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(USA TODAY) In a first-person piece for theNew York Times,Maria Belloexplains and explores her search for love.

The 46-year-oldTouchandGrown Ups 2actress reveals she's been in a long-term relationship with her best female friend in a column titled "Coming Out as a Modern Family," published Friday. What prompted it? Her son, Jackson, 12, was asking her about "romantic stuff."

She started thinking about her past relationships and re-read journals she had kept, noting she had fallen in love with two men while working on films with them, "only to find that when the filming ended, so did the relationship."

And she "read about the man who asked me to marry him four years ago over the phone, before we had even kissed. Three months later we were in his kitchen throwing steaks at each other's heads in anger."

(Bello previously was engaged to musician Bryn Mooser.)

When was she happiest? She recalled a woman she had met "sitting in a bar wearing a fedora and speaking in her Zimbabwean accent. We had an immediate connection but didn't think of it as romantic or sexual. She was one of the most beautiful, charming, brilliant and funny people I had ever met, but it didn't occur to me, until that soul-searching moment in my garden, that we could perhaps choose to love each other romantically."

She identifies her as "Clare."The Hollywood Reportersays she's Clare Munn, chairman of the new media company The Communication Group.

Writes Bello, "What had I been waiting for all of these years? She is the person I like being with the most, the one with whom I am most myself."

So now, Bello, whose most recent film isPrisoners,says she has two partners in her life: Clare and Dan McDermott, a TV executive with whom she had Jackson in 2001. She says "Jack, Clare, Dan and I" have dinner together "almost every night. ... Mostly the four of us laugh a lot together." Jackson, who is a fan of ABC'sModern Family,says they have their own version. And, writes Bello, "I love our modern family."

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