Rock Center   |  April 12, 2013

Gabby Reece on marriage, sex and submission

Volleyball champion, fitness model and author Gabby Reece has a new book detailing the lessons she’s learned from her marriage to surfer Laird Hamilton. In a conversation with Rock Center’s Kate Snow, Reece describes how the couple’s marriage nearly fell apart and what she learned in the journey to rebuild their relationship.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> welcome to "rock center." we begin tonight with a story that is set in a beautiful place but it is really a story about trouble in paradise . it's a new and provocative take on how to keep a marriage together. the story you are about to hear is about a couple, not just any couple, who realize they were staring divorce in the face. it's what they did to save their marriage that some may find infuriating or just controversial or familiar. as you'll see in our report by kate snow in this household, boredom is not an option.

>> in the realm of fairy tale lives, volleyball champion, gabby reece , looks like she is in the cinderella category. a, she lives here in hawaii . she is 43, has two kids and still looks like this in a bathing suit. and c, in 1997 , she married probably the most famous surfer in the world, laird hamilton . it is nearly nauseatingly perfect.

>> we got married two years to the day we met. he built a platform and decorated it with flowers from the island.

>> how did she look?

>> that day? like she did that day like she does every day. specially beautiful.

>> it sounds like a perfect day . so, naturally, everything was perfect from then on out?

>> naturally, four years later, we were on our way to being divorced.

>> wait, what? divorce? that's not how the fairy tale goes. in her new book "my foot is too big for the glass slipper " she makes it clear her life is too far from the fairy tale . she lays it out as a guide for the less than perfect life .

>> the point isn't for me to show you how great my life is.

>> can i just say? look where we are. you are married to a stud. you have this amazing life. you are absolutely drop-dead gorgeous. so you do kind of go how can we, the rest of us, relate to you?

>> those things make it easier for sure. i'm not going to fluff it out and b.s. about that but, really, to make it work, it is still about getting down and dirty about what we all have to do.

>> you have to work at it.

>> you have to work at it. it can be like it is so pretty out and you are so tall. i have had people say to me, you are both really tall and athletic, you are the perfect couple and i'm like, that's what makes the marriage work. come on, people.

>> let's start at the beginning. here is gabby in the '90s captaining team nike at a pro- beach volleyball tournament. a fierce, 6'3" athlete.

>> she rocketed to the top on the cover of every glossy magazine , the first woman to have a nike sneaker named after her and began hosting a tv show called "the extremist." that's where this guy came in.

>> laird likes his waves like i like my men, tall, really tall.

>> she says, you can see them falling in love on screen.

>> i was surprised how good balance she had for such a tall girl.

>> they moved in together eight days later.

>> my whole life went completely upside down.

>> that's a little fast.

>> i know. i have daughters and i have to remember that story. it is just awful.

>> in hindsight, it was all a little too much too fast.

>> we got a cram course in the relationship, because we were together 24/7.

>> what made things fall apart ?

>> laird is intimidating. he is wonderfully charming e is an intense person, personality. i didn't fully understand it yet. i thought when you love somebody , you don't say much and just keep everything smooth.

>> you were holding yourself back?

>> i was. my friends would come over and i would go, easy, laird is in a mood.

>> at that time, she says they called you the weatherman.

>> yeah, yeah.

>> hot, cold, moods.

>> yeah, yeah, that's not exactly easy to be in a relationship with. i think that's a little bit tough.

>> as the resentment builds up, their communication crumbled and gabby filed for divorce. several months later, she had a change of heart .

>> i think i groveled quite a bit.

>> laird was kind of neutral. i think when i had the chance, i didn't speak up. i didn't communicate. i didn't say, this is how i feel.

>> within two years, gabby was present and today they have three girls, bella, 17, from laird 's first marriage. 9-year-old reece and 5-year-old brody. her approach to parenting is no nonsense. her approach to marriage may come as a shock to some modern women. in the book, gabby writes, to be truly feminine means being soft and receptive and look out, here it comes, submissive.

>> within the four walls of our home, i am clearly the female. laird is clearly the male. i am willing and i choose to serve the family, which means dinner and laundry and organ organizing his schedule as well as mine and i'm choosing this.

>> you are describing really set gender roles ?

>> yes, they are.

>> people might have a problem with that.

>> i could understand why people have a problem with really set gender roles . i'm not going to wiggle out of it.

>> if it makes people uncomfortable, so be it.

>> my intention is to have a real open dialogue about something that is so fricken difficult to manage. a woman who has a husband to encourage her to be strong. we have made it so complex. we are trying to to be the same. i don't think we are. i have lived such a hyper, dominant female life. i live with such a hyper, masculine guy that in-house, i have chosen the role of service. i have.

>> while we're on the subject of making it work, gabby says, sex in marriage is not optional.

>> it takes such a short period of time.

>> oh, gosh.

>> no, really. i don't mean that, you.

>> think about how much time we spend doing e-mail, chit-chatting on the phone. it doesn't take that long.

>> she basically says in the book that a woman should just take charge of this stuff.

>> yeah. you guys got the keys to the gate. so, pretty much.

>> that's true.

>> she also says, by the way, in case you haven't read this part of the book. she says, every 48 hours .

>> that's nice.

>> it can be more often than that.

>> but you come home at lunch like every other day.

>> laird will tell you, sex is like exercise, you never regret it once you do it. former proathlete or not, gabby will tell you, exercise is like sex, you are not always in the mood but you got to do it.

>> i don't wake up flying out of bed in my lycra pants going, i'm so excited. i'm going to go punish myself. listen, it is a grind.

>> is it too late to bail out.

>> the woman known as the kill leader for all her boly bavolleyball spikes is taking me to her work-out. what startedous as a few friends joining her for circuit training is an old warehouse of people that follow her drill sergeant orders for a full hour.

>> how do you feel?

>> i feel better, really good. i look terrible but i feel great.

>> gabby writes that women should stop obsessing about what they look like.

>> easy for you to say, miss no cellulite.

>> listen, i have cellulite. i'm not big on saying this on camera but i have a little cellulite.

>> men, she says, don't care about cellulite or muffin tops , they just want you to be, quote, naked and smiling.

>> there is nothing, nothing less attractive than a guy feeling like he is trying to chase or beg his wife or his partner for some loving. it is so depressing. so you do not want to put your guy or your partner in that situation where they are kind of like, could you, would you give me a crumb?

>> there is a section in the book titled, a word on cheating. gabby says, if there is a pattern of infidelity, it is over. she does believe in what she calls a get out of jail free card .

>> i'm not talking about, like, oh, she was seeing a guy down the street for three years. i'm saying an incident, let's say, that i think forgiveness is a really powerful tool in a relationship.

>> so you don't go there in the book but it begs the question. have you guys had to deal with that?

>> we have had to deal with a lot of things. when you talk to most couples that have been together for a long period of time, at some point, somebody is dealing with something.

>> you have to decide, is it worth it to you to say, okay, a situation, something occurred and then you are going to say, we're just going to blow up this beautiful castle that we've built?

>> what they've built is a strong family. maybe it is not perfect but that, they say, is what keeps life interesting.

>> do you believe in happily ever after?

>> i'm not even interested in happily ever after to be honest. that's not my thinking. peace is really important. knowing i did everything i could do. when i look back and i go, you know, did i try really hard? i did.

>> okay, so, hold that thought. hold that conversation. kate snow , back from hawaii , is here. we'll talk about what we've just seen when "rock center" continues right after this. enough about the book, i want to hear about your date. well, he showed up in a van. [ women ] oh-awww. [ voices in background ] [ female announcer ] swapportunity. the opportunity to swap a higher calorie snack for a delicious 90 calorie yoplait light. sorry... about your date, the details of your date. [ female announcer ] just one swap a day helps keep the calories away. yoplait. it is so good. alec, for this mission i upgraded your smart phone . right. but the most important feature of all is... the capital one purchase eraser. i can redeem the double miles i earned with my venture card to erase recent travel purchases. and with a few clicks, this mission never happened. uh, what's this button do? [ electricity zaps ] you requested backup? yes. yes i did. what's in your wallet? for a strong bag that grips the can... get glad forceflex. small change , big difference. zap technology. departure. hertz gold plus rewards also offers ereturn -- our fastest way to return your car. just note your mileage and zap ! you're outta there ! we'll e-mail your receipt in a flash, too. it's just another way you'll be traveling at the speed of hertz. l'oreal creates a breakthrough for your skin. new miracle blur. in seconds, it erases the look of lines, and wrinkles, and pores. it's not a moisturizer. it's an instant skin smoother. see it, believe it, try it. new miracle blur. from l'oreal paris. i remember the day my doctor said i had diabetes. there's a lot i had to do... watch my diet. stay active. start insulin... today, i learned there's something i don't have to do anymore. my doctor said that with novolog? flexpen, i don't have to use a syringe and a vial or carry a cooler. flexpen? comes prefilled with fast-acting insulin used to help control high blood sugar when you eat. dial the exact dose. inject by pushing a button. no drawing from a vial. you should eat a meal within 5 to 10 minutes after injecting novolog? ( insulin aspart [rdna origin] injection). do not use if your blood sugar is too low, or if you are allergic to any of its ingredients. the most common side effect is low blood sugar , which may cause symptoms such as sweating shakiness, confusion, and headache. severe low blood sugar can be serious and life-threatening. ask your health care provider about alcohol use, operating machinery, or driving. other possible side effects include injection site reactions and low potassium in your blood. tell your health care provider about all medicines you take and all of your medical conditions . get medical help right away if you experience serious allergic reactions such as body rash, trouble with breathing, fast heartbeat, or sweating. flexpen? is insulin delivery my way. covered by most insurance plans, including medicare. find your co-pay cost at

>>> we are back. as promised, kate snow is here all put together with the provocative story of gabby and laird . we should say that during screenings of this piece, men and women and their spouses, our fellow employees were talking about this. they are still talking about this, highly controversial. when we were on the "today" show, gabby was on this morning. that created a whole dialogue out there on twitter and everywhere. this is tapping into a discussion that's already ongoing between men and women. how do you make your homework? how do you make your marriage work? in our group as we were discussing, some people said, i can relate to her. i see where she is many could coming from. i think some people can relate and other think it is offensive, special a word like submissive.

>> the timing is interesting. here is cheryl sandberg with a book called "lean in." why now has gabby addressed that?

>> i did ask her about "lean in." she hasn't read that yet. she had been writing a blog for a number of years. it resonated with people. a publisher came to her and said, you should put this into a book. she said, okay, yeah, i will. she is genuine whether she says, i want this to start a conversation. i'm not trying to tell you how to live your life . this is what's working for me. if it helps you out there, great. the book covers everything from marriage to fitness to what to eat. it is a lot of different how-to, as she says, live in the life you have, the what is. live with what is.

>> in their world, they are a very public couple. she knows this will have consequences.

>> we were the first she has talked to. she a couple of times says, gosh, i wonder how much trouble i'm going to get in to with what i've written.

>> it taps into a flash point. that's a great conversation for people to be having.

>> i'm sure the same conversation is going on with people that just saw the story.

>> you are here watching and listening as well.

>> if you want to share your point of view about what you have heard, hash tag "rock center" and we'll forward that.

>> kate snow , thank you very much. just back from hawaii . appreciate it.