A study found that pets can provide a tremendous sense of belonging, social support and improvement to one’s quality of life.
As an owner of two dogs. I know firsthand how wonderfully lovable and endearing animals can be. They can lighten our mood. They can even bring people closer together.
Our pets love us unconditionally, don’t talk back (usually) and breathe light into our lives on so many levels.
This all said, when we prioritize the relationship with our furry friend or scaly companion over our the relationship with our significant other, we have the potential for real trouble.
I have met couples who say that the animals in their home enhance their communication, teach them about compassion and make things overall better.
I have also met couples where one person had been relocated to the guest bedroom (against their will) in favor of the family dog. If you and your partner practice this sleeping arrangement, and it is okay by everyone, great. If all parties do not agree upon this arrangement or feel slighted in any way however, then there is a real problem.
Many good things outside of the relationship (like pets) have the power to infiltrate it. Our challenge in securely functioning relationships is not to let that happen, even if that outside entity has the world’s cutest face. The partner relationship has to front and center.
What are some of the signs your pooch, kitty or lizard may be taking too much of you or your partner’s attention?
- You greet your pet at the end of the work day before greeting your partner.
- You’d rather snuggle with your pet than your spouse.
- You fight over what to spend on vet care, food, and boarding costs.
- You become angry about your partner’s seeming lack of caring about your pet.
- You feel as if your partner places a higher precedence on your pet’s needs than yours.
- You feel ignored by your partner as he or she constantly dotes on the cat but never on you.
- The dog goes with you both everywhere and sits in the front seat while you have been sequestered to the back seat.
If either of you or your partner feels like second fiddle to your pet, this needs to be addressed. How can you enjoy your animals and still let your partner know that he or she is number one?
Find common ground. Set a designated and limited time for cuddling, playing and walking your pet. And decide when it is time to give interaction with the family pet a rest. If necessary, set some mutually agreed upon ground rules around this.
Be intentional with prioritizing your S.O. Always ensure your parter is the last one you say goodbye to for the day and the first one you greet when you arrive home. Partners making a point of greeting each other first is always an important practice as outside forces in addition to pets such as children, extended family who may live in the home or individual interests can be just as easily distracting.
Be aware of when attention to your pet may be serving as an avoidance of something in your relationship. Interacting with our pets is usually much easier than interacting with another person. However, if you feel as if you or your partner is avoiding something by giving excess attention to the family pet, it may be an indicator of something being avoided. Set aside a time to talk about this to address anything that is being avoided out into the open.
Channel the compassion and love your pet brings into your home into your relationship with your partner. Pets can deeply enhance our relationships with one another. And just like our pets need our compassion and love, so do we. That need is universal. Uphold that need in your partner, and uphold that need in yourself.