You haven’t killed the houseplants (yet). And neither one of you is ready for a baby (yet). So how do you know if you and your partner ready to add a new member to your family, whether they’re furry, feathered, or fanged?
Perhaps one or both of you has expressed an interest in having children, but your marriage is too new, you aren’t in a place financially (or literally) that is conducive to raising a family, or you’re afraid of what adding another human being will do to your duo dynamic. For many young couples, adopting a pet (or a series of them) allows each partner to test out the waters of what their eventual parenting style will be: how they handle responsibility, envy, and sharing another living creature.
Research has shown that pets can strengthen marriages, just as the simple act of petting a cat or a dog can reduce stress. However, other couples have reported that owning a pet has caused marital strife.
So how do you know?
Where each of you stands. It is important to understand the position that each person in the relationship holds with regards to owning a pet (right now, eventually, or never ever). If your partner is vehemently opposed, then it’s a good idea for you to back off. However, this attitude can be tricky to overcome if the skeptic has never owned a pet. Encourage them to enter into the idea with an open mind.
Responsibility. But you both need to be prepared to understand that pets require responsible caregivers, and the division of these responsibilities needs to be equal … all the time.
Budgeting. Before you invest in a pet, be sure that you can afford to have one. When you were a kid you probably weren’t aware of the money mom and dad put into your faithful hound dog, but rest assured, vet bills, cost of care, and money spent on food can add up quickly each month.
The bedroom. Some people were raised in a household where pets were outside critters; for others, the dog or cat slept at the foot of the bed (or near your face). This is another issue that requires clear communication before you both commit to a pet. Where is the pet allowed, where is the pet not allowed, and what limitations and boundaries do you both expect? Once again, be clear with each other in advance.
Honeymooning. One of the joys for a childless couple is the ability to pack up and go on a variety of mini-honeymoons whenever they like, without worrying about who is looking out for junior. But this applies to pet owners as well, who, instead, have to ask “Who is looking out for Rover?” before they make any travel plans. How settled you are (and the ability to look ahead; will traveling play a big role in your business plans?) will help settle the issue of whether you’re ready for a pet.
Keep these tenets in mind and avoid online marriage counseling because the cat caused another fight.