plan outings or date nights for us so we can exhale, hold hands, and enjoy the sunshine. This past weekend we hiked with our dogs, got massages, and had pizza at a café while people-watching.

Ilene: We don't distinguish between the two. We support each other's work - it's one of the most loving things we can do. We chose careers that are demanding, and although we miss one another when it's an intense work time, we accept that, and then make up for it.

Where are you weak where the other is strong?
LouAnne: I can be impatient and stubborn. Ilene is a great sounding board and always deals with a situation without ego or personal agenda.

Ilene: LouAnne has a deep and intrinsic moral rudder - moral in the true and pure sense - not a judgmental morality, but an intuitive ethical guidepost. I'm more inclined to equivocate, and LouAnne helps me when I'm uncertain. I trust her on issues of conscience.

What drives the other nuts?
LouAnne: My biggest complaint is that we don't get enough time to talk. By the time we get to bed, we both pass out.

Ilene: LouAnne has many quirks, but I love them all.
- Elise Nersesian-Solé

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