47 year old Melissa Gilbert filed for divorce this week from her second husband, Bruce Boxleitner, after 16 years of marriage. The couple has a 15 year old son together, Michael (named for Gilbert’s former “Little House on the Prairie” Co-Star, Michael Landon). Gilbert’s filing referenced the fact that the couple has been separated since January, 2011. She cites irretrievable breakdown (legalese for a “No fault” divorce), and looks for joint custody, no alimony. All apparently very non-emotional stuff. But in Gilbert’s March announcement of the separation which led to this divorce, she says “… we have 4 incredible sons together.” And you begin to get a sense the amount of love and energy that went into this relationship.
Bruce has two sons from his first marriage with actress Kathryn Holcomb (Sam & Lee ages 31 & 26). Melissa has a son from her first marriage to Bo Brinkman (22 year old Dakota). Melissa is clearly equally proud of every single one of them. Which is not a simple feat (as anyone who has ever read/or lived a fairy tale with a step-mother in it can attest).
Although Boxleitner and Gilbert had initially met in the 1980s on a “Battle of the Network Stars,” they didn’t date until 1992. Shortly after Gilbert’s first divorce, she was set up on a date with Bruce by none other than his ex-wife, actress Kathryn Holcomb.
Melissa may be the ultimate step-mother candidate. An adopted child herself, she helped pave the way for her younger brother Jonathon Gilbert to join the cast of “Little House on the Prairie”, and was a role model for her mother’s adopted daughter Sara Gilbert who became an actress after being impressed by Melissa’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Gilbert also served two terms as president of the Screen Actors’ Guild. It seems she is a natural at mentoring and nurturing others.
Maybe Kathryn Holcomb had a sense that her sons’ dad would re-marry some actress, and it might as well be one she can trust. Or maybe it was all a happy accident. But, it is clear that her sons have spent the past 16 years of their lives with a step mother who counts them as her own.
What We Love: Divorce does not have to mean animosity and re-marriage can bring even more love into the lives of the children involved. We just have to let it.