Perhaps the most important thing to know about Lee and Paul Reyes-Fournier is that they believe in happily ever after. They have been married, mostly blissfully, for 20 years. This despite four moves, several job changes, a stretch of infertility and, finally, the chaos of three children — a teenager, a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old.
No one in their circle of friends has been married longer, they say.
"But I do tell people it is possible to do it and you can be happy about it," says Lee, 43, a psychotherapist. "It doesn't have to be heartbreak."
Adds Paul, 44, an astrophysicist turned businessman: "We always talk nice about each other, but in so many families that just isn't the case. People talk bad about the person who is supposed to be the love of their life."
To share this and other secrets of their success, the Reyes-Fourniers created coupledumb.com (shorthand for the dumb things couples do to each other), a Web site and blog that addresses relationship issues from sex to money to music to grandparenting.
Sometimes snarky, usually irreverent and unfailingly frank, the site, launched in January, has proven far more popular than the couple ever imagined. Coupledumb.com gets about 65,000 page views a month, says Paul, and is ranked 5 on a 10-point Google scale that factors in page views, unique visitors, time spent on the site and more.
Two-thirds of their visitors, he says, are women ages 25 to 38. (Nielsen Online and comScore, research companies that measure online audiences, do not have data for coupledumb.com.)
The South Miami-Dade couple acknowledges that the occasional profanity and sexually explicit language may not be for everybody. But it is that frankness that has endeared them to some readers.
Susan Broehm of Walnut Creek, Calif., says she likes the site because the Reyes-Fourniers "speak from the heart." A single mother of three who's in a new relationship, Broehm says she finds the blog entries entertaining and relevant.
"They're very accessible," she says. "What they say and how they say it is not about shock value. I think they're really speaking their mind."
No subject is off limits for the couple, who respond on the blog to reader questions that span the spectrum from the political to the personal.
"We're not doing anyone any favors if we hold back," says Paul. "People can see right through that."
Talking it out
The Reyes-Fourniers say their relationship advice can be best summed up this way: It's all about setting boundaries, about establishing who you are and what you want as a couple. This, they add, involves a lot of talking it out.
"It's best if you get it straight from the start," Lee says. "If you don't set it up right in the beginning, it's a lot harder to do it down the road."
They're as informal in person as they are online. For an interview, Paul is barefoot and dressed in jeans, Lee in workout clothes and sneakers. They write on their laptops in a room off the kitchen.
During a recent visit, the house was quiet except for the occasional barking of one of their six dogs. "It's never like this," Paul confesses. "Usually Ricky (the 2-year-old) is running around."
Though a scientist by training, Paul has written fiction, mostly short stories, for years. As a therapist, Lee specialized in substance abuse. Both grew up outside Los Angeles. Their family surname combines her Cuban-American Reyes and his Fournier.
They moved to Miami in 1995 to join her sister, but also because, as Lee jokes, "that's what every good Cuban wants to do." Along the way, Paul learned Spanish.
They talk about their marriage as a corporation.
"It's not a partnership with two different people," Lee says.
Adds Paul: "You're a single entity and couples should behave that way."
And yes, they tend to finish each other's sentences.
A few months into their online adventure, the couple began hearing from advertisers. One of the first ads they accepted was for a company that makes a "sexual rejuvenation" cream. More recently, a Scottish filmmaker paid them to review and link to his movie about, of course, a couple.
"Nobody has been more surprised than we have," says Lee, who stopped practicing psychotherapy when her youngest son was born. "We were looking at this more as a platform to launch our (fiction) writing career."
Paul, who has worked as a teacher and in development for a local church, had drawn up a business plan for the Web site, but hadn't expected to see any income from it until next year. Though they work as grant writers and business-development consultants to pay the bills, they see potential in their expanding the Coupledumb brand.
They sell T-shirts, mugs and magnets on the site, and over the summer self-published a book, "Dysaffirmations: Because This Kind of Stupid Takes Work!" a collection of negative and self-deprecating statements with which they say people sabotage themselves. (They coined the term "dysaffirmation.")
"Success is fleeting and was probably a mistake anyway," "Today I will dull the pain with carbohydrates" and " I will secretly revel in the failure of others."
The couple is working on a book about relationships, expanding on some of their blog entries.
As with their Web site, "We're committed to being honest," Lee says. "To write in a formal manner is not to be true to ourselves."
"We hope," Paul says, "that couples are learning that you don't have to be miserable."