Once you decide to
get a pet with your partner, your relationship will change pretty much instantly. From having those initial conversations, to picking up your pet, to finally starting your lives together, there's no doubt the process will change your relationship dynamic in a million positive ways.
But it's also important to keep in mind what the commitment really means not only for your pet — but for your relationship as a whole. While you should try to focus on the positives, you might want to consider the added stress you'll encounter, as well as all the responsibilities, and any potential conflicts you might have so you'll both be on the same page.
You can also chat about how you plan to handle things, such as new chores, who will be in charge of what, and so on — so it'll be a good experience for all involved. "A new pet can mean a big change in your daily life,"
Jessica Char, a cat behavior consultant, tells Bustle. "But if you go in ready to make the changes and deal with the challenges, a pet can bring a new joy to a relationship. The shared activities and experiences that come with a pet can turn a couple of people into a family."
Here are the ways your relationship might change when you get a pet, according to experts.
It'll Make You Stop And Think
"Getting a pet is a sort of pact,"
therapist Katie Leikam, LCSW, LISW-CP, tells Bustle. You're agreeing to be there for its entire life span, which could be decades. "That's a big deal in the scheme of things of how long you feel your relationship will last," she says.
As a result, adopting a pet can make you stop and think about the overall health of your relationship, as well as where you see it going in the future.
You'll Be Less Spontaneous
Once you get a pet, brace yourselves for a life that's a
little less spontaneous.
"Spontaneity requires freedom from responsibilities and pets rely on their humans for all their needs,"
Kelly Kandra Hughes, PhD, a professional pet sitter, tells Bustle. "You can't jump in the car and go to the beach for the weekend when you have a dog waiting for you at home to let them out and feed them."
Of course, there are ways around this, such as taking your dog with you. But it can definitely be an adjustment.
Once you get a pet, "each person will have to change their life in some way, which can lead to resentment if everybody isn't fully on board," Char says.
So before you make the commitment, have that all-important talk about
what a big responsibility it will be, and make sure you're both up to the task. Ryan Pierse/Getty Images News/Getty Images
If you have a dog running around the house, or a cat doing hilarious things, there's no doubt your life as a couple will be more fun.
"Pets bring a lot of fun and play into relationships," Hughes says. "They give their humans something to laugh at together and reminisce about in the future."
You'll Expect More Of Your Partner
"While you would do anything for your pet
[...] your partner may not be so inclined," Caitlin Ultimo, resident pet expert at Chewy.com, tells Bustle. And yet that won't change your expectations, or your desire to have them care just as much as you.
Since this can lead to resentment, it's important to make sure you're both on the same page before getting a pet. "In these situations, it’s better to have clear discussions over responsibilities," Ultimo says.
You'll Get More Exercise
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There's no denying owning a pet means getting more exercise, especially if you have a dog. "They serve [...] as a reason to get exercise or explore the community together,"
Bruce Silverman, VMD, MBA tells Bustle.
While that can be fun, if you're used to lazy mornings in, this can mean a pretty big change for the pace of your relationship.
You'll Have To Communicate
From deciding who will let the dog out, to who will pick up more cat food, "the communication between the two of you needs to rise to the occasion," Caleb Backe, a health and wellness expert at
Maple Holistics, tells Bustle. "Nobody wants to feel like they’re doing all the heavy lifting in the relationship." LightField Studios/Shutterstock
Believe it or not, there may even be a feeling of jealousy in your relationship, from one or both sides. After all, "it’s hard to compete with the cuteness of your pet," Backe says.
But often all it takes are a few small adjustments, so nobody feels ignored.
If your relationship didn't feel serious before, getting a pet will take it to a whole new level. "[It] signifies a certain level of commitment to one another," Backe says. "The dynamic shifts from just having fun with one another to taking the commitment between the two of you more seriously."
It Can Feel Like You Have A Kid
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While kids and pets are obviously very different, they both require tons of time and attention, which is why many people view pets as a stepping stone to parenthood, Dr. Silverman says.
They can be a good test, too, to see how you function as a couple with more stress and responsibility — especially if you see yourselves having a baby someday.
It Creates A Stronger Bond
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As Dr. Silverman says, "This dependent living being [...] becomes a tangible bond that requires shared love and nurturing." And as a result, you may find that you and your partner
feel closer than ever.
Negatives Can Be Revealed
Due to the major lifestyle change and all the new responsibilities, getting a pet can, unfortunately, reveal some negatives in your relationship.
"Pets can bring out the unexpected best in a partner or reveal a negative side that is truly an unwelcome surprise," Dr. Silverman says.
If your partner isn't helping out, for example, you might be seeing a lazy side you wouldn't have witnessed otherwise — and that
can really make you think.
If one of you isn't making a big enough effort, don't be surprised if it leads to more arguments.
"A new pet will almost inevitably bring new conflicts into a relationship," Char says. "For example, whose job is it to scoop the litter box or who has to skip happy hour to get home and let the dog out?"
You'll need to figure these things out, so everything remains fair.
You May Not See Eye-To-Eye
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You two may not see eye-to-eye when it comes to raising pets. "Disagreements may arise about many issues including discipline, structure, and even the simple idea of whether or not to sleep with the dog in bed,"
Robert Cabral, Wag! advisory board member and top dog trainer, tells Bustle.
If you can't find a way to agree, those aforementioned arguments might ensue.
You'll Learn To Work Together
On the plus side, taking care of a pet can
teach you both how to handle responsibility, work together, and sort out your differences.
"The relationship shifts to team work in caring for and training the new dog," Cabral says. And other types of pets, too.
You'll Have To Compromise
Since it's not uncommon for couples to disagree when it comes to raising a pet, compromise will be key.
"Oftentimes one parent will want the dog to be structured and trained and the other will want the dog to be free and untrained," Cabral says.
You may want to
visit a pet trainer for this one, in order to find a middle ground so you'll both be happy.
You'll Gain A Shared Experience
"Doing something together [like getting a pet] connects you and your partner in shared experience,"
therapist Carrie Krawiec, LMFT, tells Bustle. You might find that you feel closer to your partner, since you'll be going through all these ups and downs together.
Your Relationship Will Feel Even More Meaningful
Taking care of a pet together can even provide more meaning and purpose in your lives, and add to what you already have in common. As Krawiec says, "Having a shared description of what you do — and why — means the story you have about your life is connected."
Your Roles Will Become Defined
In order to make the experience a good one, you'll have to figure out a few mutually agreed upon roles and rules, such as who is the dog walker, who picks up the poop, etc., Krawiec says. Once you do, it'll be a sign you're working together and communicating effectively.
"Greater job functions of the household may mean more stress or more to negotiate, navigate, resolve, disagree about," Krawiec says. Basically, even if you figure out who will be doing what, there will still be an added layer of stress that you'll have to sort out as a couple.
You'll Spend More Time Together
"A new pet means a change in your schedule (walking the dog, getting home to check on a new kitten, etc.) that can mean more time together," Char says. So if you were looking for something to do together, getting a pet may be it.
On the flip side, having a pet can also mean spending less time together due to all the care and responsibilities — and even unexpected emergencies.
"When you add a pet to a relationship, it’s like having a new member of the family enter,"
Katie Ziskind, licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle. "Time with your partner might not be as devoted or present because you’re cleaning up the cat litter."
Your Sleeping Arrangements Can Change
"Sleeping can change when you add a pet to your shared space," Amanda Landis-Hanna, DVM, Senior Manager, Veterinary Outreach,
PetSmart Charities, tells Bustle. "Some pets are nocturnal, meaning they stay up (and play) at night. Are you or your partner a light sleeper?" If so, you might find that your usual bedtimes are affected.
There Will Be More Financial Stress
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Even if you plan ahead, pets can end up costing more than you think, which can lead to more stress in your relationship — as well as disagreements.
As Krawiec says, there may even be a disparity in which expenses you each determine necessary, such as whether or not your pet needs to go to the vet, receive certain treatments, etc.
You'll Feel More Like A Family
"Even if you’ve been a couple for a few years, you can feel like two ships passing in the night sometimes," Ultimo says. "A pet really can help connect a couple and merge your lives. The joint responsibility and admiration for your pet can bring you closer and unite the two of you in a more official way than you anticipate."
For better or worse, getting a pet can change your relationship. There's added stress, and tough convos to have. But the benefits still outweigh the negatives — especially since pets inevitably bring you closer together.