How Rob Lowe and Melissa Gilbert Made Their Relationship Work When They Lived With Their Families

Melissa Gilbert and Rob Lowe met and started dating when they were teenagers. The couple dated throughout the 1980s, and their young love captivated fans.

While on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1984, guest host Joan Rivers brought up Lowe’s relationship with Gilbert. In the interview, Lowe talked about the nature of their relationship, infidelity rumors, and how the two actors made their relationship work while still living at home with their families.

Melissa Gilbert Rob Lowe
Rob Lowe and Melissa Gilbert | Donaldson Collection/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Melissa Gilbert and Rob Lowe were frequently apart

Gilbert became famous when she starred as Laura Ingalls Wilder on Little House on the Prairie from 1974 to 1983. She continued to work primarily in TV following the end of Little House on the Prairie.

After getting his start on A New Kind of Family, Lowe had a role in The Outsiders as Sodapop Curtis. His movie career took off, and he became known as a member of the Brat Pack along with actors like Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Demi Moore, and Molly Ringwald.

On The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Rivers asked Lowe about his relationship with Gilbert.

“We’ve been going out for two years really,” Lowe said.

While Lowe and Gilbert had been together for quite some time, their busy schedules made it difficult to have a normal long-term relationship.

“It’s as serious as we can make it, cause I really care about her, but the problem is the separation,” Lowe told Rivers. “Cause I’ve been gone for about nine, 10 months out of that. And then she’s gone now.”

Rob Lowe did not want to live with a romantic partner

When Lowe appeared on The Tonight Show in 1984 he was 20 years old and promoting his movie Oxford Blues. While Lowe’s career was growing, he still chose to live at home with his family.

“My family’s really supportive, they’re like my best friends. They keep me sane. I still live at home with them,” he said. “It’s lonely, you know, if you’re all by yourself, and I don’t want to live with anybody.”

“Why not?” Rivers inquired. “You would think you would want to if you’re in love.”

“The thing is, is once you live with somebody it’s that extra step,” Lowe said. “You might as well be married. There’s that added responsibility to it… I don’t need the responsibility I’m too young.”

RELATED: Melissa Gilbert Says She and Rob Lowe Broke Up After Finding Out She Was Pregnant

How they made their relationship work

In addition to conflicting work schedules, both Lowe and Gilbert lived with their families while they were dating in 1984.

“So, what do you do when the two of you… want to get together?” Rivers asked. “You tell your mother you’re going to her house, she tells her mother she’s going to your house? How do you work this?”

“We go to the beach,” Lowe joked. “Like high school, right?”

After joking with Rivers, Lowe assured her that both his and Gilbert’s families supported all aspects of their relationship.

“No, our families are very understanding. They’ve come to accept our relationship,” he said.

Lowe went on to propose to Gilbert in 1986, though the two broke up a year later. Decades after their young romance, Gilbert is married to Timothy Busfield and Lowe is married to Sheryl Berkoff.