In this exclusive essay, the statuesque volleyball icon lets us inside her private love life.
Welcome to the first installment of Love & Learn, a new column devoted to lessons and stories straight from the heart — and written just for you by the stars we love. Here, Gabrielle Reece—U.S. volleyball icon, former model, wife (to surfer Laird Hamilton), mother and author of the just-released memoir, My Foot Is Too Big For The Glass Slipper—shares a few things she knows about love after 17 years of marriage, three children—and the usual number of arguments.
1. Everyone expresses love in a different way. Even though pretty much
every romantic comedy portrays love in an identical fashion—you sleep
together after the third date/he shows up with a ring/you say yes to the
dress/you allow him is monthly poker night with the boys/he watches the
occasional chick flick with you and listens to you express your feelings—the way you display your love for someone is like a fingerprint: unique to you. (Hitting your beloved up the side of the head with a frying pan is never an expression of love; I don't care who you are.)
2. And yet, you need to display your love in a way the person on the receiving end comprehends. My natural way of expressing love is rooted in action. I'm task-oriented and nurturing, but not in the traditional, dewy-eyed greeting card way. I show my love for Laird, daily, by helping keep him organized and keep food in the house and meals on the table. He appreciates my actions, but he's also the kind of guy who likes to feel the emotion. Whenever we're together, he really likes to feel like I'm his woman, and I've had to rejigger my behavior accordingly. Before you start to write that post hating on me for suggesting I'm the only one who has to accommodate my spouse's needs, Laird does the same thing for me. Unchecked, he would want every moment we spend together to be in spent in a cozy cuddle. The guy is emotional and intense. Which I appreciate. But part of me wants to be left alone. As the guy in the relationship usually says, I need my space; and Laird
shows me he loves me by giving it to me.
3. The bedrock of a successful relationship is being able to acknowledge and accept your partner's feelings, right or wrong or slightly crazy.
4. Sometimes those feelings can be really irritating, which, after acknowledging and accepting, requires ignoring and letting go. Laird had four boxes of books he needed to autograph. I may help keep him get organized, I may keep food in the house and meals on the table, but I'm
not his f*cking secretary. Still, in the interest of helping the household run smoothly, I unpacked the books and stacked them on the table, ready for his signature. "Hey, what's this? You didn't need to take those books out of their boxes!" he grumbled as he passed through the dining room. To myself I think, "Jesus, someone needs to go out and catch a wave." But I ignored it, and let it go. (Later, after he had some exercise, he apologized.)
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