Welcome to Tough Love. We’re answering your questions about dating, breakups, and everything in between. Our advice giver is Blair Braverman, dogsled racer and author of Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube. Have a question of your own? Write to us at email@example.com.
My partner and I have had a somewhat dodgy relationship for years. He chooses to work seven days a week, we don’t take vacations together (OK, we took one for ten days last year), he seldom comes to any of my family events, and I am persona non grata at dinners with the mother of his younger son (they had broken up years before I met him). We share many interests, and share dinners, nights, and breakfasts. We live together, even though he tends to assert that we do not.
We both had dogs. In the fullness of time, my dog died of old age, and his did too.
I was sad, of course. At the same time, I thought that we’d be able to spend more time together. We could travel, spend more evenings out, and stuff like that that dog care had prohibited. He began to talk about getting another dog, and I was very clear about wanting to wait. I wanted to do some activities that having dogs had prevented, like going sailing (which we both love) or taking camping trips and hikes. Surprise! He bought a dog—a large, somewhat difficult breed—even though I asked him not to. Why? “She had such a cute face.” She’s sweet, but damn, she’s not what I would have chosen.
We’ve had this dog for two years, and my fears were justified. All we do together is tend and walk the dog. It takes about three hours a day, which is pretty much all the free time we have. We are back to spending our time together on dinner, dogs, and the very occasional Netflix series. I have to do everything I love alone.
Do you have any ideas about how to resolve this conundrum?
Dogs are a lot of work, but there are ways to streamline things a bit, especially if you have the budget or the resourcefulness. For instance, you could hire a dog walker or find a great doggie daycare, or alternate walks with a dog-owning friend or neighbor. The thing is, though, I suspect that getting outside help with the dog wouldn’t really solve your problems. It could make things easier, but you still might end up in the same pattern, because in this case the dog is more of a symptom than a cause.
It sounds like you and your partner are on different pages about a lot of things. You live together, but he claims you don’t? That suggests a much bigger story, one I can hardly guess about here. It’s also unclear how much parenting plays a role in your lives. But maybe, for our purposes, it comes down to this: things are complicated—life always is—but in your heart, you really just want to spend more quality time with your partner. And it must be incredibly frustrating and sad not to get that, and not to feel that he values it, too.
Your partner wasn’t willing to compromise about waiting on a dog (and yeah, I definitely have strong feelings about bringing a dog into a household that isn’t on board and ready), but is he willing to compromise in other ways? For instance: If you explain how much it matters to you, is he open to taking a certain amount of time off work, even a half-day a week or one weekend a month, and spending that time together? If he’s not, that reflects a bigger problem in your relationship, one you might want to work on with therapy, or at least through some very serious conversations. (I suspect you’d benefit from that kind of intentional relationship work anyway.) But if he’s open to making time, it could have a big impact.
The good news is that the three activities you mentioned—sailing, camping, and hiking—all have the potential to be dog-friendly. Of course I don’t know your dog; maybe she gets violently seasick, or you don’t have access to a boat that she’s allowed on. But if you have a hike you’d like to go on, or a camping trip, and your partner agrees to be available, you can almost certainly plan the trip in such a way that you can bring the dog along. Your excursions may not happen as often as you like, and they may not be as spontaneous, but they can happen—and that might be enough to help you move forward.
I’m trying to decide how to best use a small nest egg I’ve scrounged together over the past year ($5,000). I’m 55, semi-retired, and had a heart transplant in 2015 but am in good health. I’ve had the desire to do some travel for decades, but kids/work/divorce/bills/
I’m so glad to hear you’re in good health these days! If this is $5,000 that you can afford to spend, then it’s not unreasonable at all to use it for a grand adventure. In fact, that sounds like an excellent way to spend both your money and your summer, and this seems like a good time in your life to travel. Each of those three trip options would be amazing, and whichever one you choose, I know you’ll find it meaningful indeed. Sure, right now it’s a dream world—but dreaming is the first step to making things real. Happy travels!