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Ryan O’Neal on Farrah Fawcett: “I Wish We Had” Married

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Farrah Fawcett and Ryan O'Neal in 1984.

Ryan O'Neal and Farrah Fawcett had a love story unlike any other, the actor tells USA Today.

O'Neal, 71, details their 30-year romance in a new book, Both of Us: My Life With Farrah (Crown Archetype, $26). "Maybe this was my way of trying to bring her back," the actor explains. "At least it was a way to stay connected to her."

The Love Story actor begins by describing the first time he laid eyes on Fawcett at her then-husband Lee Majors' home in 1979. "I first saw her in their driveway, and she lit up the day," O'Neal recalls. "The sun came out. But I didn't see her as someone for me. She was married to a friend."

Related: PHOTOS: Remembering Farrah Fawcett (1947-2009)

That marriage soon ended, and Fawcett and O'Neal quickly began a decades-long courtship. Though they never married ("I wish we had, but we were rebels," O'Neal says), they were exclusive to each other. The stars welcomed son Redmond in 1985. "That brought a new level of the relationship, a new excitement," O'Neal says. "She was just blown away by this little redhead."

Things changed in 1997, however, when Fawcett walked in on O'Neal having an affair with a younger woman; he claimed it was his only infidelity. "Never before," O'Neal says, "though she was suspicious of me since I had a reputation."

Related: PHOTOS: High-profile affairs

O'Neal partially blamed Fawcett's menopause for causing him to stray. "I'm not a doctor, but I know for a woman that's a part of their life when they have a struggle. . . She seemed to be mad at me all the time. And then I met someone who wasn't mad at me all the time. It's as simple as that."

The actor does, however, take ownership of his own shortcomings in their courtship. "I'm hard to live with," O'Neal says.

O'Neal reunited with Fawcett about a year before she was diagnosed with anal cancer in 2006. "I stayed as close to her as I could," he tells USA Today. "And she needed me."

During 62-year-old Fawcett's final days in an L.A. hospital in June 2009, "I asked her to forgive me," O'Neal says. "Forgive me for everything. I still ask her that. I used to more. But I feel silly talking to a wall."

Related: PHOTOS: Stars who beat cancer

O'Neal, who is currently battling stage 2 prostate cancer, says his recent diagnosis "hasn't taken me down. I feel fine."

The actor believes he and Fawcett will one day be reunited. "She is why I don't fear passing. I know she's waiting for me."

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