While she kept thinking about their huge age difference, she couldn't help but be attracted to him.
Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek and Jean Currivan Trebek's marriage of three decades, which is practically a lifetime, is a source of inspiration and a lesson on endurance for many. Not just because they held on to each other for so long but also because they helped each other grow through some of the lowest lows of their lives. That's mainly because they were very secure in the relationship, thereby, capable of helping each other.
It is feasible for a couple to fight against outward judgments and challenges together, but overcoming their own doubts to be with each other and emerge as secure partners is a real feat. Jean Currivan did just that when she found herself caught in a dilemma pertaining to their 26 years of an age gap.
Trebek met Currivan at a party in 1988, dazzled by her charm he asked her out to dinner and she said yes. From the very beginning, however, she was "really nervous" about dating a famous figure. Also because "It's Alex's job to be astute, perfect, and articulate on the air," she told PEOPLE.
By the time the game show host proposed to her, he was 50 and she was 28. She later admitted to PEOPLE that she did think that their age gap could be problematic. "I kept thinking, he's 24 years older than me." And while it might have been a deal-breaker for some, Jean explained that her connection with Alex overcame everything else. "There was just this deep sensitivity about him with a gruffy exterior," she said. "[T]here was something that just kept drawing me to him," she admitted.
Trebek also talked to PEOPLE about the age gap saying, "At first it worried me. But then I thought, 'The hell with it. We'll make it work.'" Currivan added, "I can understand why he was cautious about being with a younger woman. So I didn't try to push him. We just took it one day at a time." Eventually, their little steps led to a long journey together.
The father of two, however, was deeply pained when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2019. While he admitted, "I'm pretty satisfied with my life," he said his only one regret was not meeting his wife earlier in life.
"But my wife Jean and I have been together almost 29 years, and I was thinking about President Bush when he died, and all the comments about his life about what a nice guy he is, and how he and his wife had been together 73 years. I thought, oh my gosh... if I'd just met Jean in my 20s we could have had a longer life together," he added.
He quipped jokingly, "I guess if I’d met her when I was in my 20s she wouldn't have been born yet. But hey, 29 years is pretty good!"
Of course, it is and when one is a with a wife like Currivan, a bumpy road seems less daunting. Throughout his cancer battle, she stood by his side like a rock and supported him emotionally and otherwise. There were days when she couldn't bear to watch him in pain but she stayed strong for his sake and also empowered him. “It comes from a place of love, because I want to uplift him," she said.
"When I keep my own self buoyed and enjoying my life, I can actually share that with him. He can look at me and have a sense of ‘life is beautiful; my wife is doing something good,” she said.
For that, Trebek has always been grateful to her and has not shied away from expressing that.
He went so far as to fight his way back to life and hope for his "soulmate" when he had almost given up, owing to the immense pain. "There were moments of great pain, days when certain bodily functions no longer functioned, and sudden, massive attacks of great depression that made me wonder if it really was worth fighting on," he said.
"But I brushed that aside quickly because that would have been a massive betrayal," he went on. "A betrayal of my wife and soulmate, Jean, who has given her all to help me survive."
Now that Trebek is relatively healthy and recently welcomed their 30th anniversary together, we wish them a lifetime more of endurant companionship and love.