The power of two

Everett and Alicia Helm McCorvey, Barry and Lynn McNees, and Alan and Kathy Stein are local power couples who have achieved individual success and recognition publicly while maintaining viable marriages and nurturing relationships privately.

How do they do that?

"The biggest thing is that we are very complementary, and still in love," said Barry McNees, lead developer of the proposed Lexington Distillery District, an arts and entertainment corridor along Manchester Street.

"We are in this together and, through the good and difficult times, we've really seen evidence that together we double our joys and halve our sorrows."

At the Winter 2009 Roundtable Networking Luncheon Series presented by Women Leading Kentucky, all three couples will discuss how they have avoided the pitfalls of melding their strong personalities through love, compromise and staying focused on shared values.

Janet Steele Holloway, co-founder and executive director of Women Leading Kentucky, said the group has been hosting roundtable luncheons for seven years, usually featuring male and female professionals offering tips for success.

"It was time to raise the bar," Holloway said. "There are so many professional couples who manage work life and family, and I thought it would be fun hearing them talking about how they do that."

The McCorveys

First up are the McCorveys, who will be featured Tuesday.

Everett McCorvey is director of University of Kentucky Opera Theatre. He has performed at the Metropolitan Opera, the Kennedy Center and at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, among others.

Alicia Helm McCorvey has balanced raising their three children with an opera career that includes the title role in Carmen. She is also forming her own opera company.

In separate interviews, the couple said similar values, shared religious faith and mutual respect have kept their marriage not only intact but alive and well.

"We both believe in family and we both came from supportive families who were good role models in terms of their relationships," Everett McCorvey said. "We both practice our faith, and that is important to us. We both respect each other and are inspired by each other. At least, I am certainly inspired by her. I think we are best friends."

Best friends, however, don't just boost each other's egos.

"She tells me things that I don't necessarily want to hear but that are probably the truth," he said. "I trust her judgment. I respect her for that."

The couple met at the Metropolitan Opera while rehearsing for Porgy and Bess. Alicia Helm walked in wearing Alaskan snow boots, Everett McCorvey said. He liked that quirkiness and chose to date her instead of wooing eventual five-time Grammy Award winner Kathleen Battle, whom he had also scouted.

"I think people gravitate toward others with the same values," he said. "That was really important to me. "

Alicia Helm McCorvey said both sets of their parents were lifelong partners, giving them good examples to follow. And, in her marriage, she said, "There have been so many good times that have outweighed the difficult times."

What do they know now that they wished they had learned earlier in their marriage?

"We could have spared ourselves a few arguments if I had realized that every decision is not of equal importance," Alicia Helm McCorvey said. "Every argument doesn't have to be won and every decision debated."

Everett McCorvey laughed and said, "Sometimes it is better to just be quiet. You will not win. It took too long to learn that, and sometimes I still have a memory lapse."

The McNeeses

On Feb. 19, the McNeeses will discuss how they manage their professional and private lives.

Lynn McNees is the spokeswoman for the International SPA Association, which represents 2,000 spa professionals nationwide. That means she's the woman who major cable news networks and national newspapers seek out.

The couple have been married for more than seven years, and they say loyalty, love, faith, honesty and trust have kept them going.

"It is balance and good communications," Lynn McNees said. "We really do make an effort to take time for each other."

They complement each other.

"Barry makes me more thoughtful," she said. "We look at things very differently. He rounds me out and gets me to pause at times. And he makes me belly laugh every day."

The couple met when she was looking for a low-maintenance home and he was a real estate agent who showed her a house she had already seen. She didn't bother to tell him that, choosing instead to stand in the kitchen and talk for a while.

Almost a year to the day later, they were married.

What have they learned that the wish they had known earlier?

"That Lynn is always right," he said, laughing. "In the end, Lynn and I both communicate very well and we talk through things. I would much rather for Lynn to be happy than for me to be right. There are very few things that are worth our going to bed angry."

Lynn McNees said she has learned "you can't change someone and don't take things so seriously."

"It is the art of compromise," she said. "I've learned some things really are not that important."

The Steins

For Alan and Kathy Stein, who will discuss their relationship March 19, it truly was love at first sight. Or maybe lust.

"It was that red dress she was wearing the first time we met that attracted me to her," said Alan Stein, president and CEO of the Lexington Legends and Omaha Royals minor league baseball teams. "She was drop-dead gorgeous."

On Dec. 19, 1987, they each attended a Christmas party hosted by a former law school classmate of Kathy Stein, a lawyer and a state senator representing Lexington's 13th District.

"Across the room that night, he was the most handsome man I had ever seen in my life," she recalled. "After talking with him that night for quite some time, he was also the most interesting man I had ever met. That was it for me."

The Steins married five months later.

With Alan Stein having attended college on a debating scholarship and Kathy Stein a criminal defense attorney, some times heads butt.

"I give in because she is beautiful and smart," he said, laughing.

"We have strong personalities and similar moral compasses," he said, "and our value systems are the same. We are committed to being engaged and involved in our community and in teaching our children to be the same.

But "I have a Type A personality, everything in its place kind of thing. Kathy is kinda not. We do have different styles but care about the same things."

Kathy Stein agreed.

"We share a love of literature, journalism, music, politics and sports each day of our lives and have shared it with our (three) children who also have absorbed it each day of their lives," she said.

"We have stayed together because it was a natural strength we produced — he nurtured my passion for public activism, and the children and I gave him the stability to focus on his dream of bringing professional baseball to Lexington. Neither he nor I could have achieved individually what we have achieved together," she said.

What have you learned over the years that you wish you had known earlier?

"That Kathy is generally right," Alan Stein said. "It took me a bunch of years to figure that out. The fact that I've learned that doesn't mean I have adapted my behavior," he said, laughing again. "But not everything has to be a debate."