When Monica Ketchum, 31, was estranged from her family after coming out as gay, she reached out to her favourite school teacher.
Michelle Foster, 56, who said she was ‘always willing to be supportive of former students,’ was happy to reconnect.
They met for lunch one day in August 2021 and spoke for five straight hours.
‘We grew close and became great friends – we could talk about anything,’ said Monica, a forklift driver and content creator from Big Rapids, Michigan, US.
‘We were both in really dark places and finding someone you can relate to and be vulnerable with felt safe.’
Their friendship soon intensified, turning into something more.
‘I’ve always been a huge caregiver and one day she said ‘let me take care of you’ – I can’t tell you how good that felt,’ Michelle added.
But while Michelle was worried that their 25-year age gap would be too much, it was less of an issue for Monica.
‘I was always attracted to older people – I’m attracted to an old soul, so age has never really been a thing for me,’ Monica said.
‘Michelle and I were always close, and we found commonality, so I didn’t even see an age gap.’
She went on: ‘Another question I get asked is whether I loved her when I was 13 – obviously not! At the time, we didn’t have any relationship besides her being a good teacher.’
Michelle added: ‘I was worried about the age gap and I was worried about how we first met, but I had to let it all go.
‘It became clear I had to make a choice for myself, and when I did, it was the weight of the world lifted. Once I let go, it didn’t matter what anyone thought.’
From there, Michelle said, the relationship ‘flowered’ – but it’s not been without its difficulties.
‘People always ask if she’s my mum – I even recently designed a t-shirt saying ‘no, she’s not my mum,’ said Monica.
‘I try to let it go but it does hurt – age doesn’t matter to us, so why does it matter to other people?’
Monica even gets asked if Michelle is her grandma.
Despite all that, the pair, who both have their own children from previous relationships, are now engaged and stronger than ever.
‘I realised other people can think what they think and I just have to do what I need to do to be happy,’ said Michelle.
‘I now just think how lucky am I to have such a wonderful beautiful soul to spend the rest of my days with.’
Now, they put their relationship out there, to show others in the LBGTQ+ community and other age gap couples that it’s okay to love who you love.
‘We want to be where others come to find hope and light and safety or need a friend,’ said Monica.
‘We want to encompass everybody in a loving way and promote that love is love.’
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