When Melissa Gilbert and Bruce Boxleitner First Started Dating He Was ‘Juggling Several Women’

Little House on the Prairie star Melissa Gilbert was set up with How the West Was Won actor Bruce Boxleitner shortly after she divorced her first husband, Bo Brinkman. She wasn’t looking for a serious relationship at the time, but when the two met there was instant chemistry. In Gilbert’s memoir, she recounts the beginning stages of their relationship.

Bruce Boxleitner and Melissa Gilbert holding hands out in public. Gilbert is waving to someone to the left of the camera.
Bruce Boxleitner and Melissa Gilbert | Kevin Winter/DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

Bruce Boxleitner knew right away he was going to be with Melissa Gilbert

In her 2009 memoir, Prairie Tale, Gilbert wrote that Boxleitner knew they were “going to be together” as soon as he opened her front door on their first date.

“He didn’t say how long he thought we were going to be together,” she wrote. “To him, together meant going to bed. He was juggling several women, all of whom were viciously vying for his attention. But those women were dispatched within the second week of this redhead entering his life, and we enjoyed each other’s company dressed and undressed.”

Melissa Gilbert and Bruce Boxleitner kept their relationship from their children and the public

“Because both of us had children who had been through our separate marital storms, we kept them out of the equation for a long time, and we determinedly kept our relationship out of the public eye,” wrote Gilbert.

Though the new couple felt the need to hide their relationship from the press, Gilbert was glad to be with someone who had the same experience with the industry that she did.

“Aside from the physical attraction, I liked that Bruce was his own man,” she wrote. “He was opinionated. We had been in the industry for almost the same amount of time, and we shared an appreciation of home and family.”

The ‘getting-to-know-each-other’ phase

In the early stages of their relationship, Gilbert and Boxleitner ate a lot of dinners at home.

“We had a lot of dinners at my place, and we spent a lot of nights at his house,” she wrote. “Bruce was amazed he was dating someone who could cook.”

They enjoyed swapping stories and getting to know the other on a deeper level.

“In that blushy, getting-to-know-each-other time, we would sit up in bed at night and drink red wine, eat brie cheese on French bread, and talk for hours and hours about absolutely everything,” wrote Gilbert.

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One topic they touched on early was past romantic partners.

“There are versions people tell each other,” wrote the Little House actor. “Sensing our relationship could be long-term, Bruce and I were thoroughly honest. We agreed that neither one of us would walk into a room and be surprised by something, or someone, we didn’t know about.”

The first night Gilbert and Boxleitner went out in public together as a couple, they were relived they’d had the talk about past relationships.

“On our first public date, we went to the premiere of Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” wrote Gilbert. “It was right after we had gone through our lists together. We walked into the theater, sat down, and both of us at the same time half-jokingly asked, ‘Is there anyone in here that one of us didn’t sleep with?'”