What Pets Can Teach Us About Marriage

I love it when others confirm something that I already thought to be true. In this case, it’s the idea that people are often much nicer to their pets than they are to their romantic partners. PsychCentral explains how people account for their unconditional pet-love:

People often describe pets as undemanding and giving unconditional love, when the reality is that pets require a lot of time and attention, special foods and care. They throw up on rugs, pee in the house and steal food from countertops. Yet we accept their flaws because we love them so much.

The article describes 6 ways we are more emotionally generous to our pets:

1) How we greet them – in a positive, animated, affectionate way. As opposed to barely looking up from your Blackberry when he comes home.

2) Our expectations of them – minimal to reasonable. Your expectations of your boyfriend: perfection/connection/mindreading/mindblowing sex or bust.

You yell… when your dog chews your shoe and are petting him an hour later. Yet you might go to bed mad because of something stupid that your husband said…

3) How we hold grudges against them – you yell for a moment when your dog chews your shoe and are petting him an hour later. Yet you might go to bed mad because of something stupid that your husband said about your new haircut.

4) Assuming the best – you know your cat didn’t have bad intentions when waking you up at 5am, but you assume that your boyfriend was trying to disrespect you when he smiled at the checkout girl. Maybe he was just being polite.

5) Acceptance – the dog licks your friend’s face when she arrives, you say, “That’s just the dog”. Your boyfriend likes playing video games and you want to decapitate him. Actually, “that’s just your boyfriend.”

Few pets live with the the implication that things are just not working out. Not so with partners.

6) For Better or For Worse – People love and care for pets of every size, shape and disposition. “She’s not exactly a watch dog; she’s loving but easily frightened.” “He insists on sleeping on the bed – we have given in.” Few pets live with the the implication that things are just not working out. Not so with partners. It’s hard to feel a consistent emotional connection when you always feel like you can be tossed out for the latest infraction.

It’s easy to say that you treat your romantic partners worse because you have more emotionally invested in them, because they’re free-thinking human beings who should know how to be more considerate, because the relationship has more of a give and take. All duly noted.

That doesn’t excuse the overall picture here. You are quite likely more considerate, patient, emotionally giving, and sane with co-workers, friends and pets than you are with your romantic partners. Something about love brings out the impatient, demanding side, apparently.

As a guy who grew up with pets (I’m lobbying with my wife to get a dog bigger than a terrier), I have to say that just about the ONLY clients I’ve ever STRUGGLED to help were women who were more in love with animals than they were with men. Not just “crazy cat ladies”. Dog women – the ones with 4 or 5 of ‘em – would much rather hang with their dogs than go on a date.

Dog women – the ones with 4 or 5 of ‘em – would much rather hang with their dogs than go on a date.

And it makes sense, especially when your ideal relationship consists of a furry friend who doesn’t talk back, and is excited to see you every day because you’re the one who provides, food, water, shelter and affection. Comparatively, men can only lose.

Then again, a dog will never pay the rent, raise your kids, drive you to the doctor, cook you a meal, give you an orgasm, or have any private jokes with you.

If you want one of those creatures in your life, you should probably learn to treat men like dogs…

You know what I mean.

1
2

Join 7 Million Readers

And the thousands of women I've helped find true love. Sign up for weekly updates for help understanding men.

I hate spam as much as you do, therefore I will never sell, rent, or give away your email address.

Join our conversation (81 Comments).
Click Here To Leave Your Comment Below.

Comments:

  1. 31
    anette

    My sisters ex-husband, treated their dog much better than my sister. Barely a pec on the cheek for her, but oodles of affection for the Dog. It really hurt her feelings to see him so crazy for the dog. 1/2 an hour of playing every time he came home. But could he sit for 1/2 an hour and talk with her or hug her? Nope.

    The same really goes for families vs Friends. In my family, friends are treated much better than family most of the time.  I tried to point this out to one sister and eventually gave up. We do not spend much time together at all anymore. A shame, but she seems to think it’s perfectly fine to treat everyone who loves her badly and everyone else as though they matter.

    It’s strange why we do this. I wonder why? If it was JUST pets, I could agree with Steve #7 but it’s not is it?

  2. 32
    Evan Marc Katz

    But that’s the point, Selena. Pets are low-risk, low-reward relationships. You will not bear children with your pet. You will not be driven to chemo by your pet. You will not make love in a hotel in Paris with your pet. So to say that pets are loyal because they literally CAN’T decide not to be with you is besides the point. ‘

    This reminds me of a quote that my client, Gail, gave to me last week. It’s from a book called Advice to a Young Wife From an Old Mistress by Michael Drury: “Swearing to love forever is like swearing to feel perpetually any other emotion, fear or sorrow, admiration or joy…… What one can swear is to go on being worth loving, a vow that is more flexible, more attainable and more true.”

    Focus your energies on being more loving instead of trying to focus on how everyone else disappoints you. That’s all you can control. And that’s the point of this pets post.

  3. 33
    Diana

    Evan, I am sure you know there are those who would argue that pets are nowhere remotely close to being a low-reward relationship because they can’t drive them to chemo or help pay their bills when they get laid off. Of course, pets cannot do these things, and there are things pets can do which most humans either cannot or fail to do, which is worse.
     
    IMHO, I am not a major lover of pets, but I think it’s unfair to make such comparisons. Fulfilling relationships come in all sorts of ways. Yes, we all need to be more loving, less critical and more accepting of others.
     
     

  4. 34
    Diana

    Selene #34, precisely.

  5. 35
    moon

    I actually find having a pet pretty high reward.  It keeps my heart open for bigger things.

  6. 36
    Selena

    Re: #32

    Oh, I got the point Evan.  I was just making another: my pets have outlasted some of my lovers not because I treated them better, but because they treated me better. ;)

  7. 37
    Evan Marc Katz

    I AM a pet lover, and I will be curious to know what a pet can do for you that a human can’t. Be furry? Lick your face? Climb on your head when you’re sleeping? Pets are mostly furry stress-balls, whom we like to squeeze and hug and kiss and care for – and they’re always happy to see us. But as for what they “do”? Apart from looking really cute, they don’t do a fraction of what a husband does.

    Sorry for being so pro-human, but I think we should stop putting our puppies up on pedestals and start doing it for our partners…

  8. 38
    sayanta

    #37-

    Amen, EMK- it’s the same for children by the way, when I compare American parents to immigrant parents, the former treats their pets as more human than their children!! And this seems to be especially true for upper-class older women (think the ones with little doggies in their Prada bags).

  9. 39
    Honey

    I agree that we should treat the people in our lives well, but I can’t help but play devil’s advocate – your pet may not be able to drive you to chemotherapy, but pets have been proven to reduce depression and increase oxygenation in the blood among chemotherapy patients specifically.  Pets also reduce blood pressure (tell me one human relationship that does that!) ;-)

  10. 40
    diana

    Evan, I am in agreement with your overall view. I just see a separate view, too. There are often deeply personal reasons for why people love their animals as they do, and why they sometimes prefer them over their own.
     
    My message in #35 was a bit off. I am referring to the unconditional love and total acceptance that pets have for their owners which many humans have demonstrated they are either incapable or unwilling to do, regardless of who their partner is.
     
    As for what a husband can do, it depends on the husband. ;)

  11. 41
    starthrower68

    @ Evan #37,

    You’ll probably want to thump me on the head for this,  and perhaps I’m not picking up your meaning; however, I don’t think it’s a good idea to put our mates on a pedastal either.  Invariably, when we idealize the other person and creat in ourselves expectations or hopes they can never possibly live up to, then we our disappointed by our own fault.  I’m not saying that we should treat our pets better than our mates, but I’m saying balance in all things.

  12. 42
    starthrower68

    “create” and “are disappointed”….pfffttt so much for my spelling today…

  13. 43
    Shay

    To me, a pet and a partner are for different purposes. They meet different needs. We have different expectations of them. Thus, they are not comparable.
    I will be angry with my dog (if I still have him) one moment but cuddle him next because I don’t expect much from a dog. However, I may go to bed angry with my boyfriend (if I have one) because he has done something which I repeatedly told him not to (for example).

    I understand that Evan is trying to say that we can show more love and more forgiveness to a pet, which should take lesser priority to a human being, than our partner. Yeah, I get that. Great lesson here. But ultimately, it boils down to expectations. We get different needs fulfilled with pets and with partners. Our expectations are then different. One cannot replace the other. 

    Therefore, we should all adjust our expectations of our dog or our partner to a level which is reasonably to ask for of each. Our love and forgiveness for pets or partners shall then be adjusted accordingly once we understand the different roles pets and partners play in our lives.

  14. 44
    Diana

    To Shay #43, very well stated. :)

  15. 45
    Karl R

    Selena said: (#30)
    “Well…pets are loyal to death do you part. […] and they don’t cheat.”

    Let me get a ham bone that’s covered with meat scraps. I’d like to test how loyal your dog is. Let me get some catnip. I’d like to test how loyal your cat is.

    With rare exceptions, pets are loyal to whomever is serving their wants and needs at that moment.

    Selena said: (#30)
    “They don’t decide one day they just aren’t that into you,”

    That sounds like average daily behavior for a cat.

    Honey said: (#39)
    “Pets also reduce blood pressure (tell me one human relationship that does that!)”

    I was doing that for my girlfriend last night. She may be losing her job in the next month. Her bosses are being weasels and refusing to give her straight answers. She needed to vent.

    The dog, on the other hand, was across the room … fast asleep. And while the dog certainly can help her relax, he isn’t able to get her to laugh about the situation.

    Shay said: (#43)
    “I may go to bed angry with my boyfriend (if I have one) because he has done something which I repeatedly told him not to (for example).”
    “But ultimately, it boils down to expectations. We get different needs fulfilled with pets and with partners. Our expectations are then different.”

    My girlfriend repeatedly forgets to the door to the house and the car. She forgets to close the garage door. If I get angry with her (and stay angry with her), will this change the situation in the future? Will it improve our relationship?

    If it won’t change the situation or improve the relationship, what benefit is it (to me or her) to get angry and stay angry?

    As Evan pointed out earlier, we don’t get angry at the dog for chewing on shoes. That’s just the way the dog is. I don’t get angry at my girlfriend for forgetting to lock the front door. That’s just the way she is.

    Selena said: (#34)
    “my pets have outlasted some of my lovers not because I treated them better, but because they treated me better.”

    The situation works both ways. If those lovers had treated you better (than they or other people treat pets), you might have kept them around. Similarly, if you treat your lovers better than you treat your pets, they are more likely to want to keep you around.

    How does this in any way negate Evan’s points?

    moon said: (#21)
    “YOU try keeping dogs off the bed; not possible.”

    It took me three days to train my girlfriend’s dog to get off the bed at my verbal command … and that dog is not exceptionally bright. It was possible because I’m a lot more patient than the dog is.

    But if that topic truly interests you, you should find a blog that discusses dog obedience training. It’s a bit far afield for this blog.

  16. 46
    starthrower68

    @Karl #45,

    I have to agree with you about cats.  They don’t have people.  They have staff.

  17. 47
    Honey

    Karl R, it is a little weird to use my comment as an example when I prefaced the whole thing by saying I was playing devil’s advocate, not to mention that “making her laugh” isn’t the same thing as reducing her blood pressure on a permanent basis merely by your presence :-)

  18. 48
    Sayanta

    Karl, #45-

    Actually, that first point reminds me of the movie As GOod as it Gets- remember after Greg Kinnear’s character got beat up and his dog refused to go near him, but went to Jack Nicholson, who had all the hambone? sorry, little tangent there.

  19. 49
    Cat

    A show on the Animal Channel addresses relationships in jeopardy due to pets:  “It’s Me or The Dog.” An obedience trainer comes in and trains the couple –yes, the couple– in addition to the dog. Often BOTH need training to correct bad habits and get them back on track so that people control the house (and the bedroom) instead of the dog… That said, I’m a huge dog lover! There are no bad dogs, only bad owners…

  20. 50
    Ava

    Seriously? I love my pets, but i think if I was treating them better than a guy I was dating, it would be a clear signal that I wasn’t that into him. OTHOH, some men I’ve dated didn’t deserve to be treated as well as I treat my pets.

  21. 51
    shalini

    EMK,
    Actually your article applies to families in general than just romantic partners..  And its really frustrating. You’d think after loving someone so much and doing more for your family than you’d do for others they’d forgive you more than they do their colleagues because at the end.. Most of the time its family who would support you when you really need someone.
    (That’s one area where my dog at least does not need to be trained. He might go crazy with happiness when my friends come but he does show that he knows I’m family and they are not.)

  22. 52
    Liz

    @shalini – Dogs don’t have any concept of “family.” They only have a concept of who is providing for them. If that were to suddenly change, then the dog would no longer consider you “family.”

  23. 53
    Liz

    To me, the absolute most important thing Evan has said in this comment section is:

    “Focus your energies on being more loving instead of trying to focus on how everyone else disappoints you. That’s all you can control.”

  24. 54
    Karl R

    Honey said: (#47)
    “it is a little weird to use my comment as an example when I prefaced the whole thing by saying I was playing devil’s advocate,”

    per wikipedia:
    In common parlance, a devil’s advocate is someone who takes a position he or she does not necessarily agree with for the sake of arguement.

    I would say that it’s a little weirder to say something for the sake of arguement, and expect people to avoid responding with a counter-arguement.

    Honey said: (#47)
    “not to mention that ‘making her laugh’ isn’t the same thing as reducing her blood pressure on a permanent basis merely by your presence”

    The dog doesn’t reduce her blood pressure on a permanent basis. Yesterday the dog had a seizure, so he was raising her blood pressure (with worry). But, the dog tends to lower her blood pressure under normal circumstances.

    However, we have a low-stress relationship. Both of us believe that our relationship also lowers our blood pressure under normal circumstances.

    If you’re in a relationship that typically raises your blood pressure (and not in a good way), you might want to examine your relationship.

  25. 55
    Shay

    Karl (#45),

    women are sometimes not so rationale as men. We tend to feel our emotions first before we finally get it in our head that being angry doesn’t help. Yup, I get used to going to bed angry with things. Although I know I should not.  :)

    I don’t think it really matters if ultimately the issue is resolved either by confrontation and settle on a resolution between us or straighten out my thinking – to accept him or ditch him. If the dog did something to make me mad enough (e.g. being too ill discipline and failing dog school – happened to my friend, she loves dogs but really couldn’t stand a particular one she had), I would also need to think about accepting it or ditching it. I think the process is  unavoidable.

  26. 56
    Helen

    Shay #55: “women are sometimes not so rationale as men.”
    Ugh. This statement is false. Not to mention that it’s spelled “rational” in the context used here.
    Let’s not perpetuate stereotypes of women that ultimately prove harmful to the way we are viewed by society.
    Other than that… this entry and the comments make me laugh! While I don’t think it’s worthwhile to compare pets and spouses, I do think it’s a very important issue to be resolved in relationships if one partner feels that the other loves him/her less than the pet.

  27. 57
    shalini

    @ Liz 52
    Of course i know that.. but i mean to say i don’t have to tell him to treat me better and with more love than others.. He does that himself. Its not about what my dog knows here.. It’s about the fact that human’s are supposedly more intelligent than animals yet they somehow don’t get the fact that they  show less love to the family who supported them thought so much and are more caring and patient with the friends or colleagues some of whom left them when they needed them!!
    At least i my dog still does things that show he might be happy to see them but he still trusts and prefers to spend time with me rather than them. And i guess in a way dogs do know who’s family.. Coz i have seen that animals are not really as stupid as people make them out to be.. He might not know a word for it. But he gets it!!!

  28. 58
    Honey

    Karl – I was playing devil’s advocate, yet you disagreed with my example, using it as if I believed what I was saying, when (since I was playing devil’s advocate) obviously you and I agreed completely.

    My boyfriend and I have a very low-stress relationship – I can think of only one couple we know in real life who can say the same :-)

  29. 59
    anette

    @51

    But if they were forgiving you “more” wouldn’t that imply that you are doing more that is wrong? meaning you are treating the family member worse than an acquantance? I think that’s the problem. We expect family to forgive more, so we try less and end up not treating each other with the love that we could be.

  30. 60
    anette

    @Liz 53

    I agree. That comment really stuck with me. It reminds me of something else I’ve either heard, or figured out(can’t remember).

    it was along the lines of, when looking for a partner, look for the person you would like to spend the rest of your life making happy, rather than look for the person who will spend the rest of their lives making you happy.

    It’s about observing, and watching your own behaviour and how you want to treat THEM, instead of focusing on how they should be treating you.

    I think most of us are narcissistic enough, to notice when we are being treated badly. lol!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>