Dogs, cats can teach us about how to commit to a relationship - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Dogs, cats can teach us about how to commit to a relationship

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Not long ago a friend made the statement that it is easy to find the perfect pet to share your life with but it’s nearly impossible to find the right person.

I have been thinking about that a lot lately.

Why is it that pets are able to come into the spaces in our lives that we guard and protect from each other?

How is it that so many of us are capable of commitment and unconditional love with other species but if a perfectly wonderful human makes a fashion faux pas, or any other example of “falling short” then they are officially undeserving of our love?

Dogs lick themselves all day long and then burp in our faces and we kiss them on the mouth.

Cats ignore us for hours on end and we never feel offended.

We accept that dogs act like dogs and cats have their ways.

When they do what we would prefer they didn’t, we just keep on loving them.

But we expect people to conform to our ideas of what the world “should” look like.

While a pet is a source and recipient of unconditional love – a human partner becomes a reflection of ourselves and we attach to them all the fears and judgments and expectations that have been imposed on us.

We take human failings personally. We feel shame for our own and separate ourselves from others when we discover theirs.

We reject those who are not as cool, or religious, or educated, or…whatever as we want them to be.

While we are doing this ego cleansing of the species, others are weeding out the things that their egos find undesirable, too.

The result is a quagmire of rules, preconditions and consequences that would terrify the alpha of any species.

Everyone is afraid to step forward because the chances of getting smacked on the nose are too great.

No wonder the phrase, “I’m not looking for a commitment right now” is so popular.

But I’m not sure it’s entirely true. We’ve all had the experience of dating someone who made that statement and then married the next person they met.

How many people do you know who insist that they can’t make commitments but who own dogs that they would sacrifice their life savings for if they were injured?

We can make commitments if we believe that our offering of love will be met with acceptance, appreciation and enthusiasm.

We can make commitments – if we trust that our companion will whole heartedly love us back, exactly as we are, without condition.

But how, in this world, can we possibly trust that?

Humans are smart enough to see our failings – our flaws – our fat pockets . If we let them into our inner sanctum then we will be exposed to the feelings of inadequacy that we have been avoiding all our lives.

If they reject us, they will have confirmed our greatest fear – that we are, at our core, unlovable.

Enter dogs and cats and birds and bunnies.

They don’t have the concept of “deserve” in their minds. Their simple little brains seek survival and comfort and happiness.

They have two demands – feed me and love me.

If you meet those demands, or even if they know that you’re trying, they will follow you anywhere. They will offer you everything they have.

Imagine if we related to each other like that?

I decided a few years back that I was going to start relating to men in the same way that my cat relates to me.

When she needs something – she says so.

If it’s food she goes to her bowl and looks at me. If I don’t respond to the subtle ask then she steps it up with a vocal request.

She doesn’t lead up to it with a lot of manipulative hemming and hawing. She directly asks for exactly what she wants when she wants it.

If she sees that I am listening but that I don’t understand she will do everything in her power to help me get it.

When she gets what she wants, she purrs and rubs her head against me to show appreciation.

She doesn’t imagine that she owes me something in return. There is no guilt about her neediness.

She says, “GOOD! I am happy now.” And “Thank you for getting it right!” and then she goes about her business.

If I ignore her needs for any considerable length of time and she doesn’t believe I am even trying then she will simply proceed to climb out the window and go find someone else who will meet them.

She won’t waste her precious energy being angry at me.

I never see cats crying about how so and so let them down. They are too busy with their new person saying “GOOD! I am happy now.” and “THANK YOU!”

It doesn’t take cats long to find a place where their needs can be met. There, they curl up and purr contentedly until the end of time.

That’s what I wish for my people who are frustrated in their attempts at love.

And so here is my cat’s advice for finding a long lasting, mutually satisfying relationship.

Keep your wants and needs simple.

Know exactly what will satisfy your needs.

Meet as many of your own needs as you can.

When your partner comes home, after being away, rush to greet them like you’re thrilled to see them.

When you need help or space or affection or fancy feast from your partner, ask for it directly and without shame or fear.

If your partner doesn’t understand –Don’t be mad. Help them to understand by improving your own communication skills.

As long as your partner keeps trying, stay and keep helping them. Eventually they will get it.

If your partner expresses that they are not interested in your needs then you should proceed to the window and go find someone who is.

If your partner cares and tries and eventually succeeds in meeting your needs CELEBRATE and APPRECIATE them!

It’s really that simple.

Purr.

 

 


About the author

Nancy Murray

Nancy Murray is pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing and the Publishing Arts at University of Baltimore. She is a playwright who as enjoyed full productions of her work at Fells Point Corner Theater, Silver Spring Stage and the Montgomery County One Act Festival where it was selected as The Best of Festival. Most recently she has been enjoying participating in the Submit 10 Series as both a playwright and as a performer. Contact the author.
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