Before meeting Camila Alves, Matthew McConaughey wasn’t quite sure he would ever find "the one." It wasn't for lack of trying. The star recalls deciding he was "looking too hard" and needed to sit back a bit.
"I was like, 'Wait, just wait. Be yourself. She’ll come if she’s supposed to come. And if she doesn’t, that’s okay, you’re still a good man, McConaughey,'" the 50-year-old Oscar winner tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story, where he exclusively opens up about his life, his new memoir, Greenlights, and the "awe-inspiring" gift of fatherhood.
"That’s when she showed up, and she moved right to left in front of my eyes across that club. It was as if she was floating. And I did not say, ‘Who is that?’ I said, ‘What is that?’ And then introduced myself."
That was 2006 and McConaughey hasn’t looked back. "Since that evening I have not wanted to spend time with any other woman, definitely have not wanted to sleep with anyone else. I’ve not wanted to have children with anyone else other than her," he says of his enduring bond with his Brazilian-born wife, Camila. "We have a love that we never question."
- For more from PEOPLE’s exclusive interview with Matthew McConaughey and an exclusive excerpt from his memoir, Greenlights, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday
The couple, who married in 2012 and share three kids, Levi, 12, Vida, 10, and Livingston, 8, share similar values, a love of family and a dedication to raising strong, kind kids.
"All three are very, very caring and kind individuals," says McConaughey, who notes he and Camila, 37, an entrepreneur, philanthropist and founder of Women of Today (WOT) online community, are on the same page about not sheltering the kids from either the outside world or their dad’s celebrity.
"We don’t want to insulate them overly from the world [or] from the success that I’ve had as ‘Matthew McConaughey, actor, celebrity.’ We let them know that Papa’s celebrity does not define Papa. Doesn’t whatsoever, but is Papa a celebrity? Yes. At the same time we say, 'That’s not where our worth comes from.'"
Instead, McConaughey says he and Camila make sure the kids know their worth comes from something far deeper. "[We say,] ‘Our real merit comes from how we’re trying to be as people, how we are as parents, how we love you, how we love each other…And Mom and Dad aren’t perfect at it, but we try to do our best.'"
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