Look What You Got Yourself Into!

My grandfather began developing Alzheimer’s in his mid-80s. He was the prankster of the family and always the life of the party. So, when his memory failed him and he no longer recognized faces, he gleefully acted the part.

When I greeted him at Christmas one year, he leaned toward me and said, far too loudly, “You told me you were going to dump him!” while gesturing his thumb over his shoulder at my boyfriend. He used the same line on all his daughters that evening. While the other women got upset, I played along: “I didn’t invite him! Did you?!

Soon enough, my grandfather took my boyfriend aside while shaking his head in disappointment. Grandpa Ed pointed at me, and said, “Look what you got yourself into…”

My grandfather lived to age 91. He forgot just about everything. But he never failed to recognize his beloved wife. He was branded, tethered, committed. Love ran deeper than dementia.

What Is the Key to Lasting Love?

A few weeks ago, we had a video call with an old friend. Her closing remark was, “You guys are my favorite couple! You get along great but aren’t sickeningly mushy.” She’s in a confusing, multi-year “not sure if it’s a relationship” situation. It makes my head spin to hear the way she is treated and the things she tolerates. This, in turn, led me to pick apart my own relationship.

Nearly ten years in, my partner and I are still just as blissfully happy as when were first met. I can’t quite pinpoint why that might be. Is it because I grew up observing healthy relationships? Is it because we discussed The Five Love Languages on our first date? Is it based on our dispositions or knowledge? Or is it because we always have each other’s back?

When I consider what sets our relationship apart, I think it’s this: we both consider the other to be both a safe refuge and a grand adventure. Whether we need consolation or crave novelty, we can always count on our partner to provide just that. Our relationship is never boring, nor chaotic. We ebb and we flow. And, together, we grow.

Look What You Got Yourself Into

I recently saw an article in which the author claims that a successful relationship is dependent on understanding and tolerating your partner’s worst traits and habits, and all comments seemed to echo that sentiment. Is my partner perfect, or is love truly blind? Are negative traits easier to overlook when a relationship feels both safe and exciting? Or is the key the lasting love simply putting up with your sweetheart’s bullshit?

Whenever my partner or I do something foolish or frustrating, we channel my grandfather, jokingly wagging our fingers and saying, “Look what you got yourself into!” The tone ranges from jovial to resignation, and nostalgic to goofy. Any stressful undertones are instantly diffused.

When we say “yes” to love, we’re saying yes to both the good and the bad, the ups and the downs. The ratio of good-to-bad may vary from relationship to relationship and even over the course of a partnership, but we’re saying “yes” to all of it. It can be healthy to step back, recognize this is exactly what we signed up for, and then choose to laugh. If the peaks are steeper than the valleys deep, the challenges are worth it. The long-lasting love is worth those momentary struggles.

What Makes Love Work

My grandfather passed away last year, but, in many ways, he had already been gone for several years before that. But not before imparting his wisdom, his humor, and his love.

I am fortunate to have grown up near all of my extended family. One of the unrealized benefits of that was observing healthy, loving relationships on a weekly basis. Without consciously taking notes, I was studying what makes love work.

Perhaps the secret to love is more nuanced than I could capture on the page, which is likely why people have been exploring the topic for millennia. However, if I had to pin it down, my guess would be this: the key is to fall in love with someone who is both your safe place and your biggest adventure, and then be able to look at them–warts and all–and say with a beaming grin, “Look what I got myself into…”

You can find more from me on my personal blog: https://existentialergonomics.com/

29 thoughts on “Look What You Got Yourself Into!

  1. On our wedding day we agreed that if we were not doing this for life, then we would not do it at all. That commitment was as strong as the views we would take – no one witnessed it but us. Relationships like life have phases just as you said – “We ebb and we flow. And, together, we grow.” The willingness to grow together (and sometimes separately) has kept our commitment strong.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I love this, Maggie! While people do grow and change, I think that commitment to act as a team in marriage is so important, and truly admirable. Unfortunately, at least amongst many in my cohort of 30-somethings, marriage is about the big party and no-fault divorce is always an option on the back burner if things aren’t going perfectly.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. I love your combination of safe place and grand adventure – that is beautiful, Erin!

    Your grandfather’s line and the way you two use it is wonderful. It reminds me of something from the Drs. Gottman (of the Love Lab), – they said that the partnerships that are most attuned face things together with humor. Seems like you two are doing just that.

    Love this post, your wisdom, and this lovely story about your grandfather!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It seems almost contradictory at first, but feeling both safe and enthusiastic in a relationship is something magical. The Gottmans are great! I love the thought that the partnerships that are most attuned face things together with humor. I suspect there is a lot of truth there. 😊 Thanks, Wynne!! 💕

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post Erin. Loved hearing about your grandfather. Alzheimers is such a scary thing, but it sounds like you got it, best to play along and as Wynne said, face it with humor. What a great example. Love to your love story. So much wisdom in what you wrote. I love how you described the relationship as a safe refuge. I’m convinced that is what has kept my wife and me together for 30 years. We are each other’s safe havens from the storms and sunny days that life has thrown at us. I always viewed it as my own twisted little way off thinking, but I’ve come to see that it’s really a way of valuing the other and making sure that I’m putting my everything every day into making our relationship work. Love your post.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Brian! Yes, I’ve learned that humor is one of the best remedies for nearly every ailment… a laugh and a smile make most things better. Congratulations on 30 years of marriage, Brian! That’s such an admirable accomplishment! While some people do have irreconcilable differences, I believe that many struggling relationships could be saved by doing what you’ve done and made the commitment every day to make the relationship work and ensure your wife feels valued. 💕

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Seeing relationships that work may be a big part in understanding how to approach and work through issues- I guess that’s living and leading by example isn’t it? Your grandpa sounds like a dear man. What a special gift to be able to hang onto his life with his love even in the midst of forgetting so much else.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you’re right, Deb. I’ve been fortunate to have grown up surrounded by successful relationships, and I’m sure observing those examples. made a difference. He really was an incredible person. 💕


  5. I’m sorry about your loss. Your grandfather sounded like a wonderful man and despite his Alzheimer’s, his humour seemed to have shone through till the end.

    I think you nailed it with your perspective love. No relationship is perfect and facing it together with the right attitude and humour is what makes them last.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Ab, He really was such a wonderful man, and his humor never faded.

      Yes, absolutely! I think some people are under the impression that love is all butterflies and rainbows all the time, but it’s just as much about weathering the storms together. Working through the challenges as a team successes all the sweeter.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great Post Erin. Your grandfather sounded like an amazing man and I can imagine you will miss him. Watching our loved ones deteriorate with these conditions is hard. It also sounds like you and your partner have a good recipe for success. I think the key is not to lose focus of that, communication and taking the time to.check in with each other to see that everything is good. Unlike yourself, I saw marriages around me break up, but I think it made me more determined that when I did get married (33 years ago now) that I was going to.make it work. We are good friends, take time to listen to each other and keep communication open

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Brenda! My grandfather truly was an amazing man. And, yes, communication is key in solid relationships. I love that you were able to observe the broken marriages and commit to doing things differently. Congratulations on 33 years! That is such an admirable accomplishment. Amazing!! 💖

      Liked by 1 person

  7. What a delightful story! I love your multi-faceted way of seeing your relationship, complete with peaks, valleys and warts—all the while knowing that love wins out in the end. I know a couple who say that in their 35 years of living together they have never had an argument. I’ll have to ask them more about that—maybe it’s because they aren’t married. Why ruin a good thing, right?!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Julia! Yes, love wins out in the end! That’s incredible that your friends have lived together for 35 years without an argument. I would also love to know their secret! The not being married thing is a good point… my partner and I aren’t married and won’t be in a position to for at least another 5-6 years. At the 15-16 year mark, why even bother? Why ruin a good thing, indeed!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well goodness—maybe there really is something to the ‘not-married’ thing. Do you think that maybe it could be a ‘try harder’ thing because there is no obligation or commitment? Words of wisdom, perhaps: Why bother? 😉 It all gives pause to wonder . . .

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I can’t speak for all long-term unmarried couples but for us I think it’s a matter of being committed and happy together and not requiring any external validation or approval. You’re either all-in or you’re not, and that applies to relationships with or without marriage.

        I’ve had friends who have entered marriages with feelings of uncertainty that they hoping the wedding and marriage would dissolve. Most ended in divorce after a few short years. I think it’s allowing doubt and trust others’ opinions over one’s own that becomes problematic.


  8. “However, if I had to pin it down, my guess would be this: the key is to fall in love with someone who is both your safe place and your biggest adventure, and then be able to look at them–warts and all–and say with a beaming grin, “Look what I got myself into…” – Love this, and I am in total agreement with your thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

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