John and Ann Betar of Bridgeport, Conn., are celebrating their 81st wedding anniversary on Monday, earning them the title of America's "longest married couple." When they eloped on Nov. 25, 1932 — Ann's father had plans to marry her to a man 20 years older — her family consoled the patriarch by assuring him Ann and John's marriage wouldn't last.
It has lasted — 81 years. Naturally, everybody wants to know the secret of their relationship's longevity. The first rule would seem to be living a long time: John Betar is 102; Ann is 98.
But the Betars have some practical advice, too. Listening to them, you get the sense they bring different things to the marriage. Here's some of their wisdom:
Work at your marriage
"Marriage isn't a lovey-dovey thing, y'know, for 80 years," Ann says. "You learn to accept one another's way of life."
"Devote your time to understanding one another," she adds. "Really, that's the whole thing."
"We always hold hands," John adds.
Appreciate your family
"Well, we just take things as they come, and we're contented, and we have lovely family to support us," John says. "Beautiful."
"Agreement, disagreements, preparation on brining up your kids," Ann adds. "That was the main interest, was your children."
Roll with it
"Be content with what you have and what you're doing," says John.
"We have watched the world change together," he continues. "The key is to always agree with your wife."
Bingo! says Kiri Blakeley at The Stir. A long, happy marriage has "nothing to do with keeping the sex spicy or the dinner hot or the children quiet or the anti-depressants nearby (though those things don't hurt)." It has to do with the old maxim "Happy wife, happy life." John clearly has "magic 'agree with whatever my wife says' superpowers" — that, or he's simply "the smartest man on the planet."
Not too surprisingly, self-proclaimed "unmarried, never-married anti-marriage activist" Catherine Deveny thinks the secret-of-marriage thing is bunk, and she says so in The Guardian. "I find the 'relationships are hard work' mantra questionable at best, and harmful at worst," she writes. "Relationships shouldn't be hard work. Relationships survive because of luck and happy willing effort." Some couples who "work their guts out" grow apart; others "cruise along, happily growing around each other like trellised roses."
Deveney's bottom line is that "love conquers all," not "obligation." Still, she isn't a total wet blanket. "Reading about Ann and John's 81 years together delights me to the core," she says. "It is not marriage that does it for me, it's the love. Watching the interview moved me, because they looked happy. "
So without further ado, here's the happy couple. Happy Anniversary, Mr. and Mrs. Betar: