Maria Bello
Credit: John M. Heller/Getty Images

In a new “Modern Love” column, actress Maria Bello describes her relationship with a woman named Clare — which she began after a lifetime of dating mostly men and one other woman.

Bello says that she and Clare met two years before they became romantically involved, eventually becoming best friends. After an epiphany brought on by old photo albums and journals — “It didn’t occur to me, until that soul-searching moment in my garden, that we could perhaps choose to love each other romantically” — Bello shared her “confusing feelings” with her closest pal. After that, she writes, she and Clare “began the long, painful, wonderful process of trying to figure out what our relationship was supposed to be.”

The Golden Globe nominee worried about how the relationship would affect Jackson, her son with TV executive Dan McDermott, as well as her career: “I have never defined myself by whom I slept with, but I know others have and would.” She also feared that her “large, Italian-Polish, ‘traditional’ Philadelphia family” wouldn’t understand her love for Clare — though in the end, her parents surprised her by being fully supportive. Bello writes that Jackson, too, easily accepted the news: after she confessed her involvement with Clare, he responded by saying, “Mom, love is love, whatever you are.”

And so, Bello continues, she, Jackson, Clare, and Dan have formed their own quirky modern family — one that frequently gathers to watch ABC’s eponymous sitcom and cheer Jackson on at his soccer tournaments. It’s also one that seems to reject labels. Bello chooses not to call herself either gay or bisexual; instead, she writes, “I would like to consider myself a ‘whatever.'”

That said, she continues, “whomever I love, however I love them, whether they sleep in my bed or not, or whether I do homework with them or share a child with them, ‘love is love.’ And I love our modern family.”

Read Bello’s full column at the New York Times.