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Do "submissive" women have more powerful relationships?

Lee Woodruff spoke to two famous and powerful women who say they are submissive in their marriages, but in a much different way
"Submissive" women who use softer approach to keep relationships strong 04:44

"Fifty shades of Grey" opens this week and it has people asking: "Is this what it means to be submissive in a relationship?"

It might be for the film's leading lady, but for two powerful women, the being passive has a completely different definition, reports CBS News contributor Lee Woodruff.

Gabby Reece made her name as a successful and powerful volleyball player. She fell in love with and then married fellow athlete, surfer Laird Hamilton. But Reece said their commonalities started to drive them apart.

"We're both strong-willed, opinionated, bossy-- you know, pretty outspoken," Reece said. "So when you have two very strong personalities, it can be challenging. But let's face it; cohabitation in general is a dance."

Their dance, Reece said in her 2013 autobiography, almost ended in divorce. So she made a shift: strong-willed at work, less so at home.

"To be truly feminine," she said in her book, "means being soft, receptive, and -- look out, here it comes -- submissive."

"I started to learn, 'Well, you know, maybe if I leave some of that "alphaness" outside and leave that for the world and then maybe develop and cultivate this other female side,'" Reece said. "It brought out also a very positive side of my husband that made things better."

Another woman, Candance Cameron-Bure, got her big break when she was just 11 years old. At 20, she married hockey player Val Bure and left acting to raise a family.

It was her home life that would thrust her back into the spotlight, when she also used the word "submissive" in a book about her life.

"I use this word because I was quoting the bible. The word just got taken out of context," Cameron-Bure said. "My husband takes his role seriously as the leader, a leader of our family and I take the role seriously as the nurturer of our family"

She said one isn't more important than the other, but that they're complimentary.

"I'm not talking about submissive in an oppressed way. That's not the definition of it," Cameron-Bure said.

It may not be the definition, but it's that kind of submissive that's playing out in pop culture.

"Fifty Shades of Grey," portrays men totally in control of women in subordinate roles; images couples therapist Sari Cooper says make the word instantly controversial.

"I think whenever you have a society in which power has not been shared equally, it sets off a traumatic reaction," Cooper said. "I think it's a hard-won battle that's still very freshly won. I think it's in a fragile state, you know, we're only a few decades away from the women's movement."

Both Cameron-Bure and Reece said using a word like submissive, might just help push women forward.

"I would not be an author, an actress, a producer, a mother of three, a career woman if I was a weak or oppressed woman," Cameron-Bure said. "There's nothing weak about me and my marriage."

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