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January 5, 2023



For better or for worse, a pet can, and most definitely will, affect your relationship with your significant other or spouse. So, if you are considering becoming the parents of a “fur baby,” here are some things to consider in making your decision. Some of these can be positive or negative – or both. It all depends on how you and your spouse or partner communicate and navigate through them. These generally apply to the most common pets – cats and dogs. However, you could apply many of these effects to a pet of any species or breed.

  • You will need to evaluate your relationship.

Just how committed are you to your partner and this relationship? How would the pet be affected if you split up and went your separate ways? For instance, cockatoos live 40-60 years, so choosing one might be perfect for you if you see yourself rocking on the porch in your 70’s with the birdcage between you. On the other hand, African Grey Parrot lives, on average, a mere 23 years. An indoor cat’s life expectancy isHOW A PET CAN AFFECT YOUR RELATIONSHIP body 10-15 years, while dogs usually live from 8 to 11 years, depending on size and weight. If you are not reasonably confident that you will be together for the foreseeable future, then forego pet ownership in the present. Getting a pet that will end up in the pound, or worse,  is only selfish and irresponsible. On the other hand, if you choose to become “pet parents,” it could mean that you are more serious and more committed to your relationship. In that case, owning a pet could benefit both you and the fur baby you choose.

  • You will develop a higher level of responsibility.

There will be fewer last-minute trips and adventures unless they involve the ability to take your pet with you. Even then, you must make plans to accommodate your pet while traveling. If you are not taking your pet, boarding or scheduling a pet sitter will involve advanced planning and preparation. Sufficient food, water, and medications must also be provided or arranged for.   In other words, you will experience less spontaneity and more responsibility.

  • You may experience negative feelings.

One of you may be more committed to the pet’s care than the other. The lesser-committed partner may resent having to take care of the pet. Arguments could build around who bathes the dog or empties the cat’s litter box. You may even discover that your partner is lazy or selfish because they don’t offer to help care for the pet when you are unable or unavailable.

  • You will become more active.

This is especially true with a dog. However, there is no more sleeping in late with a dog or a cat. Instead, your “slow-start” mornings are accelerated by the need to take the dog out for a walk or your cat’s persistence in being fed or paid attention to. A sedentary life is not healthy for you or your pet, so increasing activity can be a good thing.

  • You will become healthier.

And along the same theme, in a study of 240 couples done by the American Heart Association, pet owners showed    “significantly smaller increases in heart rate and blood pressure in response to stress .”Another study found that dog ownership helps reduce mortality in people with cardiovascular disease, “with the likelihood of mortality being 4.05 times greater for those who did not own a dog.”

  • You will be forced to communicate and operate as a team.

You will need to discuss responsibilities such as who will buy the food and supplies, who will feed and water the pet, who will take the dog out or walk it, who will arrange for visits to the groomer and the veterinarian, etc. You will learn to work as a team and, in the process, sort out your differences, problem-solve, and communicate.

  • You will experience fun and enjoyment.

No doubt, your pet will perform goofy or cute antics. They will bring out your own “inner child” as you engage in play with them. Training your pet can also cause you to learn new skills and afford you the satisfaction of having a well-trained animal. You may also simply enjoy the companionship of another living being in your living spaces.

  • You will practice conflict management skills.

What if you are more structured in training and disciplining the pet? Who will “win” if one partner wants the pet to sleep on the bed, but the other is opposed to sharing their sleeping space? You will learn to negotiate and compromise, two valuable relationship skills in working it all out.

  • You could experience jealousy!

Your pet is so cute, especially when it is a “baby .”Your spouse can’t resist cuddling with it and giving it undivided attention. Sometimes, you may feel that you get less affection and attention than your pet. It is easy for jealousy to arise, and you must discuss it calmly with your spouse. It could be as simple as making sure that you greet each other with a hug and kiss before engaging with your pet.

  • You will feel more like a “family.”

In sharing love and care for a pet, you will feel more like parents and more like a family that includes fur babies. There is a bond that develops when you both nurture and discipline a pet. You are giving your time, attention, and financial support to another living being – just like parents do for a child. A pet can be a good indicator of how you will function as a couple when or if you do have children.

  • You will develop experiential intimacy.

Caring for a pet will be a shared experience between you. You will go through the ups and downs of pet ownership. This will strengthen your connection and feelings of closeness.

  • There will be more stress at times.

The added responsibilities – feeding, walking, grooming and bathing, immunizations, pet illness, etc. – cause stress that must be addressed and considered.

  • You will have more – or less – time together.

Taking your pet on walks or playing with them together can increase your time with each other. On the other hand, doing things with your pet separately from your spouse can decrease your time together. If your lifestyle is already busy and packed, you will want to choose a pet that gives you the opportunity to spend more time together.

  • You will have less free and “me” time.

The demands of caring for a pet will take more of your free time. Ask yourselves and each other if you are willing to give up a significant part of your free time by becoming pet owners. Are you ready to get up earlier and forgo those extra “z’s” to care for your pet? Will you leave social events earlier so that you can provide the care that your pet requires?

  • You will have less disposable cash.

According to the ASPCA, at a minimum, for the first year, dog expenses are around $1,270, and cat expenses can run about $1,070. Emergency vet bills, a hidden cost, can be as high as $4,000, not to mention unexpected medications or vitamins. The Texas Society of CPAs provides a worksheet to break down the cost of owning a pet. Becoming a pet owner can mean you must be willing to alter your lifestyle and make sacrifices – like eating out less, forgoing a second round of drinks, skipping $5 coffee/tea drinks, etc.

  • You will cherish your alone time.

Every couple needs time alone together. Unfortunately, a pet can disrupt and interrupt this time. Be sure to close the door and have some alone couple time that your pet won’t interrupt.

Owning a pet can be an enriching and satisfying experience if it is the right time and the right pet for you and your partner. First, ensure you have communicated clearly about all the ramifications of pet adoption and that you are enthusiastic about adding a pet to your relationship.

If you want to discuss how we can help you and your relationship, don’t hesitate to contact me at [email protected] or call 866-218-1716. You may also visit our website, www.LoveRecon.org, for testimonials and information.

About the author 

Cliff Poe

Cliff Poe is Founder and Lead Coach for Recon Coaching. He and his wife, Jeani, are Master Coaches and their passion is to help individuals and couples form healthy, lasting and satisfying relationships. Cliff has a M.Div. in pastoral counseling and ministry. He enjoys writing and coaching as well as his family which includes 2 adult kids and their spouses, 6 grandchildren and a fur family composed of a Golden Retriever and a Mackerel Tabby.

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