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Love Rules: 14 Power Couples Take Us Inside Their Lives


By Hope Katz Gibbs
Be Inkandescent magazine

Illustrations by Hope’s better half, Michael Gibbs

Be honest. What do you think it takes to balance two powerful, time-consuming, stressful, successful careers?

Add in a couple of kids, the mortgage and bills, and the other stresses of modern life—and if you are like me, there are days when it just seems like too much to juggle.

And just when I think something has to give before our proverbial cookie crumbles, I’ll meet a stranger who offers a fresh perspective.

He or she will look at what we’ve built, and politely ask, “How do you do it?”

Quite frankly, the question makes me grimace. There’s no magic trick that enables me to run a PR and publishing company with my husband as the VP, while he’s managing his own busy illustration business. Add in caring for our two teenagers, helping out as much as we can with our aging parents, and trying to squeeze in time to celebrate our 18th anniversary (on Feb. 1, when this issue went live) … well, there’s no magic to it. It’s downright exhausting.

More likely, this stranger is wondering why anyone in his or her right mind would want to take on so much responsibility.

Recently, though, I have come to interpret the question as a compliment. Whether intended or not, I now believe that this kind stranger is looking at the beautiful life that my husband and I have built. He knows it’s easier said than done. And yet, we do it anyway.

So do all of the Power Couples we polled—and the countless more who read our magazine. My response is similar to theirs when asked how we manage marriage and business: We do it together.

And what we all have in common is that when we kiss each other goodnight, we know the person on the other side of the bed is there to lend the love and support we need to make our way through whatever tomorrow brings. The 18 fresh red roses that Mike gave me to celebrate the life we’ve created (which we lovingly refer to as Gibbco) are sitting on my desk as a sweet reminder that he not only has my back, he has my heart.

How do you manage business and love in the 24-hour/7 days-a-week race that is your life? Scroll down for an honest, thoughtful glimpse into the balancing act from 14 Power Couples who are at the top of their game.

These “Fabulous 14” couples don’t work in the same company—as do our Lucky Seven Power Couples featured as our February Entrepreneurs of the Month. But these folks are working side-by-side in countless other ways.

We hope their thoughts on collaboration will inspire you to kiss your spouse a couple of extra times today. A bouquet of red roses is always a nice touch, too.

Note: We couldn’t fit all of their incredible wisdom on one page. To read a more complete compilation, click here.

HR expert and owner Sharon Armstrong & Associates
+ writer Richard Armstrong, author God Doesn’t Shoot Craps
Washington, DC

Who they are: Owner of Sharon Armstrong & Associates, and author of several books, including The Essential HR Handbook, Sharon is an expert in the HR and career field, matching professionals and employers. Richard is a direct-mail copywriter, who for decades has specialized in crafting successful campaigns. They have been married for 33 years.

What brought you together, and what keeps you together? I was the PR person at Big Sisters, and Richard was the PR person for a group called Hexagon. We had to work together on joint communication efforts. It was love at first sight. Richard says. “I remember one early date in which I told her I’d just been fired. But she stuck with me anyway. The secret to staying together for the last four decades is humor and a maniacal dog. Sharon makes me laugh every day. The dog makes me grit my teeth.”

Does working together keep your marriage rich and healthy? “We work for ourselves in separate companies, but under the same roof. So we benefit from a nice combination of togetherness and … well, apartness. Richard says: “If you get an email from her that appears to be very well-written, it was probably written by me. After much begging.”

Your advice for other couples? Sharon says: “One ongoing challenge is taking time for more fun. We also laugh every day. And we try our best not to sweat the small stuff. In 33 years, we have never fought about money. There have been a few fights, of course, but it works!” Richard notes: “I think Einstein got it right when he once answered this question. He said, ‘I make all the big decisions, and I let my wife make all the small decisions. It just so happens there haven’t been any big decisions in the last 50 years.’ “

Graphic artist and illustrator Alece Birnbach
+ Photographer Allen Birnbach
Denver, CO

Who they are: Illustrator and designer Alece, owner of the Graphic Recording Studio, and photographer Allen Birnbach, have been married for 22 years. The photo, right, is from their anniversary trip to Alaska last summer. Click here for Alece’s Presentation column, and here for our feature story on Allen’s work. Scroll down for their insights into being a Power Couple.

What brought you together, and what keeps you together? We met at a business party. It was back in the day when there were typesetters, and they threw a huge party every year and all of the ad biz people came. I was fresh out of art school and working at my first job. Allen was already a well-known photographer. We moved in together a few months later. The more two people have in common, the better—and we have just about everything in common. We’re both very active physically and are both workaholics.

Does keeping your professional life separate keep your marriage rich and healthy? We’re both entrepreneurs and both have multiple projects going on simultaneously, and more ideas in the hopper. For instance, Allen is currently directing and producing a documentary, mounting a fine art exhibit for the Month of Photography in Denver, signing up students up for a workshop he’s teaching in Iceland, and estimating three different commercial projects. Meanwhile my year is booking up with multiple graphic-recording gigs, I have a publishing deal on the table for a series of children’s books I’m illustrating, and my agent is preparing to show my work for licensing at the Surtex show in NYC. I think the fact that we’re always in each other’s corner and are each other’s biggest fan keeps our marriage rich and healthy.

What is the best advice you can offer other couples? Never nag. That way when you have something important to discuss, you’ll have an attentive listener. And don’t make criticisms personal. Once you say something mean, you can never take it back.

Business coach Karen Cleveland
+ Retired CEO Jim Cleveland
Washington, DC

Who they are: Karen is the former director of Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia, and Jim is a retired CEO who spent his career developing Reston, VA, where they now live. Karen currently runs the Cleveland Coaching Group,, and is passionate about supporting children and families, particularly those who don’t have the resources they need. Jim’s passion is the physical development of the community and the integration of the arts as an important part of the human fabric. “Working together on these issues and projects keeps both of us curious, engaged, and constantly learning and exploring new ways to collaborate for the betterment of our community,” she says.

What brought you together, and what keeps you together? We were both engaged in the business community of Reston and had mutual respect and admiration for each other and our work. I have to admit I had a schoolgirl crush on Jim since I first met him in the late 80s. I never thought we would be a couple because I thought we were more different than alike. Then we got to know one another on a personal level and realized that at our core, we cared about the same things, shared many of the same interests, and at that time in our lives, we were indeed a perfect match.

Would you have predicted when you were dating that you would work together as a married couple? Yes. We dated for several years, and it was this work in the community that brought us closer together. Our community service is simply a part of who we are, so our lives became richer and richer the longer we dated and the more joint projects we did in the community. I remember the first time I chaired a board on which Jim was a director. It was the Fairfax County Reston YMCA. Our board meetings were early in the morning and I tried to respect everyone’s time and stick to the agenda. In one meeting Jim was pontificating about something and I, politely (I thought), cut him off. He paused, stared at me, and asked in a very slow and serious manner “May I finish?” eliciting a noticeable gasp from the rest of the board. I graciously gave him the floor and he quickly finished his speech. That was 12 years ago and we still laugh about that one today.

What advice you can offer other couples? Continue to pursue your own interests while supporting one another so you can still be good as you and good as a couple. Enjoy the moment, count your blessings, live your life with integrity and intention and never go to sleep with out kissing good night and saying, “I love you.”

LeoNora Gourmet Bakery owner Carolina Garcia
+ Corporate exec Santiago Garcia
Arlington, VA

Who they are: Carolina and Santiago came to DC from Colombia to pursue a job offer he couldn’t refuse. She decided that her ambition was to open a bakery, and in 2010 set that plan into motion. In 2011, LeoNora Gourmet Bakery opened its doors—and bread fans from around the DC region have since been flocking in for French bread, brioche, challah, croissants, madeleines, cakes, and tartalettes.

What brought you together, and what keeps you together? Similar interests, such as books, food, and traveling. What keeps us together is love, respect, mutual admiration, and our plans for the future. Keeping a marriage rich and healthy is more about taking care of each other, listening, comprehending what the other truly means, and having a mutual respect. Admiration is key in any relationship.

What are the challenges of being two powerful people at the top of your professional game? Time. Being able to balance the time spent in each of our activities. Family must always come first. When we argue, we try to find a midpoint. We hear each other’s reasons and come to an agreement.

What is the best advice you can offer other couples? Do everything with passion and life will be great: love with passion, work with passion. Balance your life and never forget that admiration is the most important factor in any relationship.

Karen Hanrahan, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy and Human Rights in the Obama Administration
+ Dean Wagner
Washington, DC

What brought you together, and what keeps you together? Our very different career paths and background brought us together in a foreign country. Our careers balance each other in many ways. Unconditional love has created a strong bond between us. We communicate and discuss everything; daily obstacles, finance, work issues, and long term goals both personally and professionally. The birth of our daughter has brought us closer and enriched our lives greatly.

What’s your biggest challenge? Balancing family life with busy work careers, and distance is a challenge. Right now geographic distance between us is difficult with me remaining in the UK and Karen and Jordan back in DC. We have always valued our time together and it is tough being apart. It is hard not being together to support each other as we always have.

What’s your best advice for other couples? Always put forward the effort to communicate, consider each other’s goals and remember the little things that are important to your partner. Always be ready to listen.

Artists and art instructors Becky Heavner, MLA
+ Bryan Leister
Denver, CO

Who they are: Becky Heavner, MLA, is a designer and illustrator practicing landscape design in Denver. Bryan has won more than 100 awards for his artwork, which has been commissioned for the covers of many national and international magazines, including Time, BusinessWeek, Forbes, Der Spiegel, and Atlantic Monthly.

What brought you together, and what keeps you together? A mutual love for art. We draw upon the structural strength that we have built up over the years. Trying anything new is invigorating and also challenging. The new challenges are invigorating, despite how hard the transitions can be. In our busy lives, we try to schedule time together. Travel, even a day trip, is the best tonic. It allows us to take ourselves physically away from day-to day concerns.

Does working together keep your marriage rich and healthy? For more than 20 years, we worked side by side, in the same studio, just a few feet apart. We would laugh and say we were together more than most married couples are in the course of their lives. More recently we took completely separate paths in our careers. Working together and apart provides just as many challenges as rewards. We don’t claim to have all the answers, but we are still together!

Would you have predicted when you were dating that you would work together as a married couple? We worked together when we dated, so yes, that seemed natural. Men and women sometimes define success differently. And in different stages in our lives, this concept has changed for both of us, but one thing we know for sure, it is always a turn-on when the other person is happy.

What are the challenges of being two powerful people at the top of your professional game? If both people are trying to lead, then the challenge might be determining who is in charge. How do two powerful people share doing the mundane, boring, day-to-day stuff? Realistically, marriage is not always 50/50, or 60/40. At times, it can feel like 80/20. It is important to look towards core values, such as respect, and remember there will be times when the tables turn.

How do you handle it when you disagree over a direction your business, careers, or life choices, should take? Our marriage is, at times, a contested terrain. We debate issues, and honestly we argue about decisions. In the end, we both claim do what we independently want to do in life. But in reality, we listen to each other—we just don’t admit it. The other day, Bryan said to the dog, “What horse are you going to hook your wagon to?” In other words, which human are you choosing to feed you? I have been thinking about the power of this statement for days, but I haven’t told him that.

What is the best advice you can offer other couples? You only live life once. Make sure you are doing exactly what you really want to do—in business, and in marriage. Also don’t measure yourself against others, but find inspiration within your own identity. Honor yourself and your partner.

Author Caroline Leavitt
+ Writer and editor Jeff Tamarkin
New York City

Who they are: Caroline Leavitt is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of “Pictures of You,” which was also on several Best Books of 2011 lists. Algonquin Books will publish her 10th novel, “Is This Tomorrow,” in May 2013. She is also a book critic and an award-winning senior writing instructor at UCLA and at Stanford online. Visit her at www.carolineleavitt.com.

For more than three decades, Jeff Tamarkin has been a prolific music and popular culture journalist, editor, and historian. Since 2007 he has been the associate editor of JazzTimes magazine. For the previous 15 years, he was editor of Goldmine Magazine. His first full-length book, “Got a Revolution! The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane,” was published in 2003.

What brought you together, and what keeps you together? Caroline says: “An ad! I had just gotten out of a toxic relationship with a guy who wouldn’t let me eat (See “The Grief Diet”) and the first time I met Jeff, he insisted we order dessert. I knew then he was a keeper. When he took me to an all-Japanese supermarket on our second date, and then was willing to see two movies in a row, I knew this was it.

Jeff says: “I had recently ended a long-term relationship and then gotten into one that was doomed from the start. When that fizzled, I started scouring the personal ads (this was before computer dating took off) and I wasn’t have much luck there either. I was just about to give up on that when I saw one from a woman who described herself as “silly.” On our first date, Caroline brought a bunch of little windup toys and set them loose on the restaurant table. I knew right then she was different.

Would you have predicted when you were dating that you would work together as a married couple? Caroline says: “Oh, I knew we would pretty early on. And it was important to me. I had dated guys who didn’t understand why I would want to work at 10 at night some nights, or who didn’t get the pressures.” Jeff adds: “There was never any doubt that this would be our arrangement. Caroline did work for a while at a regular day job that involved commuting and she was miserable. I encouraged her to quit and devote herself to what she really wanted to do and she’s been a much happier camper. I, too, prefer being under the same roof together. Although we are both writers, our work is different enough that there’s no crossover, and no stepping on each other’s toes. We support each other and give each other advice and make each other laugh. People often ask us if we miss being around other people during the day? Honestly, no. We’re both too wrapped up in our work and our family life to need that or want it.”

What are the challenges of being two powerful people at the top of your professional game? Caroline says: That statement makes me laugh because for many years, I was struggling and unknown. I don’t know if I feel powerful or at the top of my game—I tend to feel I’m still staying hungry. We’ve had years when only one of us is bringing in money—something that switches back and forth. I’ve had four publishers go out of business, and two major publishers who never returned my phone calls or emails! It’s only since I signed with Algonquin that I’ve become a bestseller.

Jeff shares: “When I learned Caroline’s full name and she told me she was a novelist, I quickly bought one of her novels. I was instantly awed by the level of her talent and became her biggest fan. I consider myself so lucky to be able to read all of her books before anyone else does (I can’t help but read them with editing pencil in hand though, and I leave her my comments as I read). I think she gets better with each new book.”

What is the best advice you can offer other couples? Caroline says: “It’s great and important to love your work, but love your partner more.” Jeff says: “That, and keep a good supply of chocolate around the house.”

Freelance editor Kathleen McCarthy
+ Magazine editor Tony Reichhardt
Fredericksburg, VA

Who they are: Tony writes on space issues for Smithsonian’s Air&Space magazine and runs the magazine’s website. Researching Civil War history around Fredericksburg, Va., also engages him. Kathleen freelances for the Inkandescent Group and edits a newsletter for an association of mental health counselors. She is also editing a book about the clash between the conservation movement and Indigenous stewardship. They share a home office two or three days each week.

What brought you together, and what keeps you together? Tony says, “We were lucky enough to find, and recognize, another person who shared the same basic attitudes about important things. And we depend on each other, in many different ways. So, happily for us, we don’t have to spend much energy ‘keeping together.’ On a day-to-day level, a sense of fairness helps a lot. I may not want to do Task A or Task B, but one of us has to, she did it last time, and whether or not I love her (I do), it’s simply my turn. If you help each other out, not because of some tightly negotiated schedule, but out of a general sense of fairness, you don’t have to work at it much, and things get done.”

Kathleen says, “Luck brought us together. We both lived within a mile of each other in Washington, DC, but we didn’t meet until I was doing a work assignment in Denver and the client kept mixing me up with another Kathleen from DC who was working for the same client in Denver, too. The other Kathleen, who was endowed with a matchmaking gene, was dating one of Tony’s housemates. We are one of her biggest successes. The fact that we like each other so much keeps us together. So does the fact that Tony is empathetic, emotionally intelligent, musical, unimpressed by authority, good humored, and has a terrific sense of fairness infused with generosity. He’s just the right guy for me.”

What’s your biggest challenge? Tony says it’s “staying human in a time-crunched, increasingly isolating world. Our middle school daughter’s teacher asked her class the other day how many of them eat dinner with their families, and only a couple of kids raised their hands. Not that family dinners are the only opportunity for relaxed togetherness. Everyone can find their own way. But there’s no such thing as scheduled ‘quality time.’ It’s just time.”

Kathleen says it’s “making summer vacation plans. Tony likes stimulating destinations and staying in a different place every night; Kathleen prefers relaxing destinations and exploring from a ‘hub,’ and each of our three teenage girls likes to weigh in with an opinion, too.”

What’s your best advice for other couples? Tony says, “Don’t exaggerate the importance of your work. You may think you’re saving the world, but you’re probably not. It’s tempting, because work is generally more controllable and orderly than family life, to retreat to work as a refuge from the constant attention—both intellectual and emotional—that family life requires.”

Kathleen says, “Marry someone you like a lot.”

Author Jennifer Niven
+ Internet security architect and photographer Louis Kapeleris
Los Angeles, CA

Who they are: Jennifer Niven’s film “Velva Jean Learns to Drive,” won an Emmy Award—and she once played the part of Shania Twain in a music video. Even though she’s always wanted to be a Charlie’s Angel, her true passion is writing, and her first book, “The Ice Master,” was released in November 2000 and named one of the top 10 nonfiction books of the year by Entertainment Weekly. Her memoir, “The Aqua-Net Diaries: Big Hair, Big Dreams, Small Town,” was published in February 2010 and optioned by Warner Bros. as a television series. Read more here.

Louis Kapeleris is an Internet security architect, who also works with Jennifer on her projects. He can frequently be found in front of a computer, but when he leaves his desk, he loves making photographs, rock climbing, hiking, baking bread, and traveling far off the beaten path with the love of his life.

What brought you together, and what keeps you together? Beyond our wonderful first date, we discovered that we connected on a number of levels. We have similar values, we laugh at so many of the same things. We’re different (he’s more reserved, I’m more social), but we complement each other. We work hard, and we love to explore and travel and have adventures. We believe in living our lives “out there,” as one of my characters would say. We work well together, and this is an unexpected, unanticipated bonus. Even though we come from totally different perspectives—I’m right-brained, he’s left-brained—we’re each other’s best friends.

Does keeping your professional life separate keep your relationship rich and healthy? We work in different businesses; however, we also work for the same company—the Jennifer Niven publishing empire. Louis photographs my author events, as well as takes my author photos. He handles my website programming, design, and maintenance. We work on publicity ideas. We made the book trailer for my latest book. He also is one of my best creative sounding boards (my mother being the other one). I bounce ideas off him, then we brainstorm together.

What are the challenges of being two powerful people at the top of your professional game? We work all the time, and both our careers come with a great deal of stress. Sometimes it’s hard to make the time just to relax, enjoy each other, see our friends, travel—or even get out of the house more than once a week. Communication is key. Even if you’re busy, busy, busy, you have to take time to show and tell the other person you love him (or her), and you have to take time to connect, even if it’s just for a few moments out of a crazy day.

Photographers, owner SplashFoto, Cindy Seip
+ Miami Herald photojournalist Al Diaz
Miami, FL

Who they are: For decades, photos by Cindy and Al have graced the pages of the The Miami Herald, where they were staff photographers. Al still holds his post there, taking pictures of everything from the Super Bowl to the presidential elections. Cindy, known for her goggle series and magical underwater photos, says her favorite critic is her friend, humor columnist Dave Barry, who says of Cindy’s photos, “They produce a certain feeling in me—a feeling that is at first difficult to define, but that grows stronger with each passing minute, until finally there is no mistaking it: eyestrain.” Life has changed recently for this duo—they recently became proud parents since adopting two children from Poland.

What brought you together, and what keeps you together? Photography. One of Al’s first lines to me was “let me show you my new lens.” Well how could I turn down that pickup line? It is wonderful to have photography be a common thread between us. Even more wonderful is that our photography does not compete with each other. Al mostly shoots sports and I shoot underwater. This common ground is like having your cake and shooting it, too!

What are the challenges of being two powerful people at the top of your professional game? Because we are both so committed to our work, it is easy to leave out leisure time. The only way to accomplish this is to take time off—preferably out of town—even if we only go 30 minutes from home.

How do you handle it when you disagree over a direction your business, careers, or life choices, should take? Listen, then try to talk it out, and if that doesn’t work, flip a coin. The key is to be flexible and supportive. When an out-of-town business trip comes up for Al, and it falls on, say, Thanksgiving, rather than get all bent out of shape, we celebrate that holiday on a different day.

What is the best advice you can offer other couples? Always offer support and advice to your partner, and stay interested in what they love to do.

Lobbyist and owner of the LS Group Lisa Spies
+ Attorney Charles Spies
Washington, DC

Who they are: Lisa, founder of the LS Group, Inc., is a political fundraiser with more than a decade of experience raising national and PAC contributions. Recently, she was the director of Women for Romney Victory, the director of Jewish Outreach for Romney Victory, Inc., and the executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Women’s Committee. Charles is an attorney and head of the DC office at the national, political law firm Clark Hill.

What brought you together, and what keeps you together? We met in a social setting, but after talking for hours, the connection occurred when we realized our similar political and policy beliefs. We have shared interests, similar passions, and an appreciation of each other’s unique work schedules.

Does working in different businesses keep your marriage rich and healthy? While we work in different companies, we work in the same industry, which gives us a mutual understanding and appreciation of the rhythms of campaigns and the emotional ups and downs that come with being vested in our clients.

Did you envision when you were dating that your spouse would be so successful? Was that a turn-on? Running a legal practice is different than running a fundraising business, but we both had and continue to have high expectations for each other. In the past year we both have been recognized for being at the top of our professions, and we have been grateful for the opportunity to share our successes with each other.

What are the challenges of being two powerful people at the top of your professional game? Time management and finding time to relax together, or even be together in the same city, is a constant challenge. There is no easy solution, but compromising and communicating are the key. Fortunately, we rarely disagree on major decisions because we share a perspective and work ethic.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned about staying happily married, and maintaining a strong career? Maintaining a strong career is all about focus and time management. For a married couple to maintain two strong careers, communication becomes the differentiator in a team approach that supplements each other’s strengths and minimizes the weaknesses of both individuals.

What is the best advice you can offer other couples? Communicate. Knowing how your spouse is thinking and what they prioritize can avoid unnecessary tension and disagreements and instead create a team approach.

Author Adriana Trigiani
+ Mario Cantone
New York City

Who they are: In a slight twist on the Power Couples survey, this team is bestselling author Adriana Trigiani, the renowned writer of 15 books, and her best bud, Mario Cantone, her “brother from another mother.” You many know this actor/stand-up comedian from his role as Anthony Marentino on “Sex and the City.” He’s also made numerous appearances on Comedy Central including “Chappelle’s Show.” Scroll down to learn why Cantone is one of her most trusted advisors—in addition, of course, to her husband Tim, the lighting designer for “Late Show with David Letterman.”

What do you love most about each other? Mario’s sense of humor. He thinks I’m pretty funny, too. And, we love each other’s spouses. We go out to dinner, and to the opera, theater, and movies. It’s rarely planned, but because we live in NYC, we love getting lost in the noise of NYC life.

Does working together make your relationship stronger? We are always hatching schemes for television shows and movies. We recently went to Los Angeles to pitch a TV show based on Adriana’s novel “Rococo.” Jerry (Mario’s husband) is a fabulous actor and brilliant director. And of course my husband can do the lights. There is such a comfort in having each other to run things by. There’s a lot of consulting back and forth, listening and advising. When times are tough, there is nothing that Mario’s meatballs can’t fix.

What is the best advice you can offer other couples? Hold on. Then hold on tighter.

Financial advisor Sheldon Weiner, Egan, Berger & Weiner, LLC
+ Kaiser Permanente exec Sharon Weiner
Washington, DC

Who they are: Founding partner of the financial advisory firm Egan, Berger & Weiner, LLC, Sheldon Weiner met his sweetheart, Sharon, a Group Medicare Executive Manager at Kaiser Permanente, during the summer of 1963—when they were both 12 years old. Their parents dragged them to a Masonic function to help set up, and they’ve been together ever since.

What keeps you together? We not only love each other, but we also respect each other and are friends. We know each other so well that we can almost read each other’s mind. On the few occasions that we don’t agree, we just discuss the situation, analyze it, give it some time, “and then do as Sharon says,” Sheldon shares with a grin.

What’s your biggest challenge? Finding time to spend together. We are both so busy that we literally have to schedule time to see each other.

What’s your best advice for other couples? Probably our biggest lesson in staying happily married is we decided a long time ago never to go to bed angry. The key is to be friends first. It’s great to be lovers and to be married and have children, but the best marriages I think are based on mutual respect and friendship.

Real estate mogul Dawn Wilson
+ Attorney Whitney Wilson, Jacobson Holman, PLLC,
Washington, DC

Who they are: These two attorneys met at New York University School of Law and married a year after graduation. Two kids and 18 years later, Dawn made the shift to real estate, and Whitney became a partner at Jacobson Holman PLLC in DC, specializing intellectual property. Dawn runs her own business working as a realtor in the metro DC area.

What keeps you together? For a long time, we both practiced as lawyers and had the same language of the law to communicate. When I switched to real estate, it sure helped to have a legal background—and another attorney to talk to. We like to discuss domestic and international issues and take different sides of arguments—just like we were taught to do in law school.

What are the challenges of being two powerful people at the top of your professional game? It’s hard to have a solid family life where we both are able to spend time with our children. Regularly, one of us has to scale back on our careers so that our family stays the priority. Not having two lawyers in the house has definitely helped.

What is the best advice you can offer other couples? Stay flexible. Have a plan for each of your careers and what you envision your family life to be. Chart out what extra help you may need, and how comfortable you feel delegating certain tasks. Decide what things you really want to do for yourself in your personal life, and then plan how you can do that with the career you want.

Illustrator James Yang, Planet Yang
+ Choreographer Abby Yang
New York City

Who they are: They met in a bagel shop. “Abby came over and asked to sit at my table,” James explains. “Naturally I thought this was because I was so charming, so we chatted it up and decided to meet again. Later, Abby told me in HK it’s normal for strangers to sit at the same table, so it was a total cultural misunderstanding that got us together.”

What keeps you together? Since Abby is a choreographer and dancer and I’m an illustrator, we understand that the other needs space to produce our work. We both have a similar sense of humor, which is a big help. Abby is away a lot on projects out of the country for long periods, but it’s always comfortable when we are back together. We have the perfect makeup for having to spend time apart when needed.

Does working together keep your marriage rich and healthy? When I’m busy, I’m chained to the desk, but when Abby is busy, she’s traveling to Asia, so we joke that the time apart is what makes us happy. I bring my laptop to work and travel with her at times, which is fantastic because her work gives us a chance to explore places we wouldn’t normally explore.

How do you handle it when you disagree over a direction your business, careers, or life choices, should take? We might be like Congress where we put off certain decisions. For example we never quite sorted out if we want to buy a place in Hong Kong or New York, so we ended up renting all these years to keep our options open. One day we’ll figure it out. We don’t really have career disagreements because we both want each other to do well since it benefits both of us in the long run.

What is the best advice you can offer other couples? We’re very good at trusting each other. It’s not even an issue with us. Trust gets couples most of the way there.


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"I get by with a little help from my friends," says Hope, who gives special thanks to:

• MICHAEL GIBBS, website illustration and design: www.michaelgibbs.com
• MAX KUKOY, website development: www.maxwebworks.com
• STEVE BARRETT, portrait of Hope on Bio page: www.stevebarrettphotography.com

Contact HOPE KATZ GIBBS by phone [703-346-6975] or email.