A couple in Los Angeles, California, who have both lived past 100 years and have been married for 78 years, don't necessarily credit love for keeping them together.
"We don’t know anyone else over 100," Morrie Markoff, with his wife Betty, told The Guardian. "We are really oddities: two people married for 78 years, one 103, the other 100. We’ve outlived everybody. And it’s rare, I recognize that. We’re very lucky. The best I can wish you is our luck."
“We’ve been together for nearly eight decades, and we still haven’t killed each other!” Morrie said.
“Though we’ve tried a few times,” Betty said in response. “We’ve had plenty of run-ins, oh my God … but he never hit me, and I never hit him. Though I think I pushed him once.”
Betty doesn't think there is a secret to making a marriage work so long, but there are things you should do.
“Just don’t let every complaint turn to anger," she said. "Tolerance and respect. And you’ve got to like them. Morrie would never use the word love; I do, but the actions are the same on either part."
Morrie does not use the term "love" because of a connotation it has to him.
“To me, love is possessive; it’s controlling and demanding," he said. "The word that I would rather use instead is ‘caring.’ You care about people. ‘Care,' to me, has a much deeper meaning. Love is an esoteric word, but one that people also use to mean all sorts of off-hand things. ‘I love playing tennis,’ and such. I hug Betty constantly, I kiss her constantly, I care very much about her.”
Morrie said the day he got together with Betty was the most fortunate of his life. They met in 1938 at a wedding for Betty's cousin.
“On my right was Rose Lebovsky, a very pretty girl, sophisticated, with wealthy parents," Morrie recalls. "Betty has asked, 'Why did you pick me?' And I say, 'It’s because you ate less,'" he said.
“He was so handsome, with curly black hair," Betty said of her husband, a former machinist. "And on one of our first dates, the car broke down and he fixed it quietly and uncomplainingly, just like that. No fuss, unlike other men. I was impressed."
Morrie lived in California and was very frank about wanting Betty to join him there.
"Oh hell no," Betty said when asked if the marriage proposal was memorable. "He never proposed. He just asked, 'Would you like to live in California?'"
Betty made the trip by bus alone after Morrie sent her money for the fare. He was at the bus stop when she arrived after the four-day journey, and they found a rabbi they could afford and were married.
“May the marriage be as pure as the gold in the ring,” the rabbi said, which made Betty and Morrie “[look] at each other and almost burst into laughter” because they had fake gold rings from Woolworths.
Morrie, now 103, had an art show when he turned 100 exhibiting his scrap-metal sculptures, photographs and paintings. The couple will soon appear in "Aging Gracefully," a book of photos of centenarians by Karsten Thormaehlen. They are the only married couple featured in the book.
“I’ve lived a long life and a full one,” Morrie said. “I’ve never known a minute of boredom. I’ve always been busy, with work, or making things, or photography or travel, or most recently writing [he’s finished a memoir]. And there’s always another book to read. I sometimes say: I have so much to do, I don’t have time to die.”
As for his relationship with Betty, Morrie says: “After 78 years, I can say I didn’t make a mistake. We’ve had our ups and downs, but we’re still here.”
People who reach the age of 100 or older are considered the fastest growing part of the world's population, according to The Centenarian. There are about 450,000 worldwide, and 72,000 in the U.S. alone. By 2050, there could be close to 1 million in the U.S.