8 Ways Getting A Pet Will Affect Your Relationship

by Lily Feinn
Kilito Chan/Moment/Getty Images

Many think of getting a pet as a way to deepen their commitment as a couple. Nurturing an animal teaches invaluable skills. Through the shared responsibilities couples hone their communication, teamwork, and ability to compromise. Deciding to co-parent a furbaby is often looked at as training wheels for marriage and eventually children. A study done by the University of Buffalo found that pet-owning couples were closer and were able to handle stress better than their pet-less counterparts. But how do you know when you are truly ready to take that step?

It’s fairly embarrassing, but I go dog-crazy for every little fluff-ball I see on the street and spend my free-time scouring the internet for cute animal videos. My patient BF (the owner of one cat) has grown accustomed to keeping me from walking into traffic every time a cute dog passes on the street. We dog-sit for friends and neighbors, and though there are sacrifices we must make when watching these pups, it is also extremely rewarding. While we would love to have a pooch of our own, we haven’t yet made any concrete plans, because we know what a huge life-changing decision it can be.

There are so many positive reasons to get a pet, one can be blinded to some of the challenges. Before contacting breeders or adoption agencies, it’s important for you and your S.O. to take a sobering look at how this new addition might affect your relationship and change your lives. Having a furbaby means extra responsibility and pressure on the two of you, which can lead to some growing pains. Of course, caring for an animal brings more love and joy to your life, but it is important to be sure you both are on the same page before taking the pet plunge. A few things to consider when deciding to get a pet:

1. You Have Less Free Time

Remember all those glorious weekend mornings you spent sleeping in past ten and cuddling? You can say "bye bye" to all that if you and your S.O. decide to get a pup. Dogs have to be walked every morning no matter what, so get ready to wake up early erry day. Like the postman, "neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night" will stop you from walking your pup. Puppies and kittens demand a lot of attention and supervision early on, so if you have a super active social life or a really intense work schedule, sacrifices will have to be made. Get ready to give up a few nights out in exchange for some quality time with your boo and your new addition.

2. You Become More Active

Walking a dog can be a big pain in the tooshie, but this little activity can improve your health in spades! Studies show that new dog owners will increase their recreational walking significantly over the first ten-month period. We already know exercise is good for stress reduction, heart health, and mood, but it can also help you and your partner bond. Going on a hike or jog with your pup and your S.O. is active and fun. Doing healthy activities together helps the relationship, and will improve your quality of life overall. Playing with your kitty or puppy is good for the heart and soul.

3. You Need A Higher Level Of Responsibility

Still arguing over whose turn it is to do the dishes? You and your S.O. are going to need to have excellent communication in order to negotiate the extra chores of pet-ownership. If one person is slacking on litter box duty or forgetting to walk the dog, it may cause some tension in the relationship. Caring for an animal as a team will show you exactly how much responsibility your partner can handle. Nobody wants to feel resentful because they are doing all the heavy lifting in a relationship. A chore chart or calendar is an excellent way to stay organized. Just be sure you stick to it for smooth sailing ahead.

4. You Have Less Disposable Cash

Having a pet can be expensive, so you and your bae need to be sure you can afford its proper care before bringing one home. The cost of a dog or a cat extends way beyond their adoption or breeder fee. Your furry friend will need its shots and spay or neutering, in addition to all the other expenses. At a minimum, for the first year, dog expenses are around $1,270 and cats can cost you $1,070 according to the ASPCA. There can be hidden costs as well — emergency vet bills which can climb as high as $4,000, and unexpected medicine or vitamin needs. Not to mention dog walker fees, grooming, or kennel fees if you want to travel. The best way to know if you're ready for a pet, is to sit down and crunch some numbers. To break down costs, The Texas Society of CPAs provides a worksheet. If you are ready to cut back on certain expenditures and are willing to make some sacrifices (eating at restaurants, online shopping, that second round of cocktails), then you are on the right track to pet-ownership.

5. You Become Healthier

We know pets offer support and companionship, and those factors can contribute to longer lifespans. Many studies report that couples who own pets have overall lower baseline blood pressure and heart rate compared to non-pet owning couples. In a study of 240 couples, the pet-owners showed "significantly smaller increases in heart rate and blood pressure in response to stress" writes the American Heart Association. They also experienced a faster recovery to stressors in general, but especially when their pet was present. Another study found that dog-ownership help reduce mortality in people with cardiovascular disease, "with likelihood of mortality being 4.05 times greater for those who did not own a dog." Just make sure neither of you are allergic before committing to an apartment covered in fur!

6. You Will Face Down Little Jealousies

It's hard to compete with an adorable puppy, but sometimes it can feel that way. Bringing a pet into the relationship may take a toll on your love life. To stymie any future issues, make sure that your pet doesn't get more attention than either of you are giving to each other.

It's important to not compete with your S.O. for the pet's attention. Your fluff-ball will surely identify who is the soft touch in the relationship, and they may bond with or become protective of one partner over the other. You need to work out the power-dynamics with the pet, so neither you nor your bae feels left out of the love.

7. You Will Become A Family

Co-parenting an animal will test your ability to work together and ultimately, through overcoming challenges and sharing the love, deepen your commitment to each other. You will learn together along the way, and share numerous important experiences. The ups and downs of nurturing a living thing will strengthen your bond, and teach you to act as a unit.

8. You Will Cherish Your Alone Time

Your adorable fluff-ball may decide the perfect time to nuzzle is when things are starting to get frisky. Be sure you and your partner know when to lock the bedroom door and spend some quality time— just the two of you. Make sure to take the time to let your bae know you love them (at least as much as the pet).

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