Would You Date Someone Who Didn’t Like Your Pet?
Someone disliking a dog? Red flag. Someone asking their partner to give up their dog? Heartless!
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I sometimes feel embarrassed about the questions that my first married friends had to deal with from me. At the very worldly age of 23, I grilled them as if they were an alien species, as if they were representative of all wedded couples. There is still one answer that I take as a sacrosanct model of what a future partnership should be: When asked if they thought splitting custody of their dog (a hilarious, absent-minded Wiener dog) would be a bigger heartbreak than a divorce itself, they both gave an emphatic yes. I remember feeling calmed: people don’t lose themselves or their values just because they got married.
I’m not sure my married friends were exactly saying the dog was more important to them than their partner, but also, they were a little bit. In a recent survey of how people think about their pets, more than a third of people with dogs answered that their dog is more important than a significant other; and over two-thirds said they would end a relationship if their partner didn’t allow their dog around as much as they’d like.
The wild thing about this survey, to me, is not just the notion of someone disliking a dog (an existent, though still unimaginable trait in a person); it’s the thought of someone asking their partner not to prioritize their dog. This seems like a particularly heartless request! My friend’s friend dated someone who gave him an ultimatum: he’d had to give up his dog if they wanted to live together. When someone has to sacrifice something so significant, that’s a heartbreak. Someone else asking them to do it, that’s really suspicious.
Someone who doesn’t want a dog around… I mean, I suppose they’re not all complete villains? It could just mean they have different priorities. Like, if traveling is someone’s life force and their crush doesn’t have a great dog-care arrangement, that sounds like incompatible priorities. People with dog allergies: oh they have it tough! The only two people I know with dog allergies really like dogs. They both also seem really sensitive about not dating people with dogs because they know, eventually, it will be a choice between them and the dog, and they don’t want anyone to make that choice.
When I was dating widely, I thought one of the best things about dating widely was that people had pets. This was when I was moving around a bit for jobs and school, and knew I couldn’t care for a dog the way I wanted to — but other people could! I got to meet cats and pups. I got to hang with them for whole weekends, and it was wonderful. A niche complaint I remember from online dating: people who had photos of pets who weren’t theirs in their profile pictures. It was a lure with no promise at the end. False advertising. Other people’s pets were such a fringe benefit. It was like if someone had a boat or a pool — so fun to hang! — but even better, I think that pet ownership reflects important personality traits. There’s a much better chance (I think) that they’re responsible and nurturing and not so self-centered. But we all have our biases.
It’s been almost five years since I started dating my partner, and became best friend to their dog: the perfect Finn. And while I adore my partner, the dog is the most magnificent angel-bear marvel of a creature on this earth. It’s only now, that I’m writing this, that I remember Finn is originally my partner’s dog, so I suppose I’m very lucky and happy that I get to keep choosing the both of them.
We asked The Wildest readers hard-hitting relationship questions, and here’s what we learned.
The shallow, perfect bliss of being more loved by my partner’s dog.
Or vice versa.
How to help your kitty warm up to your S.O.
It’s complicated. We talk custody battles and co-pet parenting with a lawyer and three people who’ve been there.
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.