Yappily Ever After: Are You Ready for a ‘Blended Family’?

If you’ve started dating a fellow pet lover, you already have something important in common: your love for animals. Pets are part of your family. You probably feel you and your pets are a package deal; if your date cannot get along with your pets, it’s time to look elsewhere.

If your pets have always come first, how do you integrate a new love relationship into your life? Has your date met your pets? Like single parents, some pet owners wait to see how the relationship goes before bringing their love interest home to meet “the pets.” Do you like the way your date interacts with your pet? Does your new friend make an effort to get to know your pet? I heard of a man who had a parrot, and he sought out a bird behaviorist to help his bird accept his new girlfriend into their “flock.” The time, effort, and love the girlfriend invested in his bird was one of the things which convinced him this woman was “the one.” They got married, and the bird was delighted.

Does your date get along great with animals, but treat YOU like a worn-out dog toy? Although I believe love for animals is a good indicator of ability to love in general, sometimes one partner may feel “second-class” to the other’s pets. It’s important to have a balance here. I once knew a man who lavished gentle affection and upscale deli treats on his dog, but verbally and physically abused his own girlfriend.

Have you ever been asked to choose between a partner and a pet? The answer is usually to keep the pet, and let the partner go. A kind, loving partner would hesitate to give you such an ultimatum. (If your partner has severe allergies or a pathological fear of your pet, these issues can often be resolved with professional help, if both partners are willing.) Often people who demand you choose are insecure and controlling, and cannot stand “sharing” you with a pet. They are not considering YOUR feelings; only their own. Furthermore, even if you did say goodbye to your pet, your partner would likely get jealous of other things: your time with friends or family, your workouts, hobbies, even possibly your job. So beware if you’re asked to make such a choice.

Questions for the Two of You:
– Do you have enough to sustain a relationship aside from your mutual love of animals?
– How do your pets get along with each other? Does one of you have cats, the other birds? Can you resolve the potential hazards of seemingly incompatible pets?
– Do the two of you have differing views about your pets’ lifestyle? For example, does he feel his cat should stay indoors and sleep with him in bed, but she strongly believes that cats belong outside? If she has a bird and insists it get organic veggies and full-spectrum lighting, does he consider this an overindulgent waste of money? If whenever he drives he takes his dog with him, does she dislike dog breath in her ear?
– Sit down and talk with each other about your concerns. It may feel risky, but it’s better to do this sooner than later, and you may discover important about your date during the discussion: how he or she copes with potentially sticky subjects. Ability to resolve differences of opinion is a good indicator of a lasting relationship.

If you’re both pet lovers, you’re already off to a good start. Keep the lines of communication open and take time to enjoy each other (with and without your pets). Take time to walk the walks, sniff the smells, and bark, meow, squawk, and squeak to your hearts’ content!

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