Why ‘Little House on the Prairie’s’ Melissa Gilbert Said Her Relationship With Rob Lowe ‘Scared the Hell Out of Her’

Melissa Gilbert and Rob Lowe were the “it” couple of the early ’80s. The Little House on the Prairie star was madly in love with the blue-eyed heartthrob and believed she would one day get married to him. Yet everything took a turn for the worse when Lowe’s stardom outshined Gilbert’s. Lowe went from an unknown actor to an overnight superstar after starring in The Outsiders. 

Suddenly, the Brat Pack actor began receiving constant attention from female admirers. Gilbert realized she could never compete with the plethora of beautiful women who were dying to steal her boyfriend away from her. And much to Gilbert’s chagrin, Lowe began to enjoy the attention he was getting. It got to the point where Gilbert assumed he was sleeping around with countless women. And as a result, she says their relationship “scared the hell” out of her. 

Melissa Gilbert and Rob Lowe
Melissa Gilbert and Rob Lowe | The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

Melissa Gilbert and Rob Lowe seemed like the perfect couple (at first)

In the beginning, Gilbert and Lowe seemed inseparable. The actors were only 17 when they first started dating, and because they were still teenagers living at their parents’ house, they’d have to sneak off every night just to see each other. Lowe would climb into Gilbert’s room through her bedroom window, and the two would spend all night wrapped in each other’s arms. According to Gilbert’s memoir, Prairie Tale, her teen lover was quite the romantic. He’d shower her with affection and endless poetry. At the time, he seemed like the perfect boyfriend.

Melissa Gilbert and Rob Lowe
Melissa Gilbert and Rob Lowe | The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

But all that changed when Lowe starred in The Outsiders. 

After becoming a teen idol seemingly overnight, Lowe was constantly surrounded by a sea of women who wanted him. This made things extremely difficult for Gilbert, who wanted Lowe all to herself. 

Melissa Gilbert and Rob Lowe
Melissa Gilbert and Rob Lowe | The LIFE Picture Collection via Getty Images

RELATED: Why ‘Little House on the Prairie’s’ Melissa Gilbert Was Filled With ‘Anxiety and Fear’ During Her Relationship With Rob Lowe

“And then there were the women,” Gilbert writes in Prairie Tale. “No matter where we went, they stuffed their phone numbers into Rob’s pockets. These were not girls my age with a crush on him. Grown women, including major celebrities, hit on him. At restaurants, I would go to the bathroom, and when I came back, there would be two or three women in my chair. I’d stand there and clear my throat, and they wouldn’t move,” she says. “And that was just the beginning…”

Melissa Gilbert said her relationship with Rob Lowe ‘scared the hell out of her’

Rob Lowe
Rob Lowe | The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

RELATED: Rob Lowe Said ‘Monogamy Was Not in (His) Nature’ Before He Met His Current Wife

In her memoir, the actor admits that her relationship with Lowe could be anxiety-inducing.

Why? Because she was in a state of panic 24/7 about whether or not her boyfriend was cheating on her. And although she wanted to believe that he was as faithful as he said he was, Gilbert couldn’t help but assume that Lowe “fooled around whenever possible.”

“Rob was funny, charming, and gorgeous,” she said. “He was irresistible. These stunning girls pursued him. It was free candy. Of course, he was going to sample them.”  

Rob Lowe and Melissa Gilbert are now both happily married (to other people)

Actor Rob Lowe and actress Melissa Gilbert attend "The Hotel New Hampshire" West Hollywood Premiere in 1984
Actor Rob Lowe and actress Melissa Gilbert attend “The Hotel New Hampshire” West Hollywood Premiere in 1984 | Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

After six years of dating, Lowe and Gilbert finally decided to call it quits. This was heartbreaking for both of them, especially Gilbert, who thought she’d spend the rest of her life with Lowe.

Yet luckily, they are both happily married as of 2021. 

Lowe is wed to Sheryl Berkoff, a makeup artist who he has been with since 1991, while Gilbert has married fellow actor Timothy Busfield.