Why Melissa Gilbert’s Broken Engagement With Rob Lowe Left Her ‘Traumatized’

Little House on the Prairie star Melissa Gilbert and Brat Packer Rob Lowe had been dating for about six years when they finally broke up for good. They’d broken up a few times before, but always found their way back to each other. This time was different, though. Lowe ended things when he and Gilbert were engaged and after she’d just told him she was pregnant.

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

Why Melissa Gilbert and Rob Lowe broke up

Lowe proposed to Gilbert after his whirlwind romance with Princess Stephanie of Monaco ended. Gilbert wrote in her memoir, Prairie Tale, that Lowe came to her and said he didn’t want to live without her. Though she was dating someone else at the time, she said yes.

In the midst of wedding planning, Gilbert realized she was pregnant. She was thrilled, but Lowe didn’t share her enthusiasm. When she told him she was expecting, he told her he couldn’t be “a father,” or “a husband,” or “a boyfriend.” So they ended things.

“Both of us knew this time it really was over,” she wrote. “Done. Finished.”

Gilbert had a miscarriage not too long after they parted ways.

Melissa Gilbert felt like ‘a car with three flat tires’

Gilbert wasn’t just dealing with the end of a six-year relationship. She was also dealing with the loss of her baby.

“In the weeks after that, I didn’t function well,” she wrote. “I rolled along as smoothly as a car with three flat tires. My self-esteem bottomed out. I felt unmoored and adrift, which I hated, since I saw myself as much stronger and more self-reliant than those women whose happiness was dependent on having a man in their life.”

Additionally, Gilbert felt embarrassed. This wasn’t the first time Lowe had broken her heart.

“Fool me once, shame on you,” she wrote. “fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me five or six times…damn! My friends comforted me, though, and my sister made me laugh.”

Melissa Gilbert had an affair with ‘The Doors’ manager Danny Sugarman

Gilbert also found solace in attending AA meetings, where she became close with Danny Sugarman, who managed “The Doors” for almost 30 years.

Ray Manzarek and Danny Sugarman in Paris
Ray Manzarek and Danny Sugarman in Paris | Jeremy Bembaron/Sygma/Sygma via Getty Images

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“I’d never talked with anyone as seriously about the big issues of life,” wrote Gilbert. “I felt drawn to him.”

Sugarman, evidently, felt drawn to the actor, too.

“He, in turn, gravitated to my injured soul, to my neediness,” she wrote. “My pain was something he related to, and I had plenty of it. I was fragile. I cried at the drop of a pin. I questioned who I was as a woman. I felt unlovable and undesirable. I didn’t see any meaning to my life. It was all just misery.”

At the time, Sugarman was with someone else.

“We began having an affair,” wrote Gilbert. “In retrospect, it was a risky thing to have done. Danny was an ex-junkie, and we were having unprotected sex. I was not in a good place psychologically. The breakup with Rob had left me traumatized, and I was lonely, scared, and desperate to be loved.”

Though Gilbert wrote that Sugarman often spoke about getting married, she broke things off in a phone call after moving to New York City.