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Dear Jackie, having thought about what I really want recently, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t want a relationship with someone (or a family, or anything else I’ve thought I might want for most of my life – I’m now 40), but instead I want a dog. My friends are telling me they don’t believe me, how can I persuade them? Thanks RL
You are far from alone in this miserable state of affairs. Relationships provide the ultimate feedback for our lives. That means you might have a few changes to make to how you view life and the part you play in it. And, I can sympathise about why you might find a dog the easy option, you might also find that a dog is the best teacher!
There are some really obvious reasons why a dog is a preferable choice, and I’ve used them all!
I have to ask, as it’s my job and I like to be curious – what is it you want to avoid in a relationship?
May I share my experience of having a dog which might help as I have been where I think you might be right now. When my marriage ended, my dog became so important to me – as a confidante and a companion. She became my raison d’etre, got me out of bed, stopped me feeling lonely and I found a focus for my love.
In truth, I was avoiding close, intimate relationships until I felt able to cope with being loved and in a relationship again. As much as the dog and I loved one another, the relationship was in no manner of speaking able to make up for a close intimate relationship with a partner, nor that of my family. It was simply a poor substitute until I felt ready.
If we have come through some sh1tty relationships and feel the full effects of emotional turmoil, it’s very common to believe that we will *never* allow ourselves to get involved with another person again. The fear of more heartbreak dictates that we put up barriers, shut off to intimate possibilities and determine to be fine just as we are …. Alone.
Abstaining from all relationships, from all the dreams you have had about a partner and a family is a temporary situation. After a relationship breakdown, the fear that we are not good enough for anyone else, or that anyone else will be good enough for us runs rampant through our minds.
It’s very rare in my experience for this state of affairs to continue. Our hearts can, and do, heal. Rather than remaining afraid of breaking them again, the key is to learn about managing your emotional stability.
When you enter into a relationship, it is in order to relate with someone, it is not to sign your life, your power and your future over. It is possible to love openly, freely and maintain who you are.
How to love unconditionally. Can you imagine withholding affection from your dog no matter what it’s done?
Forgiveness. If you can forgive a dog, for what reason can you not forgive your partner? You might think a dog has no ulterior motive, how do you actually know your partner has?
Smiling at their antics. Lighten up with your partner, enjoy one another, play together.
Daily physical attention freely given – tummy rubs, ears stroked, pats, with no intention of sex, just touch. Many people know immediately their dog has a tick, or a lump and yet, are unable to register change in their partner’s body.
Commitment. Many people are more committed to their dog’s wellbeing, rushing home after a day apart than they would be their partner.
Dear RL, I reckon your friends are right. And if I were you, I’d be looking at getting a dog in order to hone the skills which are needed in a successful relationship!
PS … Remember, owning a dog is a commitment for many years, you might like to look at working with the Blind Dog Association (or similar), or fostering dogs. This gives you extra learning - it teaches you that people come into your life and leave again, for one reason or another. The same is true of dogs.