Melissa Gilbert Called Her Breakup With Rob Lowe ‘Devastating’

In the 1980s, Melissa Gilbert and Rob Lowe seemed like the epitome of young love. The former couple dated for several years, and in 1986 Lowe proposed to Gilbert.

While the relationship did not last, it did have a lasting impact on pop culture and Gilbert and Lowe’s lives. In a 2009 interview on Today, Gilbert described her breakup with Lowe as “devastating.”

Melissa Gilbert Rob Lowe
Melissa Gilbert and Rob Lowe | Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

How the young couple met

Gilbert and Lowe first met when they were teenagers. The two began dating when Gilbert was 17 years old, but they actually met a few years prior. On Aug. 26, 2020, Access Hollywood released an interview with Gilbert where she described the beginning of her relationship with Lowe.

“I was 14, 15, and I was doing a talk show on the lot. And Rob came running over to introduce himself to me, and he told me years later that he tucked a script under his arm so that I would know that he was a working actor too and not some kid coming up to talk to me,” Gilbert said. 

She told Access Hollywood that the two ended up meeting again a few years later.

“I was driving home from work, and he pulled up at a stoplight,” she said. “I had my prairie makeup on… my hair was all funky from being in a bun that day. He pulled up and we started talking and exchanged numbers. That eventually led to us dating…”

Melissa Gilbert called her breakup with Rob Lowe ‘devasting’

In 2009, Gilbert released a memoir titled Prairie Tale: A Memoir. The book details Gilbert’s life during and after she starred as Laura Ingalls Wilder on the hit TV show Little House on the Prairie.

Prairie Tale: A Memoir explores Gilbert’s relationship with Lowe, and Gilbert revealed that after Lowe proposed she discovered she was pregnant. Lowe realized he was not ready to be a father or husband, and the two broke up. Gilbert then suffered a miscarriage.

Gilbert was interviewed by Erin Burnett on Today in 2009. She acknowledged that her breakup from Lowe was “devastating,” but looking back she understands why it happened.

“It was very, very painful. It was a very dark and difficult time for me… Now that I have children that are his age — my older boys are 28 and 23, the age he was when we were together — I understand it. But at the time it was devastating,” she said.


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What Melissa Gilbert and Rob Lowe’s relationship was like

In 1984, Lowe appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and was interviewed by guest host Joan Rivers. At the time of the interview, he was 20 years old and promoting his movie Oxford Blues.

Rivers repeatedly asked Lowe about Gilbert, and Lowe revealed the nature of their relationship.

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

In her interview with Burnett on Today, Gilbert explained that she views her relationship with Lowe as a young romance.

“We broke up. It ran its course. I think we were just too young,” Gilbert said.