How Do I Get People to Accept That I Hate Dating and My Dogs Are All I Need? · The Wildest

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How Do I Get People to Accept That I Hate Dating and My Dogs Are All I Need?

People love to be nosy. Here’s how to fend them off—because you’re happy, dang it!

by Maggie Lange
July 10, 2024
Woman with her two dogs outside.
Gerain0812 / Shutterstock

Heavy Petting  is a biweekly relationship advice column for pet parents — so you and your boo don’t end up fighting like cats and dogs over the cat and dog. Do you have a pet who is affecting your dating life and need some advice?  Submit your anonymous questions here.

Dear Heavy Petting, 
Not that I’m the first person to make this point, but dating people is a bit of a hellscape these days. I’m 27, I’m cute, and I have no interest in continuing to sift through the online whirlwind of eligible suitors. I’d be much more drawn to finding people offline, but that seems to involve excessively hard work or joining a rock-climbing gym.

For a while, I thought my two dogs were taking my energy away from pursuing dating, but then I realized that spending time with them was what I actually preferred. I wouldn’t say that I’m choosing not to date because of my dogs, but actually that my relationship with my dogs feels so fulfilling to me that it’s clarified my priorities. We have a little family of three; I just don’t feel like anything is missing. 

So, I’m writing not for advice about opening myself to dating, but for tips on how to translate this in the human world. How do I get people (especially any prying relatives) to believe me that I’m happy with my family, and I’m not looking for a co-parent to join the crew?

I'm Very Happy, Thank You Very Much

Dear Very Happy,
In college, I worked as a dog-walker for this extremely cool, single adult (admittedly, she was maybe 25), who lived by herself and had a dog. My friends and I were stunned. We thought she was the most sophisticated, independent person we’d ever heard of.  A dog on your own! Without a family and kids! At this time, we invented this kinda problematic maxim: A man who has a dog alone is desperate for a partner; a woman who has a dog alone is absolutely thrilled about being single. 

While it remains adorably problematic, I think there are different qualities about getting a dog alone. Someone who has a dog by themselves is usually embracing a certain level of stability and commitment. This could mean that this person is open to more of that commitment (people with dogs do better on dating-app profiles). This could also mean that this person has achieved exactly the amount of stability and commitment that they want by having a dog. 

Anyway, I hope the story of this sophisticated, single 25-year-old of my past reveals that while some people might be giving you trouble for being single, there might be a crowd of college girls who think you are the most fascinating, intriguing person they’ve ever seen. And it’s amazing that you have two dogs. That’s doubly sophisticated. 

Currently, my friend Sarah dates a bit, but identifies as single. She’s deeply not interested in anything serious or ever, ever moving in with anyone. She also has a wonderful, dopey Lab-mix, Mia. Sarah’s frequently annoyed when people ask her how things are going, the relationship escalator thing. “The world is full of stupid expectations,” she says, but she does wonder if having Mia makes it worse. “I think there’s a stereotype that cat people are solitary and dog people are social. I wonder if I would get the same judgment if I had a cat. Probably not!”

What feels right for you should be — and is — enough.

Exactly — don’t dog people have the right to also be partner-free? Of course. Wade Mollison, a therapist in Los Angeles, who works with individuals and couples, says: “Ultimately, happiness and fulfillment are deeply personal. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to what makes a meaningful life. At the end of the day your contentment is what truly matters.” 

And, one of Mollison’s hot tips for dealing with people who don’t get it is to remind yourself of exactly that. “Reflecting on the joy, companionship, and sense of purpose your dogs bring can reinforce your confidence in your choices,” he says. That confidence can be infectious and diminish any naysayers. 

And while he reminds us that with critical people, it’s “usually rooted in their own insecurities.” Remember “it's not our job to sort them out,” he says. Mollison also suggests “surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals who share your passion for dogs and understand your choices. This can create a supportive community where you feel accepted and understood.” 

Remember, other people’s opinions are not about you.

So, onto the problem, which is all these other nosy people with their own agendas and desires. Melanie Siegel, a therapist in Los Angeles, says: “Now, you may face the judgment of why you don’t seek a partner, or that it is strange that your lifestyle is so dog-centric. To handle this I would say, remember that judgment is more about the other person than you,” Siegel says. “They may not be able to see beyond societal norms. It's less about you than it is about them. Simply remembering this can be helpful.”

Now, if people who are close to you really won’t lay off, Siegel says go for the classic and tell them how that makes you feel. If you tell them this makes you feel “sad, judged, disconnected from them” she says, that “may encourage them to stop because they care about you and don't want to have a negative impact on you.” 

If this person truly can’t imagine not wanting a partner, their scope of imagination seems pretty limited. I don’t go around asking my dog-free friends, “Where’s your dog,” ”How’s dog adopting going” every minute. Maybe I should! But I understand that some people don’t want dogs — I mean, it’s hard to imagine. I can, however, more easily believe that some people want dogs, but their circumstances hold them back, as this was me for many years. 

Just tell people what they need to know.

However, as my college friend puts it: “There’s always a disbelief that you want to be single; whereas no one questions wanting to be partnered.”

If you simply tell annoying interrogators that dating is a nightmare, they’ll just suggest fixing the problem with diligence or resilience or (shudder), lowering your standards. So, if you want to avoid that conversation, maybe instead focus on how having dogs has given you contentment, companionship, and a satisfying sense of family.

Unfortunately, letting people know how happy you are makes them suspicious (why can’t anyone just take us at our word?). But I remember this person I dog-sat for just seemed so content; I think it was the dog and the solo apartment, but overall she seemed very pleased with her life. I wanted to see if she’s still in that same state of bliss, so I reached out to her. By that, I mean I silently perused her Instagram profile the other day. No evidence of any human partnership, and the dog is different, but the contentment remains! Case closed.

maggie lange

Maggie Lange

Maggie Lange is a writer, editor, and columnist. Her work has been featured in New York Magazine, Vice, Guernica, GQ, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Elle, and Bon Appetit. She lives in Philadelphia with her favorite brindle boy, Finn.

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