updated 02/21/2013 AT 9:15 AM ET
•originally published 02/21/2013 AT 8:00 AM ET
Speaking out for the first time about his former fiancée’s suicide, actor and writer-producer Dean Cain tells PEOPLE that Mindy McCready was deeply troubled even 15 years ago, but it was her manipulations and lies – not substance abuse – that sank their future together back then.
“I’m saddened to hear of her passing, but I’m not surprised,” says Cain, 46, whose starring role in TV’s Lois & Clark ended just as he and McCready began their relationship in 1997.
They lived together and were engaged, but things imploded after a year. From his Los Angeles home on Monday, one day after McCready fatally shot herself, Cain struggled to remember any joy to their relationship: “I can’t paint too pretty a picture. She would start arguments, start drama. Things weren’t allowed to be good.”
Though drugs and alcohol would later send McCready to rehab, Cain said neither was a factor in their relationship – or its demise.