What Pets Can Teach Us About Marriage
Do you greet each other with excitement, overlook each other’s flaws and easily forgive bad behavior? If it’s your pet, the answer is probably yes. But your spouse? Probably not.
In an article on PsychCentral, clinical psychologist Suzanne B. Phillips of Long Island University explores what our relationships with pets can teach us about our relationship with a spouse or romantic partner.
“What is interesting in my work with couples is that although couples may vehemently disagree on most topics, they usually both soften in manner and tone to agree that the dog, cat, bird or horse is great,” Dr. Phillips writes.
She argues that we all have much to learn from the way we love our pets. People often describe pets as undemanding and giving unconditional love, when the reality is that pets require a lot of time and attention, special foods and care. They throw up on rugs, pee in the house and steal food from countertops. Yet we accept their flaws because we love them so much.
Dr. Phillips suggests we can all learn how to improve our human relationships by focusing on how we interact with our pets. Among her suggestions:
Greetings: Even on bad days, we greet our pets with a happy, animated hello, and usually a pat on the head or a hug. Do you greet your spouse that way?
Holding grudges: Even when our pets annoy us by wrecking the furniture or soiling the floor, we don’t stay mad at them.
Assuming the best: When our pets make mistakes, we don’t take it personally and are quick to forgive. We give them the benefit of the doubt. Yet when our spouse does something wrong, we often react with anger and blame.
“The old expression ‘you get what you give’ may apply here,” writes Dr. Phillips. “Maybe you give something very positive to your pet that invites the unconditional love and connection that makes you feel so good. Maybe it has potential to enhance your relationship.”
(Happy 7th Birthday, Charlie!)
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