You wonder sometimes about the projects psychologists take on, but Suzanne B. Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP, a clinical psychologist at Long Island University explored our relationship with pets and what they can teach us about our romantic relationships. She shared her tips for PsychCentral.
We can learn quite a lot from our interactions with our pets about how we can improve our interactions with our spouses. Phillips says our lack of expectation for our pets makes a big difference in how we prepare for interactions with them. People often describe pets as offering unconditional love, but she explains the reality is far from that. Pets require a great deal of time, attention, food and care. They often damage our possessions and make messes, but we accept their flaws because of our devotion for them. While we often don’t love one another completely unconditionally, accept your partner for his or her flaws out of love.
The first thing we do is greet our pets with a happy, animated voice, and usually an affectionate pat. I admit the greeting I give my pet is probably far more animated than my hubby receives. Consider a friendlier greeting for your spouse with a kiss or some sort of affectionate touch.
Even when our pet eats our socks or soils the floor, we don’t stay mad at them, at least not for long. Try to get past your grievances without holding a grudge against your partner or bringing up past hurts.
We usually accept our pets for their unique personalities, even when they are quirky or embarrassing. Our spouse would be so lucky to have such a lack of judgment.
Assuming the Best
Phillips says there is a natural tendency to forgive our pets for their wrongdoings. We would do well to remember our spouses also rarely intend to upset us. Give them the benefit of the doubt their intentions are good.
We’ve heard the research that pets can improve our health, but perhaps it’s true from these examples that they can also help our relationships. What have you learned from your pet about love? Why are we so much quicker to forgive our pets than our spouses?
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