Maria Bello was recovering from a life-threatening illness in 2013 when she made a discovery that changed her life: She was in love with her best friend, a woman named Clare.
Maria Bello had already had a son, Jackson, with a man. They were no longer together, but he was certainly a part of her life. But the feelings she had for Clare were absolutely there. It wasn’t until her son asked her point blank about it that she admitted to it. His response floored her.
“Mom, love is love, whatever you are,” her son Jackson told her.
That proverbial mouths-of-babes utterance laid the groundwork for a written essay from Maria Bello that blew up into a viral sensation that year. It was called “Coming Out As a Modern Family” and was published in the New York Times column “Modern Love.”
Maria Bello started reading through journals she had kept over the years, from the time she was 13 years old. “I thought I was going to take a walk down memory lane and instead I started uncovering these pieces of myself and asking myself questions,” she says.
“I realized at the end I have no answers for anyone, I just continue to have questions,” says Bello.
Somewhere along the way, she realized that it was far more important to live honestly about who you are, to admit that relationships change sometimes.
“I think that to live honestly, to accept that relationships are fluid and constantly changing and so are our families, and to be honest about it as opposed to trying to hold onto something or keep it in a box is much more healthy.”
Now Maria Bello’s essay that launched it all is the basis of a longer book from her called “Whatever…Love Is Love: Questioning the Labels We Give Ourselves.”
In her new book Maria Bello examines the myths that so many believe about partnership—that the partnership begins when the sex begins, that partnerships are static, that you have to love yourself before you can be loved, and turns them on their heads. Bello explores how many different relationships—romantic, platonic, spiritual, familial, educational—helped define her life. She encourages women to realize that the only labels we have are the ones we put on ourselves, and the best, happiest partnerships are the ones that make your life better, even if they don’t fit the mold of “typical.”