“He drives me so crazy! I want more time with him and yet he only gives me two days a week!”
“Has it always been this way?”
“Well, yes. But I thought he would change after we had been together for awhile.”
“I need her to have more drive. More ambition. She seems to be okay with just staying where she is in life.”
“Has she ever given you any indication that she wanted to work to better her career or herself?”
“Well, no. But I thought she would change her mind at some point.”
We all have traits and habits that can be perceived as negative. We all carry them with us into our relationships and we all have to learn to tolerate them in our partners.
In fact, finding a compatible partner is often more about finding somebody whose negatives you can live with rather than locating all of the positives you desire.
And the time to make that determination is when you are dating.
Because after you are married, they are grandfathered in.
It became apparent early on that Brock had a different toleration level for mess than I do. I distinctly remember our first snow event together. I had my own apartment less than a mile away from his home at that point. My apartment was clean and uncluttered. Almost austere.
For a week, the roads were impassable. I spent most of my days and night with him while hiking through the ice and snow back to my place each afternoon to tend to my cat. And every time I entered my space, I breathed a sigh of release. Not because I was away from Brock, but because I was back in a world of order and arrangement.
I realized that week that I had a decision to make. I knew how Brock lived. And I knew that if I was going to live with him, I would have to make adjustments to my own expectations and approach to home.
He told me who he was.
And I could either accept it or reject it.
And once I made the decision to move forward despite the differences, he was then effectively grandfathered in. It was important for us to learn how to work together to live in harmony (separate bathrooms, my own “safe” space and a cleaner who visits monthly). And it was up to me to work at being accepting of his ways (which I’m usually pretty successful with!).
And it actually turns out that I’m happier living with some mess:) Here’s why!
Most people reveal their negative (from your perspective) traits while you’re dating if you spend enough time together and pay enough attention.
And once you have seen those traits and decided to move forward regardless, it is no longer fair to expect them to change those particular characteristics.
Complaining about irritating traits that have always been present and accounted for is a direct attack on the security of your partner.
It’s changing the rules once the game has already begun.
It’s a bait and switch of acceptance turned into disdain.
When you say “I do,” you’re not only speaking to the characteristics of your spouse that you find endearing, you’re also saying that you accept the rest as well.
Not all behaviors are grandfathered in.
Some begin as mild, so small as to be insignificant in the beginning. And then they grow over time, becoming too big to ignore.
Some may appear for the first time later on in life as a result of experiences, maladaptation or genetics.
Some may have been deliberately hidden from you until it became too late to easily run away.
And some may be mere annoyances in the beginning but grow into real problems later when children or other responsibilities enter the picture.
Those are the exceptions. And they certainly merit attention.
A grandfather clause is not an excuse for one partner to behave badly. It is a reminder that it is unfair to punish someone for something that was previously communicated to be okay.
And also a good reminder to consider carefully before you leap.