It’s been over a decade since Hilarie Burton and Jeffrey Dean Morgan began dating, but the One Tree Hill alum can still recall in perfect detail the night she met her husband.
“When he came along, he was so sure of himself,” Burton, who was introduced to The Walking Dead star Morgan at an Irish pub in Los Angeles by Danneel Ackles and her husband, actor Jensen Ackles, told PEOPLE. “I was not a girl anyone pursued. I’ve always been alpha. And Jeffrey was like, ‘You’re going to be my girlfriend.’”
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She continued, “It was so nice to be pursued. He’s a cute dude! And I liked that he knew exactly who he was. His confidence was intoxicating.”
In Burton’s new memoir, The Rural Diaries, she opened up about her husband, whom she married in 2019, and the life they’ve built together on a 100-acre farm in upstate New York with their children Gus and George.
Burton had begun dating the actor just a few months when she became pregnant with Gus; soon after his birth, the three moved to Hudson Valley, where they bought a cabin before later upgrading to the farm.
“The ease in which Jeffrey and I were able to live together was a surprise,” she said. “I think it was really shocking to my family members and friends, because I was always the girl who was very cautious. I’d thought my entire life out, and [moving] was crazy, like, ‘Let’s do it! Let’s run away!’ But it worked out!”
The actress went on to say her relationship has allowed her to be more authentic to her own self.
“Jeffrey is the same guy now that he was when I met him,” Burton said. “He knew 100 percent who he was and that was a delight. Because I could be the one who could experiment. Being with someone so solid allowed me to grow.”
As for life on the farm, it has changed Burton too.
“Moving here was a let go,” she said. “There is a very different view of what is attractive. An attractive woman is one who is hard-working, who can handle animals and lift up bags of dirt, not one with highlights or abs or nails. I’ve never felt more valued.”
The couple, who continue to travel back and forth for required work, are both responsible for chores around the farm. “We divide and conquer,” she said. “Jeff likes going out to feed the animals in the afternoon and scratch their heads. There’s a lot going on. And it’s good work. We feel good at the end of the day.”
Given their dating history, Burton laughs at the notion that she is still a newlywed since she and the actor wed last October.
“We’ve lived as husband and wife forever,” she said. “But we like being married.”
However, Burton admitted that the idea of a wedding wasn’t always at the front of her mind.
“I had reached a point where I was perfectly fine keeping on keeping on,” she said. “But Jeffrey was like, ‘Wouldn’t it be great [to get married]? Gus would be my best and George will be there.’ That picture he painted was really attractive to me. Our wedding was a big thank you to all the people who have supported us.”
Now, Burton says her favorite moments on the farm are her nightly family walks where she can look at the life she’s built with her family.
“I have pinch me moments every day,” Burton said. “My son was a gift, my daughter was a surprise and Jeffrey was a whirlwind. Watching all of them engage feels surreal. I have so much gratitude.”
The Rural Diaries is available in select bookstores on May 5.