Dear Ask Andre,
I’m dating someone who doesn’t like dogs (he says he’s allergic but it seems to come and go), and I have two french bulldogs. I usually end up spending the night at his place if we sleep over, and the few times he’s been here, he’s asked me to wash the sheets before and not let the dogs onto the bed. Is this a ridiculous thing to expect of someone? I love my pups!
“When someone shows you who they are, believe them.”
This [albeit abbreviated] quote is attributed to Maya Angelou, and we often see it floating around the interwebs shared by disgruntled parties impacted by fresh de-couplings. However, I’m going to use it to in reference to your existing relationship.
Your partner has repeatedly told you “who he is:” Someone who enjoys the company of animals, but is inhibited by a sporadic medical condition outside of his control. There are lots of things I could potentially take away from the severity of your reaction, namely:
- You were single for a significant period of time before beginning to date this person and are not accustomed to having to alter your preferences for another person’s comfort, or
- Your last partnership was with someone who both adored animals AND didn’t have any phobias or allergies that may complicate the relationship between them and your dogs, or
- There are other trust issues present in your existing relationship that are bleeding over into this issue and impacting your ability to believe what your partner is telling you to be true.
If one of the first two reasonings resonate with you, then you need to either get over yourself or determine whether or not this is something that will “make or break” your relationship.
Trust me, I say this as one of the most fervent animal enthusiasts I know. My household currently boasts five dogs, two cats, three snakes and a tarantula, and I’ve been committed to animal rights activism since I was in elementary school. It’s a bummer, truly, when we connect with someone who doesn’t feel as strongly about our beloved pets as we do. I have fallen in love and sustained long term relationships with folks who just “weren’t crazy about animals”, and I’ve struggled to empathize and reconcile myself with that (for real though, I still low key believe that people who can’t connect with animals are on a sociopathic spectrum BUT DON’T QUOTE ME ON THAT OMG).
However, it IS a different experience when someone is allergic to those squishy perfect little fur babies, and if you’re going to call yourself a decent human being you have to respect that (and not take it personally). Imagine if you were a long distance runner, and you fell for someone who had chronic knee pain and occasionally walked with a cane. You wouldn’t ask them to come running with you and then shame them for not wanting to, right? Just because a medical condition isn’t always consistent - or visible to the untrained eye - doesn’t take away from its legitimacy.
So, if I were you, I’d sit down with my partner and apologize. Apologize for making him feel pressured or invalidated by your skepticism around their allergies, and explain why you reacted that way (“My dogs are really important to me,” or “My last partner straight-up hated animals and I’m still carrying some leftover resentment from that,” etc.). Then open up a discussion about how you both can spend [relatively] equal time at each other’s homes while still allowing for his comfort.
Maybe that means you clean your house a little more thoroughly than you’re used to, or perhaps just keeping several different kinds of allergy meds handy will be enough. Or, perhaps it’s time to crate-train your frenchies in a room that’s not your bedroom. The point is to work WITH your partner, not against him.
Leave open the possibility that your ideal partner may very well be someone who adores animals just as much as you do, and that this relationship isn’t meant to last. If that’s the case, don’t let a fear of abandonment, being alone, or scarcity - “I’ll never find someone who loves me better than this, so I should stay” - keep you in a relationship that isn’t serving you.
Now, if there are lingering trust issues present in the relationship and you’re finding yourself just generally doubting things that your partner claims or says, then it’s a systemic issue, not a situational one. Do some deep self-interrogation to find the root of the problem, then stop using the dog avoidance as an excuse and open up a transparent dialogue with your partner about what’s ACTUALLY eating at you.
Oh, and hug those frenchies for me! 🐶
If you have your own questions about sex, love, relationships, or any of the moving parts involved therein, drop Andre a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to use the subject line "Ask Andre," so we know where to direct your thoughtful questions.