Are You and Your Partner Fighting Over Your Beloved Pet? There's Only One Solution...

Are You and Your Partner Fighting Over Your Beloved Pet? There's Only One Solution...

“If a couple is going to war over a pet, they don’t belong together," says top couples therapist Ken Vorhees.

By Marianne Garvey

John Cena and Nikki Bella differed in their desires to have children — and Nikki’s love of animals.

When the Total Divas star brought home a French Bulldog puppy named Winston, John admitted he had a hard time bonding with the dog, and it caused major problems in their relationship. 

“Look,” he told Rolling Stone in April 2016. “I know I cannot handle raising a child. It’s like with the dog. My biggest thing to Nicole about the dog was: Love dogs, but I can’t contribute to taking care of one. I don’t have the time.”

What kind of monster doesn’t love animals? Well, at least he was honest. But a puppy … so much joy, so much love and so much cuteness. And you don’t have to send it to college.

Pets bring comfort, companionship, and peace to our homes. Animals relieve stress and anxiety and are considered therapy for kids and adults. Many people even consider their pets to be their children or BFF (best furry friend).

But, what to do when your new partner hates your cat or dog, or turtle, or bunny, or whatever it is you happen to love? (Hopefully it’s legal in your state.) Or what if you’re already in an established relationship and you bring home a pet, and it’s not OK? We’d say, first of all, don’t go adopting a pet without consulting with your partner and getting their support, 100 percent. There is no gray area. They’re either all for picking poop up off the carpet or they’re not.

When there’s conflict over pets, it can cause broken hearts all around — yours, your partner’s, and sadly, for the animal, too.

New York City-based couples therapist Ken Vorhees has handled battles between couples over their pets many times in his 30-year career, and has a pretty strong opinion on what to do when your partner hates (or even slightly dislikes) your pet.

“I think if somebody hates a animal that much, it’s not about the animal, it’s a power struggle between the couple,” Vorhees tells Personal Space. “Why hate any animal? You can certainly not love an animal…Take a hairless cat, some people can not be in love with it, think it’s ugly, but to force a partner you say you love to give up their beloved pet, and humans anthropomorphize their pets, you probably don’t love the person.”

Can’t you love the person and hate their smelly cat? Actually, no, Vorhees says.

“All kinds of animals have difficult personalities, they nip, bark, they may look ugly, again, it’s not about the animal,” he says, adding, “if a couple is going to war over a pet, they don’t belong together.”

“It’s been my experience that couples don’t see the underlying factor going on here, it’s more often than not the female who loves the animal and the guy makes her get rid of it…and you’ve taken a beloved creature away from them you are injuring them.”

Vorhees says humans are so attached to their pets, they often grieve their loss when they die as if they were human.

“I’ve had clients in here who grieve intensely the loss of a pet, it’s like any long term relationship,” he says. “The most painful death is the death of child, the second is mothers, then come is a spouse, sibling, best friend, and pets. It takes about two years to fully grieve all of these and giving up a beloved animal may create a grief process for two years, so I would question that person’s capacity to love you if they’d put you through that.”

Instead, Vorhees says, the person needs to make their peace with the animal, and your love for the animal.

“There are always difficulties in relationships,” he says. “Hating an animal is often not the animal — it’s intimacy issues, a power dynamic, jealousy issues. Making a partner get rid of an animal is a cruel act.”

What would he advise?

“I would tell the partner with the animal to break up with this person,” he says. “I see people live together who have differing political views, they’re able to see what they love about each other and let the rest go. It’s a pet, your partner loves this animal.”

And while a poorly trained dog or pissed off cat can be frustrating, it’s workable. You can both always call an animal expert to help better train your pet, work on aggressiveness, or annoying habits, and still be patient and loving with your pet. A pet is family, but it’s also acceptable for one person in the relationship to be a little less in love with the pet or pets, that’s OK, as long as they are kind. Some people don’t want to snuggle Fido in bed or have their face licked, and that’s totally acceptable. If it’s your pet, handle the majority, if not all of the care and feeding, so your partner doesn’t resent the animal around. Set ground rules for both your partner and your pet. Finally, talk about your future. By many accounts, issues over a pet are really to do with having children.

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