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Gabby Reece: Women being submissive is 'a sign of strength'

April 12, 2013 at 4:09 PM ET

Video: In her new book, “My Foot Is Too Big for the Glass Slipper,” the beach volleyball star is opening up about her relationship with surfer husband Laird Hamilton. NBC’s Kate Snow reports and Reece talks about the book, saying troubled times were good for their marriage.

In discussing her new book about her challenges as a mother and wife on TODAY Friday, former volleyball star and fitness advocate Gabrielle Reece said she believes women being submissive in a relationship is a sign of power rather than weakness.

In “My Foot is Too Big for the Glass Slipper,” she writes that “to truly be feminine means being soft, receptive, and – look out, here it comes – submissive.”

“I think the idea of living with a partner is ‘How can I make their life better?’’’ Reece told Natalie Morales. “So if I’m the woman and he’s the man, then yes, that’s the dynamic. I’m willing and I choose to serve my family and my husband because it creates a dynamic where he is then in fact acting more like a man and masculine and treating me the way I want to be treated."

Gabby Reece on marriage: Men communicate through food and sex

“I think because women have the ability to set the tone that the ultimate strength and showing real power, I believe, is creating that environment. I don’t think it’s a sign of weakness. I think it’s a sign of strength.’’

Reece, who has been married to legendary big-wave surfer Laird Hamilton for 17 years, also clarified her definition of being submissive.

“He’s not saying, ‘Dinner on the table at six,’’’ she said. “We’re not talking about that. I’m saying, ‘Hey I’ll lift up my side, and I’ll do it happily,’ and also the expectation would be, or the hope would be, that he comes with the same attitude. Is it a form of service? Absolutely. But I think it’s the place I can express that part of myself and my personality.’’

In her book, Reece also discusses a rocky stretch in her marriage. Four years after she and Hamilton tied the knot, she filed for divorce, but the two worked things out.

Excerpt: Gabby Reece demystifies the marriage fairy tale

“That’s the whole point of the book, which is the happily ever after,’’ Reece told NBC's Kate Snow. “Maybe what’s typical is that you slam into a wall, but then what are you going to do when you do get to that wall?”

“I think I was putting her in a position that she had these things that she wanted to express and not expressing them so that you would get this build-up over time,’’ Hamilton told Snow. “I feel like it’s a blessing for us that we’ve gone through a bunch of different things in our relationship, which has allowed us to arrive here today. We’ve been brought here through what we’ve endured in our relationship and at the end that’s only made us stronger.’’

Through hard work and creating a strong underlying bond, the couple was able to work through their difficulties.

“I think first of all you realize what can you do different and do better in the relationship,’’ Reece said. “That’s what I had to look at because you’re not born with the skill set to live and cohabitate and be in a relationship with somebody, so really sometimes it’s only trial by error and by fire. I think both of us realized that we had sort of a foundation to make it work out, and that we had a shot and that we should maximize that instead of saying, ‘OK, this is too hard,’ and quit.’’

On Assignment: Gabby Reece on tackling motherhood, marriage and fitness

Reece has three daughters with Hamilton, whom she married in Hawaii in 1997. She took 10 years off from a busy career of playing volleyball and modeling to raise her children, and spoke with Morales about the concept of women trying to “have it all.”

“There is no having it all, but I think the idea is women have to understand what’s going to make them happy,’’ Reece explained. “We don’t worry about (men) having it all, so I don’t know where we got this idea to have it all.

“I think it’s very challenging to think, ‘Oh, I can have it all.’ My children know they can’t have it all. You have to make choices. Things are hard work, so you’ve got to choose what you’re going to work really hard at.’’

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