Devoted animal lovers sometimes say their pets are like children—and like children, a furry best friend can cause plenty of strife in a relationship.
Whether it’s a disagreement about how to train a dog or a dispute over how much attention pets should get, conflict regarding pets can cause major turmoil. One study found that the average dog causes 2,000 arguments in his or her lifetime.
A disagreement about pets doesn’t have to spell the end of your relationship, but it may require that each of you make some accommodations.
Practice Good Communication
If you’re starting a new relationship, take time to discuss your values regarding pets. If having an indoor cat or a dog that sleeps in your bed is important to you, you’ll need to ensure your partner shares these values or risk ending up in conflict. If you’re already in an established relationship, it’s time to begin communicating clearly and openly. Don’t get a new pet without consulting with your partner and getting his or her enthusiastic consent. If you want to change the way you do something with your pets—for example, allowing Fido to sleep in the bed or taking more frequent walks with your pet and your partner—talk to your partner before taking the plunge rather than making a decision and expecting him or her to abide by it.
Get Specific with the Problem
When there’s conflict over pets, getting specific about the problem can help you figure out a solution. If your husband complains about your dog constantly or your wife snaps at your cat, you might assume that the pet is the problem or that your partner hates your pet. But a change as simple as teaching your dog not to beg or keeping your cat off the bookshelf could remedy the issue. If you’re the pet lover, ask your partner specifically what the issue is and what would fix it. And if you’re the one resenting your partner’s pet, be clear about what you need to feel better.
Consult an Expert
A poorly trained dog or aggressive cat is frustrating to everyone, but the person who brought the pet into the relationship is sometimes more sympathetic to—and defensive about—the pet. If your partner is annoyed by a specific behavior such as excessive scratching, it’s time to call an expert. A trainer can work with you to make your pet a more mannerly member of the family, and a veterinarian can help you uncover hidden health problems that contribute to annoying behavior. It will cost some money, but it may be worth it to save your relationship and keep your pet happy and healthy.
You and your partner don’t have to agree about everything. You may find that one of you is simply less in love with your pets than the other. As long as your partner isn’t abusive toward animals, he or she doesn’t have to let Fido lick him/her on the face or put up with Kitty’s constant scratching.
If you’re the one who brought the pet into the relationship, be prepared to do a little extra work. There’s no reason your partner has to love your pets as much as you do, or even spend as much time caring for them. As long as you can strike a fair balance that ensures your pet’s needs are met, consider giving your partner a pass on nightly pet duties.
- Johnston, S. (n.d.). Making peace with your partner’s pets. Match.com. Retrieved from http://www.match.com/magazine/article/12463/Making-Peace-With-Your-Partners-Pets-/
- Man’s worst friend: Average dog causes 2,000 family arguments in its lifetime. (2012, January 11). Mail Online. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2084835/Mans-worst-friend-Average-dog-causes-2-000-family-arguments-lifetime.html
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