When two extremely good looking, hard-bodied, successful pro athletes fall in love, you can't help but wonder what it's like behind closed doors. Everything is so seemingly... hot.
But after we spoke with Gabrielle Reece at an XPT class (her and husband Laird Hamilton's new circuit workout often sponsored by Sambazon) in Malibu, we learned that steamy sex, even from the hottest couples out there, doesn't come easily.
Reece married Hamilton in 1997 and have since raised three daughters. After 17 years of marriage, working as parents, high-profile athletes and public figures, it's safe to say that they've got some excellent relationship tips we could all stand to learn.
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Below are our seven favorite tips we gleaned from Reece (even Hamilton chimes in at the end). Some may surprise you — like the fact that a good white lie can go a long way.
1. When Life Gets You Down, Fake It
We're not talking about orgasms. We're talking about attitude.
In the early years with Laird, Reece admits that she failed at faking it. Or, in other words, being able to "trick" Hamilton into thinking she was thrilled to see him after a terrible day and feeling in the worst of moods.
But she has since learned that a first impression can set the tone for the evening, making it meaningfully intimate or lonely and distant, so she started using a clever tactic that establishes positivity. She says it hasn't failed her yet.
"I call it 'shiny eyes,'" says Reece. "So when you see your partner, and they look at you and they go, ‘Wow she’s happy to see me,’ even though my kids are hanging on my hip and they’re screaming."
Practice your "shiny eyes" the next time you see your partner. When you ask him or her, "Hi, how was your day?" put the biggest smile on your face so your eyes light up and look delighted (otherwise known as "smeyes").
2. Have Sex When You Don't Feel Like It
"When I first met Laird I was in my mid-20’s, I was busy, I was competing, I was tired, and I only had sex when I felt like it," says Reece. "Pretty soon what happens is, you kind of never feel like it."
Sex, Reece emphasizes, is an essential part of healthy communication. But on the flip side, after an exhausting day washed down with a plate of nachos, not many people feel in the mood. But Reece says to suck it up (no pun intended) — because it's worth it.
"Quite frankly, there are times I don’t want to tuck away and go have sex, I want to get back to my checklist, but I go, 'yo, 45 minutes!'"
Plus, she continues, no matter how we look at it, men need sex. "If you’re asking them to be monogamous, you have to have sex. So it doesn’t mean every time, all the time. It just means you keep trying." And once you start, you may be surprised to find yourself quickly getting in the mood.
And by "trying" she means inviting the man to have sex even when you don't feel like it (we know, the ultimate selfless task). But what's important is that it helps to avoid the bad dynamic of "begging for it," she says. "Make it your idea, because then they go, ‘Oh my chick likes me and wants me,’ and then also you don’t feel like you’re getting hounded."
This is what Reece calls "the upcycle," or when you make your partner feel wanted, and in return you'll feel wanted and respected. "But listen, it’s a tricky dance," says Reece. "But I think real men, meaning ones that are willing to say, ‘Hey, I’m loving and cherishing being with one woman,’ they deserve that."
3. Pay Attention to Love Languages
Does it have to be drilled into our brains? Communication is the foundation for a healthy relationship, and the way we communicate varies from person to person and from man to woman.
Reece is a firm believer that every person receives and gives love through different communication signals (analogous to the "5 Love Languages" a book by Gary Chapman that gave countless American couples "aha" moments back in the '90s).
"We all speak different languages of love, and so the way I want to be loved is different than the way he wants to be loved. His [Laird's] language is food and sex," says Reece. "If I can prepare food for him, he feels taken care of, and have sex with him on a regular basis, he’s good. And it’s a reciprocal process."
Quality time is also one of the five love languages, to which Reece emphasizes is common for women. "I always tell my guy friends, ‘Listen, your chick is scratching at you because when you’re at home, you’re on your device. Even if you’re at home for eight minutes — look at her.'"
4. Filter Your Message
Maybe you recognize that your partner can't fill all the roles you desire in your life — the best friend, the lover, the gossiper, the mentor or the coach. No one can do it all. Which is why Reece suggests using time with your partner to discuss meaningful topics — to both of you. Save certain topics for your girlfriends.
"Like, ‘Oh my god, the neighbor was dating...' Never mind! Don’t talk to your partner about that," says Reece. "Talk about things that are important. Talk about ideas, your family, growth. Don’t talk about minutia and gossip and BS."
Plus, she says this will help to earn your partner's attention when you really need to talk to them. "With Laird, because I don’t pull out the card very often, if I say, ‘Hey, I need to talk to you,’ I get full attention," she says.
5. On Healthy Selfishness
Ensuring time for self-care can pay off in gold in a relationship. By recharging, you can be a better partner, mom, wife or chief household officer. Which is why Reece practices what she calls "healthy selfishness."
Even if it's just putting aside fifteen minutes to stretch, Reece makes no exceptions if distractions come up. "You start to defend that with everything you have, and what happens is, your family starts to understand," says Reece. "They know ‘Oh, that’s part of what Mom does. Mom does go to work and she does feed us, but you know what, she does do things to take care of herself.'"
Reece underscores that in life, neither your children or your partner are responsible for making you happy. "Our partner’s job is not, ‘Okay, show up on the horse and rescue me,’ that doesn’t happen," she laughs. "So stay in touch with yourself and what makes you happy."
Oh, and by the way, we were excited to hear that she thinks perfection is way overrated. "My nails aren’t perfect, my house isn’t perfect, and I’m doing a pretty good job," says Reece. She thinks that women put forth an expectation to have everything in their lives perfect. "Forget that."
6. Roll Play
Two different people with two different mindsets can live in peace together, which Reece and Hamilton prove in their marriage. "One of the person's is the male energy and one is the female," says Reece. "Try to appreciate the nuance instead of being annoyed by how different it is."
Reece shared a simple example that when she and Laird go grocery shopping together sometimes he'll point out a food that she's ever heard of or would never buy. These are the small things that add up to personal growth in a relationship she says. "It’s not anybody having to really compromise with who they are. It’s actually just becoming a better you."
Throw out the relationship scale because both agree that nothing is ever "fair" and no one is ever "right" because one person cannot always fill the other person's role. "Sometimes you’re going to do 90 percent/ 80 percent of the work. Sometimes they’re going to do more of the work. It just ebbs and flows," says Reece.
The couple also both believes that the masculine and feminine forces of a relationship (even if it's same sex) are what make it work. "I hate to say it, and it may be unfair, but women... we really can set the tone. A guy’s not going to do that."
7. Tell Your Partner Why You Like Them So Much
One of the easiest ways of expressing love toward your partner is by simply telling them what you like about them. Which both Reece and Hamilton delightfully participated in during our interview.
"She’s just a very smart person," says Hamilton. "I like your butt, but I need smart. If you’re not smart, I don’t care how hot you are, it’s not working. I’d even compromise how hot you are for smart... but I got both."
"Laird is the most masculine and sensitive person I know. He reminds me about playing and sometimes letting it go until tomorrow," says Reece. "And also, I will say one more thing about you, Laird — you make me feel really loved."
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