5 Things Pets Teach Us About Marriage

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.

Unconditional Love
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.

Holding Grudges
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?

Photo Credit: ©Pierrette Guertin/PhotoXpress.com

8 responses to “5 Things Pets Teach Us About Marriage

  1. So simple and so true. You have given me lots to think about. Thank you.

  2. And…if you want them to behave you have to train them well.


  3. I have learned “no judgment”, my dog loves me if I am fat-skinny-showered or not—she does not judge me……..

    • So true. And even if we would feel self-conscious with humans, we never feel that way with our pets. I think they (esp dogs) even have a sixth sense for when we are feeling sad or vulnerable.

  4. One time a friend asked me to take over his 2 yr old cat. The 2nd night I had this cat, he’d gotten into a tree and meow’d for me to come get him. A few days after that, I discovered that cat already knew how to get out of a tree, that first time was just sort of a proving of me. A can I count on this guy? kind of thing. After that the cat never really asked me for much, but I think he knew he could.

    I often think of relationships like that: I’ll help if you need it, but not because you’re incapable, but because I’m your helpmate. Could that work between people? I had that cat 17 years.

  5. Thanks for the story and the happy ending! What an insightful point that yes we help one another not because our partner isn’t capable but because we want to help. Early on, we might test one another just to see if the other is trustworthy. But in a mature relationship, just knowing we can ask for help is often enough. Cheers!

  6. Pingback: 4 Things Pets Teach Us About Marriage | And They Lived Happily Ever After

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