Remember that show, “It’s Me or The Dog?” Because sometimes it seems like as much as we love our pups, they can get in the way of other…human relationships. And let’s face it, when it comes to choosing our pups over some hoomans, there really is no contest: We’d choose our fuzzbutts every time, no contest.
But a pet can have a real impact on a serious relationship, something this author knows from experience. Though it is unfair (and untrue) to say a dog can solely make or break a relationship, we listened to the stories of a few people whose dog(s) became a point of contestation with their significant others. Talking to them, and doing a little research on why couples argue, it was easy to see how the top 5 reasons couples fight could easily involve a pet.
One of the people we talked to about this, Rob*, elegantly explained how this quickly can become a problem in a relationship:
“I’m very much a dog lover. But I’m also very much a realist about it. I know just how much responsibility and money it can take…So when [my ex and I] started talking about getting a second dog, I knew it was going to be a very big risk. And when you’re not 100% on board to begin with, it can plant seeds of doubt, become a crutch to lean on as part of the [bigger] problem…When we got the second dog, it was definitely the beginning of the end.”
Another top reason couples fight? S.E.X. However, this isn’t just restricted to the act itself: it can also extend to physical affection, or the other partner feeling wanted by you.
Granted, it’s always pawkward when you’re getting ready to get down and your pup decides to…erm…stare.
Jenny* recounted to us an ill-fated relationship where her foster pup definitely came in-between her hooman partner when it came to affection:
“He [the ex] said he was a dog person…and never said he was bothered by it, but by the end he was very distant and cold. He would say, ‘You pay attention to the dog, not me.’…He didn’t dislike dogs, he disliked me around dogs.”
Who does the dishes, who vacuums the living room, who takes the dog out: Divvying up these domestic responsibilities can be a ruff and rocky road in any relationship. It’s also a very common point of contention with couples, and this is one place where a pup can sit squarely in the middle.
As Matthew Gilbert recounted in his book, Off The Leash: A Year at the Dog Park, as much as he and his long-term partner adored their new puppy Toby, and as much as the puppy brought them closer together as a couple, whose “turn” it was could devolve into passive-aggressive bickering:
“Alas, it didn’t take long for Tom and I to start talking through Toby. ‘Gee Tom,’ Tom would say in his Toby voice as their required evening walk approached, ‘I wish Matthew would take me for my walk tonight. I sure like him.’ I did not succumb to the guilt, but I understood Tom’s message: Don’t want to go outside…And I found myself sending posts to Tom through Toby. ‘Toby loves playing Frisbee with you; I can tell,” which meant, ‘Play with him more, please, and tire him out.'”
Our pups give us so much, but they also require a lot of care. “Who does what” can definitely become a strain on any couple. I know my ex and I would frequently charge the other with not “doing enough” for the pup, or feeling stressed after long days at work and debating who should be taking care of day-to-day doge responsibilities and why.
This of course, segues into another big area of contention: Careers. Whether two people are both managing work, or one has a job outside while the other is more home-based, making time for each other can be difficult. When you throw a dog into the mix, it can be even more stressful, even when you manage to have time alone.
“We would be out and I would be worried if the dog was ok. I would obsess about the dog’s state, since Armando [the foster pup] had a lot of behavioral issues…Eventually we just stopped talking.”
Even the logistics of managing time alone with a pup can become another barrier. If you can’t find a dog sitter, or a dog-walker, or it’s just to expensive to have someone watch them, time alone for re-connecting and having fun can become non-existent.
Finding fair ways to fight–and resolve fights–is key to any healthy relationship. However, constantly using the dog as a point of contention isn’t fair to your partner OR you pup. And if your world-views about dog-parenting/lifestyle don’t sync, that can definitely become a problem. As Rob pointed out:
“My ex had grown up with multiple dogs, so for her when we moved to New York, it was her really going back to that, becoming the person she wanted to be, which was a multiple dog kind of person. But that lifestyle plus managing a relationship in a small apartment with roommates and two medium-sized dogs…we had different viewpoints on that and trying to keep up with everything, navigating it, became a challenge very quickly.”
Also, if things go south, it’s probably best NOT to use the dog in the break-up in any way, shape or form. As Jenny told us, the straw that broke the camel’s back was a certain card her ex sent her in the mail:
“I check my mail and there was a handwritten card. There was no return address on it, but the front had a picture of a dog, and then inside was handwritten a bunch of woofs that were smeared in a brown paint that looked like dog poop. Even though it wasn’t signed, it knew it was him, because he was an artist and the way it was done was definitely in his style. So I called him up and said, ‘So the card you sent me…’ and he was like, ‘Oh, it was like, a joke.’ But it definitely didn’t feel that way.”
In the end, adding a dog to your family is a big decision. Definitely take the time to see if you and your significant other are ready and doing it for the right reasons. If you do want to give a pup a furever home, check out BarkBuddy to find fluffy singles near you–but only if everyone’s on board! 🙂
*Note: Last names with-held to protect the privacy of individuals.