I felt torn between two horrible choices: either get a dog or be the cause of his unhappiness by saying no. I was scared that if I stood in his way, he would resent me and it would weaken our relationship. He is prone to depression and we have had rocky times in the past, including an 18-month separation. I didn’t want things to fall apart again. So I gave in.
Six months later I loathe owning a dog, just like I knew I would. I feed her, walk her every day while he’s at work (I work from home) and pay for half her upkeep, but I get zero joy from any of it. Even worse, I feel hurt and angry that my boyfriend pressured me to get her and prioritized his feelings over mine. It’s hard to move on from this when I’m stuck with the dog that we’re both responsible for.
I want to know how we should have dealt with the situation differently, so we can learn from our mistakes, and how we can possibly come to a compromise on the dog issue when, for the rest of our lives, he’s going to desperately want one and I’m going to desperately NOT. Please help! — Cat Lady, 29
What you should have done differently is not move into a rental that allows dogs! What you should have done differently is not get a damn dog if you hate dogs. If this was an issue that you two couldn’t come to an agreement on, then you should have broken up. You still can. Just let him take the dog. I mean, if two people can’t agree on whether or not to have children — like, if one person literally hates kids and the other is desperate to be a parent — they would/should break up. No one with any brain cells would advise a couple like this to go ahead and have a kid and hope for the best. And it’s the same with animals. You should not have to get a pet, knowing you don’t want one, simply to make your partner happy — ESPECIALLY if you’re going to be stuck shouldering most of the care-giving responsibilities.
So what can you do about it now? Well, you can tell your boyfriend you don’t want the dog, you don’t ever want a dog, and, if he’s not ok with that, maybe you need to break up. You can ask him to take on at least 90% of the care-giving responsibilities — or pay for a dog walker, etc. if he can’t be home to take care of the dog, and see how that goes for a while. Maybe you’ll feel better or maybe you’ll resent that your boyfriend’s money is going to dog care instead of to the household or to things you would find mutually enjoyable. You could decide to suck it up for fifteen years and hope that the damn dog grows on you eventually and that all the resentment you feel toward your boyfriend doesn’t spill into your relationship too much (but it will, especially if you live in a cold climate and will have to walk the dog every day, all winter long).
Whether or not you decide to keep the dog (and, obviously, if you decide to stay together and to re-home Fido, work diligently on finding it a loving, stable home where it will be wanted and loved and well cared-for!), I’d recommend you and your boyfriend give couples counseling a try. You’ve established a pattern of your boyfriend basically harassing you until you give in to his demands, and that cannot continue if you hope to have a long and happy relationship. Your needs and desires and wants have to be heard and validated, and you have to learn how to compromise in ways that feel mutually agreeable. I mean, that’s what compromise is. It is not one person getting exactly what he wants while the other person makes all the sacrifices, fuck that noise.
All that said, are you sure it’s the dog you loathe? Might there be someone else in your life who’s making you miserable that you want to get rid of?
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.