The Dog Days of Marrriage

My wife wants a dog. I vehemently and categorically do not. I do not want the added responsibility. I am already punching far above my weight in that department. I have gladly taken on a wife, son, and a cat. I am grateful and happy to have them in my life, but I do not want any more responsibility.

She feels that it has nothing to do with me, and that I do not have the right to prevent her from following her dream.

I am learning to stand up for myself after so many years of repression. My wife is also learning to stand up for herself and say no, and I am proud of her. It’s a necessary part of her growth and evolution. It’s been a long time coming. This just happens to be the first big test, and I (and the whole dog question) is the first big target.

So here we are…a Mexican stand-off. Neither of us is willing to budge. So what to do?

I cannot deny that I am very angry about it. And I have said some things in anger over the last few days that I regret. She points out that my behaviour and attitude is inconsistent with my spiritual practice. Fair enough. She says that if I can see past my resistance that I may actually enjoy a dog.

Perhaps, but I just can’t seem to go with the flow on this one. I just don’t want more responsibility imposed on me.

And I am floored that she is prepared to bring a dog into this house that I do not want.

But as I am slowly learning, and as I have mentionned several times before in this blog, anger is my one “catch all” emotion. Once I start looking at it carefully and untangling it, I realize that there is more to it, and that there are many other emotions and feelings behind the anger.

So I start digging a little deeper, and poke around a little in the shadows.

And what I discover is that for me, this is about losing control. Feeling powerless.

Like I felt the first time, when I found myself alone with a twisted neighbour in his dark shed when I was four years old.

19 thoughts on “The Dog Days of Marrriage

  1. Good for you for digging deeper and trying to find a way through it. I can’t imagine how dark that is for you. I know this is a terrible situation for you two – as you put it, both of you finding your voices simultaneously. Obviously, my bias is clear, but what I would say is that I think it would be great for you if you could see it as an experiment. It’s not like a child, or a puppy – there’s no really-long term commitment here. M didn’t want a dog at all, but in our scenario it was dog or baby, so he relented. I am so proud of, and impressed by, him that he didn’t let his initial feelings get in the way of learning to enjoy it (after the fight that led to the tetanus shot =)). And, as you may remember, he got so much amazing companionship and love through that dog, that it ended up more “his” dog than mine. The cliche became true – Wee was his best friend. I really, really feel that you could have a similar experience if only there was a way you could start investigating it from a different angle. Maybe the WWLD angle would help? I’m still using it all the time and I feel like I’m on meds! Every argument that could start gets shortcut as I immediately take the other side, his side, and then all of a sudden we’re on the same team, and then it turns out, gasp, he’s right… a lot of the time (I wouldn’t even mind you telling him that!! What?!?!). Anyway, I know you two will find your way through this.

  2. How brave of you to look behind the anger, to look deeper. I too attempt to do that when I feel powerless or out of control about something. Scary, and the digging can take a while but at least to start the search is a huge step forward. I feel for your impasse and am thankful I had my dog before I reconnected with my now-husband. Luckily he loved me enough (and I him) that we went all four-legged Brady Bunch and merged into one household with my dog and cat with his two cats. But I know the responsibility of pets is huge and the discussion about it is important and worthy work to get through. I wish you peace and clarity and ongoing strength. Love and Blessings to you both. Namaste.

  3. I don’t agree with what your wife is doing, but as I understand it many couples go through just this sort of challenge. The point is, you’re allowing yourself to heal and grow from this experience. It has to be gut wrenching. You are courageous and inspiring. And I must admit – you may come to love that dog as a symbol of freedom for yourself. Keep us posted.

  4. Kudos to you for digging deeper and trying to find the root cause of your anger. It’s not an easy thing to do…digging so deep into those shadows inside us. The dog will probably love you more than anyone else. Perhaps this dog will even help you to discover and grow?? There is a reason they say a dog is man’s best friend…

  5. It took me 50 years to identify my fear of “being responsible.” Yet I’m such a responsible person! …or at least that’s how everyone saw me. It was tough to admit, because peer pressure (just look at the subtle hopes that you will be enriched by having a doggy companion) is always at work on a deeper level, where we seek affirmation. The important thing is that you have been honest about your feelings, and expectations will be adjusted accordingly. The feeling of powerless you mention in your last line feels like another issue; hopefully you’ve worked through/are working through that one.

  6. Wow, Jonathan, kudos to you for your courage! As I’m writing this, I’m ambivalent with what I want to share. Giving (and receiving) unsolicited advice is in my no-no list. Yet, here I am feeling compelled to give one. Apologies if I’m stepping overboard. And disregard if what I will say doesn’t ring true to you.

    First, I feel that putting your foot down and expressing your preference for not wanting a dog is a HUGE, staying-in-my-power step. That’s huge Jonathan. It’s very powerful and very empowering! Perhaps, in addition to learning to master that skill, the other accompanying lesson is to let go of the outcome of stating your preference. We may or may not get what we want. The important thing is we state what we do want or don’t want.

    Second, I think Teresa sort of alluded to it already. Somehow, I feel that this dog is going to be a catalyst for transformation — not only for you, or for both of you, perhaps your entire household. Everything does happen for a reason, isn’t it? I’m thinking, maybe having the dog, raising it, being around it will allow you to continue to hone your skill of putting your foot down, expressing your preferences, and setting boundaries. Again, you may or may not get what you want. Letting go of the attachment to the outcome is a huge lesson for all of us. And then again, you may in fact eventually get what you want, especially after having mastered the skill of authentic and loving self-expression and boundary-setting. Who knows? Then perhaps, you’d be so thankful the dog came into your life! 🙂

    I’m curious and I’d be interested to know what comes out of it. So hopefully, you’ll let us in on your experiences.

    Thanks for baring your soul in the post Jonathan. Much blessings, Love & Light, Joy & Peace!!! ~~♥♥♥Nadine Marie♥♥♥~~

  7. Great piece, J! Well written and enjoyable to read. I wonder what you felt as you wrote it?
    One thing came to mind re anger as I was reading:
    “Speak when you are angry and you’ll make the best speech you’ll ever regret.”

  8. Jonathan,

    I read your post and then the tapestry of reply and response above. More than anything, I was struck by what you have created here. Through your open and honest writing- it’s not an easy thing to share your anger and the rifts in your relationship- you make a place where real dialogue and, even more, real feelings are prompted and shared.

    Self-awareness is the essential beginning. You show here the will and strength to open that door of self-awareness, to get to the anger, where it comes from,

    About the dog- which I gather by now is a part of your life. You know it will be a good thing. Because that’s the path you’ll choose.

    Important work here, Jonathan- for you and for us.


  9. I like what you say about taking a long look at what’s going on in moments when you’re angry, as opposed to either trying to repress it or acting out. I usually get the sense, when I feel angry, that I’m actually afraid of being disrespected and “losing face.” It’s one of the most challenging and interesting aspects of myself to work with.

    • I hear you Chris. I am familiar with that feeling of losing face and feeling disrespected. This is all about ego, and I believe, is rooted in fear. I have a very good book I can recommend about Anger and men if you ‘re interested.

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