Every time you do something new as a couple, you learn a little bit more about each other and your relationship. And one of the biggest examples of this is
adopting a pet together. Apart from having a kid, nothing will change your dynamic quite like bringing home a cat or a dog, thanks to all the responsibility it entails.
"Getting a pet can teach a couple a tremendous amount,"
Lauren Cook, MMFT, a clinician practicing emotionally-focused therapy, tells Bustle. From everyday stuff, like how you split up new chores, to tougher stuff, like how you handle a crisis, these moments can reveal something about your connection as a couple.
Of course, you'll only
want to get a pet after you've talked about it at length, and decided it's something you both want to do. "A couple will know that they are ready for a pet when they are willing to do the 'not so fun' aspects of pet care," Cook says. "They’ve talked about what they will do when the pet is sick, when they have to travel, and how they will pay for the cost of the pet’s welfare. They know a pet is [...] a family member that they are bringing in. They understand the responsibilities and welcome both the highs and lows of pet parenthood."
If you decide
it's time to get a pet, experts say you can look forward to learning more about each other and your relationship, especially in the ways listed below.
What Kind Of Parents You Might Be
Happy loving couple with cat on bed. Focus on kitty
"Owning a pet and having a child are incredibly different, though having a pet will give an idea of how responsibility is shared or shrugged off,"
Steven Reigns, MA, a licensed marriage and family therapist and founder of Therapy for Adults, tells Bustle. And this is obviously something that'll impact the way you feel as parents.
As you take care of your pet, you'll get a better idea of what kind of roles you both naturally take on, and whether that feels like it's working or not. Does one of you do more of the chores? Do you leave each other hanging? A pet can provide a small glimpse into what the future might be like in these ways, if you plan to have kids. And it might just prompt an important conversation.
How You Both Handle Stress
While you've probably already encountered stress as a couple, a pet can create situations you're not be used to, which can in turn lead to some interesting insight.
How your partner responds to your cat tearing up the sofa, for instance, can also reveal a lot about them as a person, Cook says. Do they get really upset? Or do they stay cool under pressure?
Depending on how you both react to stress, it might be a great time to chat about things like communication, and the best ways to be supportive when things go wrong. That way, neither of you will be surprised when similar problems happen in the future.
How You Step Up To New Responsibilities
Taking care of a pet can also be quite revealing in terms of how you take on responsibility individually, and as a couple. After all, "pets require care and dedication, and only a responsible partner will rise to that kind of occasion,"
Jeannie Assimos, a relationship expert and chief of advice at online dating site eharmony, tells Bustle.
Bringing a pet into your lives means there will be more chores, like walking your dog or cleaning your cat's litter box. And if it all falls onto one person, that can say a lot about the dynamics of your relationship.
If you feel let down, use this as a time to
talk about fairness in your relationship and the expectations you have for each other. It's a good idea to have these conversations earlier on — whether they revolve around a pet or not — so that resentment doesn't build.
Whether You'll Be Together Long-Term
While you might think adopting a pet together means you'll be together long-term, that isn't aways the case. It'll obviously be something to discuss, since taking care of a pet is a long-term responsibility, and one of you will always have to be there.
But you might be surprised what else you learn once it happens. "Having a pet is good determinant if you’re both ready to take your relationship to the next level," Celia Schweyer, a dating expert at
Dating Scout, tells Bustle. "Why? Because it can show where your priorities are headed. You both commit to becoming a pet parent, and if you do a good job, it is possible that you might realize that you may want to take the relationship into much deeper waters." Stressed couple on the ladder,men walk away . Shutterstock
"Pets are unpredictable," Schweyer says. "Not only do they have the power to destroy things, but they can also get sick or lost, too! In stressful situations like these, you get to see your partner in a different light."
While everyone's entitled to their own reaction when scary things happen to a pet, it can be surprising to see how you both handle a crisis. "You'll also be able to observe how creative they can be in finding a solution," Schweyer says. "By taking care of a pet, you’ll see how you work as a team."
Having a new dog or cat in the house can reveal a whole new side of your personalities. After all, "an animal is a perfect opportunity to play, which is something adults don’t do nearly enough," Cook says. It can be fun to see how your partner acts around a goofy puppy, or the creative things you both come up with to keep your cat entertained. And it can all bring a totally different and fun vibe to your relationship.
How Well You Communicate
Young couple walking with dog on a leash on asphalt sidewalk. Strong black labrador and stafford terrier mix breed in green summer park Shutterstock
"One of the main things that a couple would learn is how effectively they are communicating with one another," Philip Tedeschi, human-animal connection expert for
Rover.com, tells Bustle. "For pets as with children, consistency and clarity of expectations is an important element to having healthy family dynamics and relationships."
Before, you were only responsible for yourselves. But now you're responsible for another life, and that can mean moving your schedules around, changing plans last minute, and handling mishaps — all of which requires significant cooperation too, Tedeschi says.
All of these dynamics will be revealed after you get a pet, which is why it's important to go into it knowing certain issues
will arise, and that you may have to work through problems as you go. But through it all, you'll learn more about your relationship, as well as how you function as a couple.