7 Relationship Problems Pet Owners Are More Likely To Experience, According To Experts
Choosing to get a pet with your partner can do some really great things for your relationship. For instance, a University of Buffalo study found that couples who own pets know how to manage stress better than couples who don't have any. They're also closer, interact more, and are more likely to say they have fully satisfying relationships. While there are many benefits to getting a pet with your partner, experts say it also comes with its share of challenges.
"Getting a pet represents a turning point in your relationship," Jean G. Fitzpatrick L.P., couples therapist and owner of New York Individual and Couples Therapy, tells Bustle. "By adopting a creature who needs you, you're both committing to taking care of that creature together."
Whether you're already living together or not, adding a pet to your dynamic is sure to be revealing. There are a lot of things that you can learn about your partner like their sense of responsibility and how willing they are to make sacrifices for the good of others.
Taking care of a pet together isn't always going to be busy. But according to Fitzpatrick and other relationship experts, the challenges you may face are opportunities for you to grow closer and strengthen your bond. So here are some relationship issues pet-owning couples are likely to face more often, according to experts.
1. It Can Bring Up Issues About Boundaries
A 2015 survey of over 1,000 adults by The Harris Poll found that over 70% of pet owners allow their pets to sleep on the bed. So that leaves about 30% of pet owners who don't. If you're someone who needs your pet there with you to sleep, it can cause an issue between you and your partner if they're not into it.
You're not always going to agree on everything. Instead of fighting over who's right or wrong, you can use this as an opportunity to sharpen your conflict-management skills and set boundaries. "Learning to deal with your differences can be more urgent than ever when you have a pet," Fitzpatrick says. "If either party insists on having their way, then you’re not managing conflict successfully. So use this as an opportunity to discuss logistics and feelings in order to find a mutually acceptable solution."
2. If You Prioritize Your Pet Over Your Partner, It Can Create Jealousy
In the 2018 People and Pets survey conducted by Just Right by Purina, it was found that half of all female dog owners say they would rather spend more time with their dog than their partner. Over 50% even say they turn to their pets for emotional comfort during times of stress. As Carrie Krawiec, licensed marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle, this can cause some feelings of resentment if one partner's time, attention, and financial resources are going to the pet and not the other partner. According to her, one way to solve this is to build love maps. "A deep understanding or 'love map' helps couples to weather conflict storms and approach each other with empathy and compassion," Krawiec says. "Couples could value from a structured problem solving method to apply to behavioral expectations."
3. You Can't Be As Spontaneous As You Used To Be
Spontaneous dates and weekend getaways are a couple of easy ways to keep your relationship fresh and exciting. But deciding to get a pet together comes with responsibilities. As certified relationship expert Adina Mahalli, MSW, tells Bustle, "When you’re in a pet-free relationship you can make time to see your partner because you want to, but you don’t necessarily need to wrap your schedule around theirs. This isn’t the case with pet-owners. You often need to make sure that your pet is properly looked after and given attention throughout the day." This kind of responsibility means there has to be a little more structure to your relationship. There may be less spontaneity overall as you either have to take your pet with you or find someone to watch them. But it definitely gives you an opportunity to communicate more and work on scheduling time for your relationship.
4. Some Pets Can Be Costly And Cause Arguments About Money
"Some pet owners pamper their furry friends too much and not all people understand this," Celia Schweyer, dating and relationship expert at Dating Scout, tells Bustle. "If raising a pet costs too much, the couple might end up having problems with it." Depending on the type of pet you have, it can get pretty costly. If you and your partner aren't on the same page about how much you should be spending on your pet, you're sure to run into problems. After all, money is known to cause many issues. Discussing finances in general is important. But when you have a pet, it's also essential to set a budget that you both agree on.
5. You'll Have To Be On The Same Page About What Having A Pet Means To Both Of You
In addition to discussing finances, Schweyer says it's also important to be on the same page about what having a pet means to you. For instance, some people feel like their pets are part of their family and others don't. If your partner likes animals enough and didn't grow up with a pet, they may not understand why you feel the need to spend all a lot of money on a pet. "In any relationship, a conflict in beliefs will cause misunderstandings and confrontations," Schweyer says. "So if you're the person who would love to keep a pet, make sure that your partner agrees on terms of how you will raise the pet to avoid problems in the future."
6. Pets Can Get In The Way Of Your Sex Life
"Taking on the responsibility of a pet is similar to the responsibility you hold when starting a family," Maria Sullivan, dating expert and VP of Dating.com, tells Bustle. "While cats and dogs are way less fragile than babies, they still require a lot of care, love, and attention." As you know, this will easily shift the dynamic of your relationship and can get in the way of your sex life. You'll have to work together to make room for not only each other, but also your new "baby." So to prevent your pet from getting in the way of your relationship, Sullivan suggests giving them their own designated space within your home. "Train it to stay in its its bed when you are seeking intimacy with your partner," she says. "If your pet enjoys its space and has plenty of distractions to play with, you and your partner will forget they're even home."
7. Pets Can Over-Complicate A Breakup
"Pets are hard to navigate, especially if the relationship breaks up," Monica Berger, LCSW, s therapist who specializes in family and couples therapy, tells Bustle. "I've seen broken up couples who want nothing to do with each other plan visitation schedules for their dogs." The problem with this is it keeps people connected to a relationship that is past its expiration date. It also makes it hard to move on. So according to Berger, the key here is to set boundaries early on. "Nobody wants to think about the end of their relationship when things are going well," she says. "But it's in everyone’s best interest for the pet to belong to one person while you both enjoy it together." When you establish clear boundaries early on, it can make things easier in the event of a breakup.
Taking care of a pet with your partner is a big deal. As you can see, it won't always be easy. But if you think of the challenges you face as opportunities to learn and grow, you can really make the most out of having a pet together.