11/24/2013 AT 4:25 PM ET
Want to know the secret to a long, happy marriage? Ask a couple who’ve been together for a long time.
And few people in the U.S. have been married longer than John and Ann Betar – the couple are set to celebrate their 81st wedding anniversary on Monday.
The Betars, who knew each other as teens in Bridgeport, Conn., eloped in 1932.
The couple, who lived in the same close-knit Syrian neighborhood, fell for each other and came up with the plan to run away together after her father tried to push her into a marriage with another man, the Daily Mail reports.
“[We] had no choice to elope because my father was set on me marrying a much older man, and I was 17,” Ann, 98, says. “John was not the boy next door, but the boy across the street, who I loved. He was 21 and used to drive me to high school in his Ford Roadster.”
“That’s why she married me, she loved that car,” joked John, 102, as he held his wife’s hand during an interview at their home on Long Island Sound, N.Y.
“Everyone was hopping mad, and my wife’s aunt consoled my father-in-law by telling him not to worry, the marriage won’t last,” John laughed.
The couple, who were named the longest married couple in America by Worldwide Marriage Encounter earlier this year, have 14 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren, and their oldest daughter is 80.
When asked how their marriage has stood the test of time, John advised, “The key is to always agree with your wife.”