The Grandfather Clause In “I Do”

“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.

Thank you for sharing!

7 thoughts on “The Grandfather Clause In “I Do”

  1. Interestingly it’s often the very same character traits that bring us together (oh, he/she is so different from me – we complement each other well) that later drive us apart (ah, I can’t stand when he/she does X, it’s not something I would do).

    As you said, most frequently these are things that are well known in the dating stage, and we either think they are positives at that point or we choose to ignore them.

  2. Great post! I definitely can see what should have been grandfathered in for myself and my husband but after children arrived it was a different story. Add to that my chronic pain, which should have been grandfathered in but apparently wasn’t, and we have the makings of a disaster. Then came the untruths from my husband bc he decided since he didn’t know what to do to fix me that I was the problem therefore he felt justified in having an affair.

    Trying to sort it all out afterwards is like trying to get tons of pieces of melted red plastic eraser off of a whole load of laundry – it just doesn’t come out but with time, patience and a little hope the color can fade over time. The melted eraser will be there always but you learn to live with it bc it no longer hurts you and the laundry items are still mostly wearable.

  3. struth71 – New Zealand – Mum of 3 beautiful kids. Coming up 2 years separated. Still on the roller coaster. A strong-minded, typical Taurean. I don't try to hide what I am - at my age, I'm not going to change the fundamentals. But I am still willing to learn and to 'smooth the edges'. Two years on, still got lots of hurt and anger - struggle to 'let go'. Hoping that this year will be the one where that just happens overnight.
    struth71 says:

    This is brilliant. I think I was blind to it when dating my ex. I don’t expect I’m going to be going forward though. Thanks for a great post.

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