“Do I Need a Dog Instead or a Husband?”

I have been with my partner for five years, married for two. I have been through the dating mill and was happy as a single woman playing the field in my 20s until I finally found a good man to settle down with. COVID has us both in the house together, and before we worked a lot so we had lots of time apart (which was great as I value my alone time). I know it is normal to feel caged and have our partners get on our nerves, but some issues are looming in our relationship.

My husband has always had what I consider a drinking problem, which I have talked to him about on multiple occasions, even with a brief stint in relationship counseling for a separate issue that made him quit for a few months. I used to drink moderately until we settled down and bought a house, figuring people party when they are younger but become more responsible as they grow up. Not only am I concerned about why he drinks this much, but also I am concerned about his absence and slurring of speech on a nightly basis, about how, pre-covid, he used to shut down the bars, about his drinking and driving, about the amount of money being spent, and about the lasting damage this drinking and smoking while drinking are causing to his body. I am in my early 30s and he is in his early 40s. Every time I bring up drinking he brushes it off or gaslights me like it isn’t a problem.

We both value physical fitness and the outdoors, but he has gained some weight and does not show any sign of wanting to work to get back in shape. I have tried to get him to do workouts or ride our bikes to no avail. I have also gained some weight, but I am getting back into working out at home. I have also come to notice he is quick to anger/has a very short fuse. I would never stay with someone who had a tendency for violence or abuse, but there are sides of him coming out during COVID that are not… the best. (I would never put my physical safety in jeopardy.) We haven’t had sex in months and I don’t really feel the urge to anymore. He doesn’t have any hobbies outside of being a workaholic.

The thing is this: He brought home a puppy last winter and I FELL IN LOVE. He is the sweetest little creature and he has me thinking… “Do I need a husband?” The dog provides me companionship, always wants to go outside and explore, and is incredibly easy to talk to. It is hard not to daydream about it being just us two. Is a dog all I needed to fulfill the companionship void I was looking for when I was dating?

I understand that COVID is a weird time and our usual outlets and activities (occasional date night, going to the movies, etc.) are out of the question, but I am starting to wonder if all of those things were convenient distractions and this is the essence of my husband. I am scared I really don’t like it. — Lone Wolf

You know what – yeah, you don’t need a husband. You certainly don’t need a husband who is an abusive, gaslighting, depressed drunk you don’t want to touch. You’ve tried counseling, you’ve tried talking to your husband about the issues you see – it hasn’t worked. The issues you have precede Covid; they’re not going to disappear once we’re past the pandemic. Your marriage is a pandemic. Get a divorce, get a dog, and if you ever want to get married again, by all means do it if the match is right—-but also do it because you want to and not because you need to. Because, yeah, you don’t need a husband. No one does.

I have a bit of an unusual (at least for me) and serious problem. I am engaged to a truly wonderful man whom I love dearly, but lately I’ve found myself both emotionally and physically drawn to another man. The reason that I say that this is unusual for me is because I have never had this issue before in prior relationships, or at all for that matter. In total I have had four relationships (including my current one) and all have lasted at minimum 13 months. Whenever I have found myself having feelings for someone, I’ve always just been attracted emotionally and physically to that one person and no one else. But now I’m finding myself caught between two men, each of whom is incredibly wonderful to me and wishes to make me happy. I don’t know what to do; choosing one over the other means permanently losing the other and I can’t handle that kind of loss. They have both become really important to me and I don’t want to lose them, even though I know that at the end of the day a decision will eventually need to be made.

What is your advice? I don’t know what to do. I’m not a heartbreaker. I’m not a cheater. But in this scenario it is all entirely my fault and the hearts of two completely innocent men are in the balance because of me and my selfishness. It is coming to the point that the guilt and overall negative emotions that I am experiencing from all of this are physically taking a toll on me. Please, I need help. Advise, please. — Guilt-Ridden Fiancée

Honestly, I’d end things with both men, get a dog, and see if you miss either man six months from now. My guess is not that only will you have likely moved on emotionally, but also that they will have too, and you’ll be so relieved you didn’t end up getting a husband when all you needed was a pet. If a dog isn’t right for you at the moment, try a cat or a new hobby. Either way, it sounds like you aren’t ready for marriage and are seeking a distraction (the other man). You’ve created a bit of drama around the idea that the hearts of both men hang in the balance and your decision will break one and spare the other, but the truth is everyone is going to be fine. Hearts break and they heal all the time. Your fiancé’s heart will heal much faster if it’s broken now rather than after you’ve been married a few years and then leave him – whether it’s for another man, a dog, or simply to be alone because you never should have married the guy in the first place and falling for someone else while you were engaged was a pretty big indicator of that.

***************Follow along on Facebook,  and Instagram. If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.


  1. LW2 – When I was getting married, we did counseling through our church. The one thing they said that has stuck with me for 13 years is that marriage is a choice that you make over and over again. You will be attracted to other people and it will happen many times. But what you need to do is choose your spouse and lean away from the temptation. You choose to respond to texts or have coffee or flirt back. This second guy should have never gotten this far and you need to figure out why you let it happen.

    1. Yeah… I agree with you. The way to not be torn between two men is to NOT let yourself get smitten with a second man. You can get attracted… you can think someone is nice, funny, smart etc but if you find yourself thinking that way you go out of your way to NOT get any further down that path.

  2. quick to end things says:

    Wendy, you seem very quick to tell ppl to end things. LW#1, should at least tell her husband that he needs to get help for his drinking or else she is leaving.

    LW#2 needs to grow up and realize that crushes happen and that if you have a fiance you love, and there are no problems, get over the crush.

    1. BessMarvin says:

      “Every time I bring up drinking he brushes it off or gaslights me like it isn’t a problem.”

      I think an ultimatum will just put off the inevitable. He’s not interested in changing his drinking.

    2. RE: LW#2. There’s a difference between crushes and an emotional affair. She’s having an emotional affair. If there wasn’t anything wrong in her relationship, she likely wouldn’t be so drawn to this other man that she doesn’t know what to do.

      If DW existed in 2007, I could have easily written in asking nearly the exact some question. I ended up seeing a therapist and ultimately calling off the engagement. I’m not with the other man. I’m both sad and grateful that the emotional affair happened. I’m sad because it hurt someone I cared about (my ex-fiance) but grateful because it helped me figure out that we shouldn’t get married. And like the LW, I never thought of myself as a “cheater”. I’m now married to someone who I absolutely love and who absolutely loves me. I found the right person.

      So the LW needs to figure out what’s wrong and work on her relationship or leave. Of course I’m using my personal experience, but I think Wendy’s scenario of neither is the likely right answer.

  3. LisforLeslie says:

    LW#1 – there’s a saying from various addiction groups: If your drinking is causing problems, then you have a drinking problem. You can make one last ultimatum to your husband, but ultimatums result in temporary changes (at best). It may be time to simply start the paperwork.

    LW#2 – the size of your ego is astounding. Two hearts are in the balance? You think they won’t get over you? Sheesh.

  4. I don’t think the attraction to someone else is SUCH a weird and wonderful thing. Those other relationships probably weren’t as serious with as much at stake so the ole brain didn’t need to stir up the subconscious conflict with them. Now you’re staring down the barrel of marriage and on some level it mustn’t be right, I bet if you split up and give yourself some time alone you’ll probably be wondering why you were so into the other guy.

    1. ” But now I’m finding myself caught between two men, each of whom is incredibly wonderful to me and wishes to make me happy. I don’t know what to do; choosing one over the other means permanently losing the other and I can’t handle that kind of loss. They have both become really important to me and I don’t want to lose them, even though I know that at the end of the day a decision will eventually need to be made”

      In her mind she equates her relationship with the other guy as being on the same level as her relationship to her fiance. She is equally worried about losing the first man as her fiance. I think it goes beyond just being attracted to the other guy and speaks to basic flaws in her relationship with her fiance (and honestly says some not great things about her character).

      I also think that her comment about how the other guy “is incredibly wonderful to [her]” and “wishes to make [her] happy” means some serious boundaries have been crossed with the second guy.

  5. Bittergaymark says:

    LW1) eh… you’ll probably pick your dog about as well as you did your lousy husband. oh sure… you can blame your husband all you want. but… NEWSFLASH! you deliberately married him.

    LW2) monogomy? see? it’s not for everyone.

  6. LW1: you didn’t mention any quality in your husband, anything you like to do with him. Why did you marry him already? Add to this your age gap (early forties: he won’t change drastically, he deals with middle age)… your marriage seems doomed. You obviously want to walk. If he can’t talk properly every evening because he is drunk, I understand you: it is destructive. He seems very worn out, boring to live with. But how do you connect normally?
    Reading you, I was thinking: you put a lot of negative energy into your husband. You reject him, judge him. You request things (not that you shouldn’t, his addiction is a huge problem and he is in complete denial but you CAN’T do anything here)… Perhaps give it once month where you don’t inject any negative energy into him. You ask him positive things that he would like to do with you. You ask him to plan his ideal week-end with you given the circumstances, something nice together. You listen to him. And see what is happening, how you feel. You could also ask him if he is ok. Because it seems he isn’t. So you will have tried. He doesn’t seem either to know that you want to get out so this discussion should also take place (perhaps after the trial where you stop trying to manage him). You seem both totally disconnected.
    But anyway, it is probably not going to work long term. You are too different and he is an addict. I wouldn’t compare him with a dog though. This passion for a dog, who focuses all your positive energy, is the signal that you want to get out. You seem miserable, you pine for your old life. All this says that it is crumbling.
    LW2: oh, come on, if both men want to make you happy, you are seriously betraying them both, or they are not “innocent”. The minute you start to be honest, the “choice” will be made. You will face reality, not your fairy tale of true love.

  7. LW1, honestly when I was reading your letter I was thinking about an early-30s friend of mine who’s in a toxic situation with an ex right now. She’s never had a dog and just got one. I’m hopeful that the attention she gives to the dog and the love he gives her will help her to move past this situation. TBH, as a 12-year dog mom, it’s WAY easier to not miss companionship or not feel lonely when you have a dog. They’re great, as you know, and provide unconditional love and togetherness. What having a dog for most of my 20s and all of my 30s has taught me is to be pretty damn choosy with men, for lots of reasons – not the least of which is that I have plenty of love and companionship waiting for me at home.

    (That being said, I love my boyfriend too and my dogs don’t take the place of a relationship – but it’s a hell of a lot easier to say no to people I’m not compatible with because I’m never really lonely.)

    And yeah, unfortunately it does sound like your husband has a drinking problem and is most likely not going to change much about himself. It sucks, and I’m sorry.

  8. KristyKreme says:

    LW 2.
    You do realise that there are relationships and people that aren’t monogamous. I’m astounded at the number of people in comments who can’t grasp the concept of non-monogamy. Obviously non-monogamy should be ethical so LW2 has a difficult discussion ahead of herself regardless of what she chooses. I’d at least talk with them both and see if non-monogamy might be an option. If they are not onboard with this idea, you obviously have to respect that.

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