By Joey Nolfi
July 26, 2018 at 03:19 PM EDT

Michelle Williams has for the first time opened up about her secret, “very sacred and very special” marriage to indie rocker Phil Elverum.

Appearing on the September 2018 cover of Vanity Fair, Williams confirmed her union to the Mount Eerie musician, which took place at a private ceremony in the Adirondacks. Several friends attended the event, as did the Manchester by the Sea actress’ 12-year-old daughter Matilda, whom she had with the late Heath Ledger, and Elverum’s three-year-old daughter from a previous marriage.

“Obviously I’ve never once in my life talked about a relationship,” Williams told the publication in the issue’s accompanying profile, which also touches on the death of Elverum’s wife, illustrator and musician Geneviève Castrée, who died in July 2016 after a battle with inoperable stage-4 pancreatic cancer. “But Phil isn’t anyone else. And that’s worth something. Ultimately the way he loves me is the way I want to live my life on the whole. I work to be free inside of the moment. I parent to let Matilda feel free to be herself, and I am finally loved by someone who makes me feel free.”

Williams, next set to appear in the Marvel film Venom on Oct. 5, said Elverum moved from his Washington state home to live with his new family, which still grapples with Ledger’s 2008 death. She admitted it has been a decade-long struggle to cope with his absence, but “never gave up on love” and finding the same kind of “radical acceptance” she found with the Australian actor.

“I always say to Matilda, ‘Your dad loved me before anybody thought I was talented, or pretty, or had nice clothes,’” she continued.

Though she initially didn’t want to lift the veil on her relationship, she explained there existed a “tease” and “lure” of helping someone with her story: “What if somebody who has always journeyed in this way, who has struggled as much as I struggled, and looked as much as I looked, finds something that helps them?” she added. “Don’t settle for something that feels like a prison, or is hard, or hurts you… If it doesn’t feel like love, it’s not love.”

Later in the piece, Williams discussed the pay gap controversy that bubbled up late last year after a Washington Post article detailed a significant difference between the reshoot salaries of Williams and Mark Wahlberg, her costar in Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World. When the story first broke, Williams admitted she felt like “no one cared” she received only a fraction of what Wahlberg did for the film’s 10-day retool, but after actress Jessica Chastain publicized the disparity on Twitter, Williams felt it spread “like wildfire.”

“I was one woman by myself… and I couldn’t do anything about it. But in the wolf pack — the phrase Abby Wambach uses — things are possible. And that’s really what it took: somebody who was at the head of the pack, Jessica Chastain, pulling me up with her, and then all these other women surrounding me, teaching me,” she said. Later, in an email to the piece’s author, she added: “Women have to be watchdogs for each other. A great change has come, but if it is for me or just within my industry, it won’t be enough… Women must recognize what power we have and where — however small and dull it might feel — and use it to advocate on behalf of others for the betterment of us all.”

Read Williams’ full Vanity Fair story here.