January 16, 1989 12:00 PM

Songwriters George Merrill, 32, and Shannon Rubicam, 37, knew they were putting their lyrics and their love life on the line in 1983, when they decided to harmonize together as Boy Meets Girl. Then, in the spring of ’87, it happened: After 11 years of living together—an intermittently blissful cohabitation that produced one lovely child, Hilary, now 5, one failed Boy Meets Girl album, and two hits for Whitney Houston (“How Will I Know” and “I Want to Dance with Somebody [Who Loves Me]”)—Boy and Girl broke up.

Boy had been oblivious to trouble at home until he read a new batch of lyrics that Girl had written for their second LP. “I want to break free with no apologies,” Rubicam brooded in one song. In another, she came right out with it: “I wanna run away.”

“Shannon’s feelings were real surprises,” says Merrill, who first met Rubicam in 1975, when both were performing at a society wedding. She later auditioned for his Seattle lounge band and moved with him to L.A. in 1982. “When it finally dawned on me that her lyrics were about our relationship, a lot of emotion began streaming out.”

Running off to the California desert to wrestle with his response, Merrill says he was so distraught that he ended up “screaming at the coyotes, ‘Is anybody out there in love?’ ” Though the desert dogs didn’t answer, that anguished cry soon became a song. More important, Merrill’s moans managed to pierce the silence of Rubicam’s heart, and Reel Life, an album that includes the track, “Is Anybody Out There in Love?” signaled the end of the couple’s eight-month separation. “Most of the songs,” Rubicam says, “have to do with problems you encounter when the magic in a long relationship is gone and you’re wondering why, where it went and how to get it back.”

Boy and Girl were lucky. They had music and the success it brought them—they live in a three-bedroom “house that Whitney built”—as well as Hilary to reunite them. But the story didn’t end with Boy Gets Girl Back and They Have a Top 10 Hit(“Waiting for a Star to Fall”). “It was time,” says Rubicam, “to mark a point in our lives instead of being sloppy about it. We finally decided to get married.” And so they did, last May in Seattle—to the relief of relatives. “All these years, we thought our parents were so cool about our relationship,” muses Rubicam. “But theirs was the typical reaction we didn’t expect, ‘Thank God and it’s about damn time.’ ”

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