The untold truth of Alex Trebek’s marriage

Alex Trebek may be a famous figure who has millions of adoring fans thanks to his longtime (and record-setting) job as the host of Jeopardy! But when he goes home at the end of the workday, he leaves behind his lucrative career as a game show celebrity, and slips back into his role as the adoring husband to his wife Jean Currivan Trebek. Together since 1990, the two have had an enduring — and somewhat surprising — marriage.

After Alex’s first attempt at wedded bliss ended in divorce after seven years, according to People, friends tried to set up the newly single star with various women, including former Dharma & Greg and Castle alum Susan Sullivan, actress Stefanie Powers, and gossip writer Rona Barrett. However, Bob Murphy, Alex’s longtime friend and president of Merv Griffin Enterprises, says, “Alex was looking for a Jean and he found her.”

Alex may have found his match, but that doesn’t mean that his relationship is exactly what you’d expect. Here’s the untold truth of Alex Trebek’s marriage.

Jean Trebek was 'really nervous' when she first met Alex

Alex Trebek first met Jean Currivan, who was a New York native and real estate project manager at the time, at a party in 1988, a few years following his divorce from his first wife in 1981. The pair obviously hit it off because Alex decided to take a chance and asked Jean over to dinner at his home. She said yes, but apparently not without feeling apprehensive about dating the famous figure.

Jean later admitted to People that she was “really nervous” about getting involved with Alex, saying, “I was afraid I’d mispronounce my own name!” Surely most of the contestants who have competed on Jeopardy! can relate to that self-conscious concern.

Despite Jean’s initial apprehension, she explained that the classy host that contestants meet on the set of the game show and the intimidatingly dapper man that viewers at home see on-screen is different from the person she went on a date with. “Alex is really down to earth,” she said. “He’s much more casual than he is on the show.”

Jean also explained, “It’s Alex’s job to be astute, perfect, and articulate on the air. But he certainly doesn’t want to be that way at home.” She added, “People think he goes to bed in a suit. He doesn’t.” We may be able to accept that fact, but he likely doesn’t head to bed in an old t-shirt and boxers either. Maybe some sophisticated silk PJs?

Jean Trebek admits she wasn't sure about their age difference

Alex Trebek is quite a bit older than his wife Jean, who was just 24 years old when they met and 26 years old when they got engaged. Alex, on the other hand, was already 48 years old when they were introduced and had turned 50 by the time he proposed. And while celebrity relationships with uncomfortable age gaps aren’t much of an issue for a lot of couples in the entertainment industry, Jean admits that the age difference could have been problematic when she first got together with the TV host.

In January 2019, Jean reflected the situation, telling People, “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. “[T]here was something that just kept drawing me to him,” she admitted.

Alex also talked to People about the age gap back in 1990, saying, “At first it worried me. But then I thought, ‘The hell with it. We’ll make it work.'” Jean 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, one day at a time led to happily ever after for these two.

Alex Trebek had a houseguest when he started dating Jean

Despite the fact that Alex Trebek was divorced when he met Jean Trebek née Currivan, the unattached game show host wasn’t living alone. His mother Lucille was his roommate. However, Alex says that having his mom around didn’t cramp his style while he was dating. In fact, Lucille was quite accommodating. “If I was entertaining, she’d make herself scarce,” the surely appreciative son told People. He added, “She was the same way with Jean.”

Lucille was still living with the couple after they got married, which didn’t seem to be an issue either. In fact, Alex explained that his mom and wife “get along like a house on fire” and even “squeeze [him] out” at times.

Jean confirmed that she is indeed fond of her husband’s mother and often spends time with her mother-in-law, saying, “Lucille’s great. She has her own friends and does her own thing. And she’s there for me in the evenings if [Alex is] not home.”

This fondness for Lucille is perhaps why it’s not surprising (yet is still touching) that Alex got a little choked up while sending his mother a special message back in April 2016, saying, “I want to send out birthday greetings to a longtime fan of Jeopardy!, a woman named Lucille who today celebrates her 95th birthday. Way to go, Ma!” Indeed, way to go, Lucille!

Alex Trebek has one regret about meeting Jean

Alex and Jean Trebek were married in 1990, and while it’s been a seemingly happy relationship that’s certainly lasted the test of time, the TV host and adoring husband admits that he does have one regret when it comes to his marriage..

“I’m pretty satisfied with my life,” Alex said while chatting with People in January 2019. “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.”

While that is certainly a sweet reason for wishing that you’d met your significant other at a different time in your life, Alex also has the right perspective on the matter via his notable sense of humor. “I guess if I’d met her when I was in my 20s she wouldn’t have been born yet,” he joked (though, honestly, his comment was accurate). He then added, “But hey, 29 years is pretty good!” There’s no doubt about that.

Is Alex Trebek a prankster?

Alex Trebek may be known as a host who’s personality leans on the serious side thanks to the disposition he displays on Jeopardy! But it turns out that he has quite a sense of humor — at least when it comes to his relationship with his wife Jean.

A perfect example of this nature would be the way he proposed, a moment that some prefer to be traditionally formal. However, when Alex popped the question, he took a silly approach by pulling a prank on the woman he hoped would say “yes” to his marriage offer.

Deciding to ask Jean to marry him on her 26th birthday, Alex gave her black velvet pants and a matching bolero jacket as a gift. “I thought that was it,” Jean later revealed to People, adding, “Then he said, ‘Here’s a little something else,’ and he took out this little wicker box.” In the box, was a 16-carat sapphire engagement ring that also boasted six carats’ worth of diamonds. “It took my breath away. I mean, it was a rock,” she said.

Things didn’t get any less cheeky at their wedding. When Alex was asked by the officiant if he would take Jean to be his wife during their vows, he responded in a way that suited the Jeopardy! host. “The answer is… yes,” he said, which surely made his bride smile and maybe gave her a good laugh.

Alex Trebek and Jean are 'good friends' with their children

Not long after Alex and Jean Trebek were married, the newlyweds found out that Jean was pregnant. “I was a little shocked,” Alex admitted to People not long after finding out he was about to be a dad. “But it’s terrific,” he said, adding, “We wanted to have children, but we didn’t think it would happen that quickly.” How quick? They found out a baby was on the way three weeks after they got married. 

Alex and Jean became parents to a son named Matthew, who’s now a restaurant owner. The couple then welcomed a daughter into the family, Emily, who works in real estate. Alex also has an older, non-biological daughter, named Nicky, from his previous marriage who works with him on Jeopardy!

Alex opened up to W5 about his children in 2019, saying, “I’m very proud of [my son] because both he and his sister, Emily, have achieved elements of compassion in life that I don’t think I had at their age. And I don’t know if they got it from me or from their mother, who is an extremely wonderful human being, but they have it and I’m so proud that they do have it.”

Jean also talked about their children to People in 2019, saying, “They’re really sharp, and have done their due diligence in their respective endeavors. They’re both very compassionate, sensitive people. They’re really the best of Alex and I. … They’re our good friends.”

Alex and Jean Trebek enjoy a simple life

Alex Trebek is worth an estimated $75 million — in case you wondered how well it pays to host a hugely popular game show. But the Jeopardy! host and his wife Jean live a relatively simple lifestyle, unlike other celebs who like to flaunt their wealth or stars who are extravagant party animals. 

Alex explained his personal preference to People, saying, “I was never into going out to clubs. It wasn’t my scene.” Instead, the pair would rather spend their evenings enjoying dinner together and then watching a movie in bed. The husband who seems perfectly content with his quiet life with his wife did joke about their habits, though, revealing, “The other night was a red-letter day. I cooked for my wife and then we went out to a movie.”

Jean also explained the (perhaps unexpectedly) normal and moderate nature of their life together, writing on her Inside Wink blog, “Alex would much rather figure something out on his own, than call in someone to take care of it. For instance, when redoing my bathroom, he could have easily hired a crew to do it all…but he didn’t.” She also explained, “He really doesn’t like it when I spend a lot of money on him, nor does he enjoy receiving jewelry or clothes… name brands don’t really matter to him.” This is definitely a couple who would rather spend time together than spend their money on frivolous luxuries.

Alex and Jean Trebek have their 'challenges' and 'beautiful times'

While Alex Trebek and his wife share a simple life, Jean admitted that they’ve had “challenges.” However, she also explained to People, “And then we have our really beautiful times, where we’re just so blessed to know that we’re in each other’s courtyard.”

Their beautiful times often involve memorable moments and treasured family traditions. “I have been part of and enjoyed many traditions throughout my life, and they have all served me well… creating a sense of connectedness and comfort via familiarity and consistency,” Jean wrote on her Inside Wink blog. “Traditions can be small, like sending out a few yearly cards, or grand, like annual Thanksgiving feasts, however ALL traditions are important. They are touchstones of life’s moments.”

Trebek traditions include tasty recipes like Norwegian Christmas Cake and a “creamy, easy, and delicious” potato salad that’s perfect for special occasions with the people you care about. “My family has always enjoyed Fourth of July celebrations. Ever since our children were little, we have had barbeques in our backyard. We get lots of hot dogs, hamburgers, coleslaw and, of course, this recipe for potato salad,” Jean wrote. She continued to share a peek into the memories they make, writing, “Then, our friends and neighbors come over and we celebrate into the evening. There are fireworks always going off near us and we can hear them during the party.” Those do indeed sound like “beautiful times.”

Jean Trebek practices alternative therapies which 'uplift' Alex

While Jean Trebek used to have a career in real estate, she now works as “a Professional Religious Science Practitioner, Reiki Master, and Sound Healer,” according to her bio on Inside Wink, a blog she co-founded. Survivor Net also explains that she’s “a licensed practitioner of Religious Science at the North Hollywood Church of Religious Science.”

In November 2019, Jean talked to Survivor Net about her sound-related work, saying, “The human voice has so much power and healing.” She continued, “It’s like how, when a mother sings a lullaby to her baby, it’s the intention in her voice that is calming the baby. She’s singing the words of love and beauty to this little baby, and the baby feels that in the vibration of her voice.”

“It’s really about self-love,” Jean explained while discussing the techniques that she uses and the mindset that she encourages. “It really does boil down to being kind to life and [to] your fellow human beings and having compassion for each other’s journey.”

Jean also opened up about how her practices help her and, in turn, those around her, including her husband Alex. “It comes from a place of love, because I want to uplift him … and when I keep my own self buoyed and enjoying my life, I can actually share that with him,” she said. “He can look at me and have a sense of ‘life is beautiful; my wife is doing something good.”

Jean Trebek is finding 'peace within' during Alex's battle with cancer

In March 2019, Alex Trebek announced that he had been diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. While he’s obviously facing a daunting fight, he’s acknowledged that Jean has also been through a lot during his battle.

Alex talked to People in May 2019, saying, “Jeannie is wonderful. She cried of course this morning when she got the [good] news [about my tumors shrinking]. But it’s been a lot. It’s a lot of pressure.” He continued, “My heart goes out to caregivers. Because they have to deal with their loved ones suffering and they also don’t always know how to help because there’s not much they can do, except try to make you feel more comfortable, at ease and not worry about ordinary stuff.”

“They’ve also got to be strong and not allow their mate not to feel like they’re downhearted too,” he said, while also admitting to Good Morning America that same month that he’s “used to dealing with pain,” but isn’t “used to dealing with is the surges that come on suddenly of deep, deep sadness,” saying that it “brings tears to [his] eyes.”

Despite the pressure and the emotional burden, Jean wrote about “finding peace” on Inside Wink in August 2019. “What’s helped me the most in becoming truly peaceful within, is allowing myself to have my feelings without judgment,” she wrote. “I no longer try to suppress them. That’s the first step…and it is huge.”

Alex and Jean Trebek are 'getting through the changes' and learning to let go

The Trebeks are facing a tough time right now due to Alex’s cancer battle, which may be why Jean took to Inside Wink in September 2019 to write about the fact that “letting go isn’t always easy,” and in October, shared her thoughts about “getting through the changes” in life.

“Some transitions can be prepared for, some are totally unexpected, some are wanted, while others are certainly not,” she wrote. “Whatever the case may be — a new baby, a career change, caring for your parents, or perhaps a death of a loved one — transitions happen to all of us, and we all move through them in our own unique way.”

In the second Inside Wink post, Jean wrote about “getting through the changes” that come with life and shared “some suggestions to help ease those times of transitions… that can often bring about feelings of anxiety, uncertainty, fear, and sadness.” She advises those who are struggling to “accept your feelings,” “ask for help,” and “be with your pet,” among other ways to make hard times a little easier.

As for Alex, he talked to W5 in October 2019 about what lies ahead, saying that he’s not afraid of dying. “I’ve lived a good life, a full life, and I’m nearing the end of that life. … Why should I be afraid of it?” A heartfelt and heartwarming sentiment, even if it is heartbreaking at the same time.

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