A New Leash on Life

A New Leash on Life

Q: My significant other and I have decided we don’t want kids. We enjoy being able to travel and the ability to do spontaneous things together that we wouldn’t be able to with children. However, recently my significant other has decided she wants to get a dog. She thinks they would be a fun addition to the household, decrease her stress level, and generally provide companionship. I think getting a dog is ridiculous because they’re expensive and prevent us from doing all the things we we’re able to do without kids. I’m also a little worried that she doesn’t realize that dogs are a long-term investment–once you get one, you’ll have it for 10 to 15 years. She’s insistent and we are actually starting to fight about it. What should we do?

He: This actually hits close to home, as Jen and I made a decision to not have children for many of the same reasons you listed. But unlike you, I couldn’t imagine our lives without dogs.

Decisions are rarely made completely mutually. Like most “mutual” break-ups or divorces, there is always one person who is driving the agenda. I’m not sure that this applies to you in the decision to not have kids, but it is well worth exploring. She may be giving up having children because she wants to be with you. You may want to reciprocate that spirit of compromise.

Even if the decision to not have children is truly made mutually, you have to understand that the nurturing instinct in most women is pretty powerful and is unlikely to be completely suppressed. I’m not sure how healthy it is to not have an avenue in which to channel that energy. She might start doing odd things, like collecting porcelain kitten figurines.

You state that she does not understand the long term investment of a dog. You are not giving her much credit; she isn’t a 9-year-old girl asking for a pony for her birthday. I’m sure she gets the investment in time that goes into dog ownership- which quite frankly, is not much. Dogs and kids both need their poop cleaned up (at least initially), and need to be fed occasionally, but that is where the similarity ends. There is no pre-school, soccer practice, baby sitter, band camp, clothes shopping, pediatric appointments, etc. Just an occasional ball-toss and a belly scratch and Fido is good to go.

My suggestion is that you acquiesce and get involved with the process, selecting a dog whose breed, age and temperament best fits your lifestyle. I am certain that once you get past your initial hesitation, you will get excited about the process and will soon also not be able to imagine your lives without your dog.

She: After coming to the conclusion that Andy and I were not going to have children, there was a period of mourning for me that I would never experience the connection with Andy that comes from creating and raising a child together. Although I was (and still am) certain that this was the right decision for me and for us, it is still sad that we will never share that experience. Soon after, we decided to try getting a dog and experience raising that together. We then got our first dog, Lilly, and a few years later our second dog, Huey. These dogs have absolutely become our family and our kids, and have more than satisfied any feelings I had of missing having that connection with Andy [parents, no need to insert here that dogs are nothing like children- I understand. But also, I have never experienced the feelings associated with having a child].

In making a final decision to not have kids, I had only one condition: that we would spend our extra time and money traveling, as much and as often as possible…which we have. Although we miss our dogs when we are gone, having them has not prevented us from doing one trip (thanks to dog sitters, in-laws, kennels, and friends). And they make returning from an amazing vacation or weekend just a lot easier.

If you are not a dog person (strangely, they exist), making this concession will be more difficult for you. Also, your significant other’s deep desire to have one must be confusing. Remember that whether women decide to have children or not, we are biologically programed to form relationships and want to nurture (outliers excluded). A dog seems like an easy way for your significant other to satisfy this desire, while leaving you with the freedom you crave. From a personal and therapeutic perspective, I have to agree with her that adding a dog to your household will help to decrease stress levels, and provide endless love, companionship, and connection for the two of you.

Dr. Jen Semmes and Andy Wilson have been (mostly) happily married for nine years (currently happily).  They are the owners of Coastal Counseling therapy center in Carlsbad, California.  Jen holds a license in clinical social work and a doctorate in psychology, and is a therapist at Coastal Counseling. Andy just tries to hold it together.

If you, or anyone you know, has a question for ‘He said, She said’ please send a private message to Coastal Counseling on Facebook or email the question tocoastalcounseling1@gmail.com.  Check us out on the web atwww.coastalcounselinggroup.com.

Disclaimer: This blog and the information herein are for educational and informational purposes only. It is not meant as a substitute for professional psychological or therapeutic services.  The self-help information provided by this blog are solely the opinion of the bloggers and should not be considered as a form of therapy, advice, direction, diagnosis, or treatment of any kind. Instead, the information is designed to be used in conjunction with ongoing treatment provided by a mental health professional. Use the information in this blog at your own risk. All of the information is provided “as-is,” with no warranties of any kind, express or implied.


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