It's never too late for love
Carrie Forrest, 44, and Alan Forrest, 76, are a happily married couple living in California, the only thing that separates them from the status quo is their 32-year age gap. Carrie runs a popular food website, while Alan is retired from a successful career in the finance sector.
Due to their unique situation, they decided to start a podcast to help other people who are navigating the world of large age gaps.
“We want to offer support and community to a group of people we feel are often ostracized and neglected.”
But how did their own relationship start?
Back in the 90s, Carrie worked for a hospital foundation and this hospital was one of Alan’s clients. They soon became familiar over several phone calls.
“There was such a warm connection that I was interested in a personal meeting. After that meeting, everything clicked and our romance bloomed. I knew he was older and vice versa, but we were shocked to find that the age difference was over three decades!”
They became a couple in 1998 but marriage was the last thing on either of their minds. Alan was in the process of getting divorced and he was in no rush to get married again.
“He was interested in having a serious, committed relationship but I think because of the financial implications [of divorce] he was concerned about getting into that situation again.”
But that all changed in 2003 when Alan proposed, Carrie was 27 and Alan was 59. Carrie still hadn’t told her parents about her relationship for fear of their reaction, but the proposal pushed her to finally confront whatever response was waiting.
Additionally, Alan is a couple of years older than Carrie’s mum which made it difficult for her to realise the couple were genuine about each other.
“My mother was very upset when I told her about Alan, she was concerned that Alan was using me.”
Alan was upfront with his two daughters, who are both older than Carrie, about the relationship and what his intentions were. Overall, once their friends and family had seen how much love the couple had for each other, they were accepting of the relationship.
Being married helped their peers take them more seriously. Although attitudes are changing, many people still believe marriage to be the biggest commitment a person can make, so by doing this, they were breaking down some stereotypes of age gap relationships.
“We already have this stereotype working against us: that we’re not a serious couple or it’s not a real relationship and being married is one way to prove that we are a legitimate couple. That’s why I say we’re married so people understand that we’re not just ‘having fun’.”
The option of having children came up quite early in the relationship and they decided that the possibility was there but that it was highly unlikely. Alan already had children, as well as grandchildren, and raising more in his retirement was not in his plan. Carrie also knew having children was not essential for her to feel fulfilled in life.
“We decided fairly early on in our relationship not to have children together. I was neutral, I kind of assumed I would have children one day, but I also wanted a career and be able to support myself financially. I never had that urge to try and have children.”
Carrie thinks her need to be financially stable played a role in her decision to not have children. She is always conscious about financial security due to her upbringing, and everyone knows that having children is a full-time job without the paycheck.
“I’m very busy with my career and Alan is enjoying his retirement. We appreciate we would not have had the time to be good parents.”
It isn’t just the two of them in the house though, the introverted pair also have a couple of cats. When they are not in the house, they like going out for food, travelling or exercising together, but sometimes this can lead to unwanted attention.
Often when they are out or on holiday, they don’t show a lot of affection for fear of judgement. This leads strangers to think they are father and daughter, but if others find out they are actually husband and wife, some react badly.
“On a cruise trip to Europe, two single ladies in their fifties asked if Alan and his daughter would like to join them for dinner. When Alan said I was his wife and he would ask about dinner, they said to forget it and walked away quickly.”
Sometimes the outright look on someone’s face can say it all.
“While on a tour in Europe, two elderly men sitting in front of us asked if I was his daughter or girlfriend. When Alan said his wife, they looked shocked.”
They have found that if they go out for lunch instead of dinner, they get less negativity.
“We’re quite introverted and we don’t like conflict or want to draw attention to ourselves. When we used to live in Los Angeles and we would go out for dinner, especially on Valentine’s Day, there were more stares and I found it very uncomfortable... I don’t like getting stared at.”
A common question directed to age gap couples is whether they are worried about the future. In Carrie and Alan’s case, the short answer is no. Carrie’s website focuses on healthy cooking and the pair like to exercise together.
“We are both extremely healthy and make the effort to stay that way. Alan has planned very carefully for end of life issues including both financial and medical.”
They have been happily together for over twenty years and bring out the best in each other.
“Despite the odds, we trusted our love and overcame so many obstacles. We’ve gone through so many changes, moves, stresses, and hardships (I got cancer in 2012!) but feel our relationship is stronger than ever.”
At the end of the day, Carrie puts it best:
“Life is too short to pass up love!”