You’ve got problems, I’ve got advice. This advice isn’t sugar-coated—in fact, it’s sugar-free, and may even be a little bitter. Welcome to Tough Love.
This week we have a man who hates dogs and is marrying a woman who loves dogs. This one’s going to be ruff (sorry).
Keep in mind, I’m not a therapist or any other kind of health professional—just a guy who’s willing to tell it like it is. I simply want to give you the tools you need to enrich your damn lives. If for whatever reason you don’t like my advice, feel free to file a formal complaint here. Now then, let’s get on with it.
Hey, Patrick, please help:
My fiancée and I have an issue we should have resolved before we became engaged. If we do not resolve this issue, our marriage and relationship is off.
I hate dogs and she loves dogs.
I was traumatized years ago by dogs. I cannot stand to be around dogs, much less live with them. She loves dogs and refuses to give up her two dogs. She says I need therapy to help with my hatred of dogs and I say she needs therapy to help with her dog addiction. We love each other and truly want to resolve this issue.
What do you suggest we do?
Hey Wrong Tree:
Yeah, I’m gonna go ahead and confirm that you definitely should have addressed this issue beforehand. Is this really something that never came up before you popped the question? I mean, I’m assuming you knew she had dogs. There was one probably licking your face while you were down on one knee. What was the plan here, Wrong Tree? You’d propose then she’d immediately agree to abandon her pups? Pets are basically considered family to most people, so this is a big ask.
That being said, there’s bound to be a way to compromise here. If you were traumatized by an incident involving dogs, your future wife needs to understand and respect that. So, if you haven’t already, tell her what happened to you in detail, and explain how any and all dogs make you feel now because of that. It’s vital that you make this about expressing your discomfort, not about how you hate them. That may be true, but just saying you hate them is not going to make her understand. In your mind, all dogs remind you of what happened, but in her mind her dogs are different, so it should be different. For example, if I tell someone “I hate cake” they’ll just go “What? How could you hate cake? Here, try this one. This one is really good.” But if I tell them a story about how my cousin choked on some cake then died in front of me, so I can’t ever see cake without thinking about my cousin’s wide, lifeless eyes… they might understand a bit better. You follow?
Of course, you need to understand and respect her side of this too. You jumped into this like, “Let’s get married, but you have to ditch your kids.” It’s not the exact same thing, but if she’s one of those crazy dog lovers it pretty much is. And for the record, Wrong Tree, having two dogs is not a “dog addiction,” so therapy isn’t necessary on her end. From what I can gather, you have a problem and you’re expecting her to bend over backwards to account for it. That’s not a great way to start things off. Marriage is a union, a partnership, a team; so you need to find a way to meet her halfway here.
Make her a deal: you’ll honestly try therapy if she’ll agree to keep the dogs elsewhere while you work through your issues. After that, you can reassess the situation. Maybe you can find a way to live around them as long as you don’t have to interact with them (they can’t sleep in your room, they need to be outside during the evening, she handles all the duties of taking care of them, etc.). No matter what, though, I’d recommend seeing a marriage counselor about this. They’ll make finding that middle ground so much easier. This doesn’t have to be the thing that ruins an otherwise loving relationship, doggone it!
a cat person
That’s it for this week, but I still have plenty of blunt, honest advice bottled up inside. Tell me, what’s troubling you? Is work getting you down? Are you having problems with a friend or a coworker? Is your love life going through a rough patch? Do you just feel lost in life, like you have no direction? Tell me, and maybe I can help. I probably won’t make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, but sometimes what you need is some tough love. Ask away in the comments below, or email me at the address you see at the bottom of the page (please include “ADVICE” in the subject line). Or tweet at me with #ToughLove! Also, DO NOT EMAIL ME IF YOU DON’T WANT YOUR REQUEST FEATURED. I do not have time to respond to everyone just for funsies. ‘Til next time, figure things out for yourself.