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    Charlize Theron Covers Vogue, Opens Up About "Effortless" Relationship With Sean Penn

    Charlize Theron, Vogue Mario Testino/Vogue

    Charlize Theron has revealed the secret to her successful relationship with Sean Penn: friendship.

    "Sean and I have known each other for eighteen years. We were just really good friends," the 38-year-old beauty tells Vogue magazine while looking stunning on the cover in a fitted navy frock. "And it's been slow going because you are aware that you could screw that up and lose it. We had to think about it. But at the end of the day, it was somewhat effortless. It just kind of naturally happened, and before I knew it, I was in something that was making my life better—the people who really love me can see the effect it has had on me."

    Still, despite her happiness, the Oscar-winning actress struggles to maintain a relationship in the spotlight as the two attempt navigate their lives under the watchful media eye.

    VIDEO: Charlize Theron talks her new flick, Sean Penn

    Charlize Theron, Sean Penn Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

    "I don't know how you have a healthy relationship with the whole world knowing about it," she said before admitting. "Look, we're dating, and I don't think we were trying to hide anything. We were photographed; the relationship was kind of written about. I recently did a daylong press junket, which I hadn't done in forever, and it's a harsh reminder that whatever people try to hide a press junket behind, it's really a roundabout way of getting at as much private s--t as they can. It was all about what I like to eat and avoiding questions about Sean or my son."

    While the blond beauty was hesitant to open up about her hunky man, she did share why she finally began dating Sean after being single for years.

    Charlize Theron, Vogue Mario Testino/Vogue

    "I was single for a really long time. I was enjoying mommyhood. You just naturally become kind of selfish about your time, and all of it is dedicated to this little thing, whether he needs it or not," she explained. "And then they get into more of a schedule and you start to think, Wow, wait a second. There's this passionate creature in me. And going about dating in your late 30s is such a different ball game. I know so well what I want to fit in my life. And the simple answer to that is: Unless he can make my life better? My life is really pretty f--king good."

    Sean did indeed make Charlize's life better, as did her son, Jackson, whom she adopted in March 2012. According to the A Million Ways to Die in the West star, she has always wanted to adopt and she can't help but gush about her adorable son.

    NEWS: Charlize and Sean enjoy breakfast in Beverly Hills together

    Charlize Theron, Vogue Mario Testino/Vogue

    "Maybe it was just an awareness of the fact that at that time, orphanages were everywhere in South Africa," she explained of her desire to adopt. "But even in my relationship with Stuart [Townsend], that was something I was very clear about. We had very different ideas of what a family looked like. There's no judgment; that was not the reason why we broke up, but when we did, adopting was not a last resort for me—it was almost like a first resort. And it's the only thing in my life that's surpassed how great I thought it would be."

    As for her adorable son Jackson?

    "He likes big boys. He's super independent. His awareness just blows my mind," the proud mama dished. "He picks up on things really quickly. Shy at first, and then you can't stop him. But it's the shyness that I love because it's kind of a pensive quality—he susses out the situation, and then he'll step in and join the group."

    Too cute.

    PHOTOS: Charlize Theron's best looks

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