We all know that Spike is a great Chihuahua and Pickles the sweetest Siamese that ever coughed up a hair ball. The truth is we pet lovers like to believe that no one has a more “perfect” pet than our own. Believe me, I have been down that road with my own pets. But we pet lovers don’t always consider the impact that a pet can have on dating or on a marriage. The truth is a pet is another relationship to maintain. However, because they are like permanent two year olds requiring a good deal of time, money and attention, taking on ownership of one should not be taken lightly.
Like babies they can bring a great deal of joy to a couple relationship but they can also distract people from being a couple. As when you have a child, you need to put boundaries around the time the pet wants and needs and the time the two of you need as a couple. A pet can run away, get stolen, or die unexpectedly; let’s hope that never happens to your pet. But, in the event that one of these things does occur, you could be left being just “you two” again. Hopefully you have maintained that relationship so you have something left to return to when your pet is no longer there.
Sometimes a pet can rejuvenate a relationship by bringing a couple together for a common cause. At times a pet can serve to re-inject joy back into the “couple-ness” that has begun to wane out of boredom. However, sometimes people use pets to avoid relating – by talking about the pet or pets as a way to avoid more intimate discussions about feelings, concerns or goals. In other words, pets can be a blessing or a curse, depending on how the two of you navigate the ownership of that pet.
Remember that values come in layers. How we prioritize our waking hours determines which value rises to the top –the place where we put the majority of our energy. Each value that falls below, progressively gets a little less attention and energy. We display our priorities through our actions. So we can say we value one thing over another but it is our actions that tell the real story. In other words, if you are spending more time with the dog, you are showing that the dog takes higher priority than your partner. If the cat or cats take up all the room between the two of you in bed, you could be sending a subtle message that you don’t want to be close.
Be conscious about the impact that pet ownership is having or could have on the two of you. Keep problems that arise around that ownership open for discussion without injecting defensiveness into any discussion you have on this subject.
In the coming blog I will add some thoughts to consider when you try to combine pets and dating.