One of my co-workers is a first time grandfather, and recently spoke on how much he’s been enjoying the experience. In his words:
Being a grandfather is great, I get to have all of the fun but I have none of the responsibility.
It was said in humor, but there’s a lot of truth to this.
A grandparent is able to have a small window into the life of their grandchildren. They only see them occasionally, so it’s easier to make those limited moments special. It’s much easier to put in the energy to keep things special when the grandkids are only there for an afternoon, or maybe overnight and then they are back to their parents. And in those limited moments the grandkids are more likely to be on their best behavior.
Parents still have fun moments, but they also have to worry about all the little things. Food, care, homework, discipline, etc. And they need to do this on a consistent basis. Parents have all the little tasks that can be exhausting and thankless. As my co-worker said, grandparents get the fun parts and have the knowledge that they can return the grandkids when things get hard.
Think about that for a moment.
All of the fun with none of the responsibility.
In some ways, isn’t that the holy grail in life? At some level, aren’t we are all looking for the big “Easy” button?
Look around today, and you see all sorts of advertising that preys on this. Everywhere you turn you can find testimonials like:
- my friend earned (insert some crazy amount of money) last week while working from home
- This diet pill will let you lose weight fast (likely while still eating whatever you want)
- Build muscle fast with this product
- Make someone fall in love with you with these quick easy steps
Even politicians sometimes provide some variation on this, with platforms like “I’m going to decrease taxes, while increasing social services.” Which sounds great, until you take into account the fact that social services cost money, and if you decrease taxes you have less money to pay for things.
All of the fun with none of the responsibility.
We would all love to have a job where you can come and go as you want, have no responsibilities, and get great pay and benefits. We would all love to eat whatever we want without putting on weight. We would all love to look like models or athletes without having to exercise.
But that’s not how things work.
Usually higher pay is reserved for jobs that have higher responsibilities and educational requirements. Cheeseburgers and Doritos are delicious, but if you eat too many of them you WILL gain weight. And looking athletic and fit requires a combination of diet and hours of dedication to exercise.
Sure, there are some cases where people are just lucky. They are in the right place at the right time, or are they hit the genetic jackpot. It does happen sometimes.
Hell, the whole lottery industry is built on the idea that if you make the cost of entry small enough, a LOT of people will take a chance in the hopes of winning the big prize.
But the odds are astronomically stacked against you. In the real world there are no short cuts, no easy buttons and no magic wands.
When something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Responsibility in Relationships
If you take the premise of “All of the fun with none of the responsibility” and apply it to the world of relationship, you know what you get?
Isn’t that really what dating is? It’s the early stages, where everything is new and exciting. You get to go out and just “have fun” – which can mean anything from a walk through the park to dinner and movie to casual sex. There are hopes and expectations on the part of both people, but there is no pressure on anyone to meet them. If you don’t feel like going out you don’t have to. And if things aren’t going well you can just walk away. No commitment, and no responsibility.
When things start to get more serious, two individuals start to become an “us”. Suddenly it’s not just about you any more. Responsibility starts to come in. The needs and wants of your partner have to matter as much as your own. Plus you are usually building towards something, which involves having to make some sacrifices in the short term for long term game.
Now when conflict occurs you can’t just walk away. Commitment forces you to work on issues – hopefully addressing them and sometimes acknowledging them as simply differences between people that you need to accept.
Add managing a household, a budget, maybe a couple of kids; and suddenly, it’s not all about “fun”, and doing what makes you happy.
And this is where the challenge comes in.
Stuck in a Rut
People often talk about wishing that things were “like they used to be”. They want to recapture those feelings of the early days of a relationship.
In long term relationships it’s easy to get so caught up in day to day life that we take each other for granted and lose track of what brought us together in the first place – things like fun, attraction and excitement. In fact, this is probably one of the biggest issues with long term relationships. So I understand wanting to recapture the early days, and think it’s understandable and even admirable.
It’s a positive thing when you realize you are in a rut where you have lost sight of each other as a couple, and you want to work to rebuild that connection and spark. This is a time when some couples start carving out more time for each other, maybe plan some date nights, try to have fun together again and reintroduce an element of romance that has been lost.
Unfortunately, some people take different approaches.
Instead of working to improve the relationship, some people look for easy ways to find that excitement again, so they look for it outside the relationship. Some have affairs, others propose things like “open relationships” (which to me is simply an affair where you have asked permission first).
These are simply escapes. Ways of trying to escape from the pressures of life into an imaginary world where they can have all the fun without any of the responsibility.
Best of Both Worlds
I don’t think people who have had affairs are necessarily bad people. But they are people who have made bad choices.
In my last post, I listed 3 keys for a successful relationship. Love each other, don’t be selfish, and communicate.
I think affairs (or pushing for open relationships) pretty much lead the pack in selfish behaviors. Often the people who do these things DO actually love their partner/spouse. It’s the selfish part they struggle with (and probably the communication).
So they try to have “the best of both worlds”. The comfort and stability of home and family, while also having the freedom to do what they want.
Instead of putting the effort into improving their relationship they take the easy route and look for the fun and excitement on their own terms. They want the relationship, but they also want to be able to act like they are single.
When you take the easy way out, you are escaping into an imaginary world, and one that is not built to last.
Most affair relationships last less than two years. When they fall apart it’s usually because the imaginary bubble has been burst. They realize that the new person also has flaws. They were exciting and new, but now they are known.
Their escape may have started as all fun, but it started to have responsibility, problems and expectation as well.
Some people are serial adulterers, because they are always searching for the easy way out. The quick fix, the easy thrill.
But eventually most people realize there are no magic wands. There are no easy buttons.
Putting in Effort
Success in life isn’t an accident. It takes planning, and dedication.
People seem to understand that to get a good job they (usually) need to put in time to get schooling or learn a trade. They understand that if you want to excel at a sport or a musical instrument, you need to put in time to learn. And the more time you put in, the better you get. Olympic athletes don’t achieve that level by chance. Sure, they may have good genetics but it still requires dedication and sacrifice.
It’s a pretty simple formula – what you get out of something is dependent on what you put into it. You may not be able to guarantee your level of success, but you CAN guarantee that additional effort improves your chances of success.
Yet many people seem to believe that a successful relationship should “just happen”. That you shouldn’t have to work at it. That if you simply love one another, everything should be rainbows and butterflies.
I think that’s insanity.
A relationship is no different than anything else – shortcuts don’t work.
So if your relationship is in a rut or in a bad spot, it’s up to you to decide how you want to proceed. You can wait, and hope it magically gets better. You can check out on the relationship and start living largely independent lives (pretty much assuring things never get better). You can tell yourself that “this is just what happens in long term relationships”, and accept it as normal. You can escape the relationship issues by having an affair. You can even end the relationship, and tell yourself that things will be better in the future if you just find the “right person”.
There are all sorts of paths you can take.
And one of those paths is to work on things. To focus on the three keys – love each other (even when it seems hard), don’t be selfish, and communicate.
There are no easy buttons.
You only get out what you put in. If you work at your relationship, it can improve. So instead of trying to have the best of both worlds, work to make the world you do have the best it can be.