Those of us with pets tend to be completely devoted to our furry pals — but what happens when you fall in love with someone who isn’t really a “pet person”?
If you’re a pet parent, it may seem like a deal-breaker to hear that a potential love interest doesn’t like pets — but take a step back before you close your heart to non-pet people. As eharmony relationship expert Laurel House explains, there are many reasons why someone you’re interested in dating may not like animals, and there are also ways to navigate a romantic relationship — even if you don’t share a love of pets.
Related: Need another reason to adopt a pet? Long-term pet owners may have slower cognitive decline.
Why do some people not like pets?
Devoted pet parents might find it hard to understand, but plenty of people are either disinterested in caring for an animal — or are against it altogether. The reasons for this can vary from person to person; they can be physical (such as an allergy) and can sometimes be quite set in stone (for example, people who have had a bad experience with animals earlier in life might not be able to warm up to pets now).
For some, however, it may be as simple as not having experienced a pet connection in the past. “Frequently, those who ‘don’t like’ pets are those who haven’t been parents to a pet,” House explains. “And that doesn’t necessarily mean that your family had a pet. If you weren’t bonded to it, then you still might not like pets.”
See also: Can cats eat cheese? Plus 9 other foods your feline can and can not eat.
What can you do if you’re dating someone who doesn’t like your pet?
With that said, depending on the situation, someone who might not be interested in animals might grow to love one. If this is your situation, it might be worth respectfully exploring why someone doesn’t love pets, before deciding if you can or cannot be a fit for each other.
“The thing about having a personal relationship with a pet, any pet, is that they open your heart,” House says. “Pets have the ability to soften people, creating vulnerability that bonds two hearts. They also give a glimpse into what it means to care for and take care of another.”
One way to start this dialogue is by communicating about the underlying reasons why a potential partner doesn’t like pets. “If you are dating someone who doesn’t like your pet, or vice versa, you want to understand the root of the dislike,” House says. “Is it fear? Allergy? Or simply disinterest?”
Related: The cutest hypoallergenic dog breeds for the allergy-prone this spring.
While we can’t force someone to love our pets, it is possible that someone may naturally come to appreciate our furry friends over time — in some cases.
“Sometimes people get into relationships thinking they aren’t pet people, but once they start to take some responsibility for the pet and develop a relationship, they create a bond,” House says. “Generally, that bond begins because of responsibility. Once you become a caregiver, you actually begin to care. The transformation won’t necessarily be immediate. It also might not happen. Hearts often are only opened by choice.”
Of course, this doesn’t always happen. Some people simply don’t like or want to be responsible for pets. “If someone does not want to open their heart to a pet or a person, that barricade can activate excuses and ‘reasons’ as to why the pet isn’t appreciated,” House says. “That disinterest in the pet can absolutely cause a barricade in the relationship with the significant other as well.”
Related: 10 questions for anyone who thinks they’re ready for a pet.
Is not loving your partner’s pet a deal-breaker in a relationship?
If your partner is open to learning to love a pet, however, there are some best practices you can keep in mind as you approach the journey to helping them connect with your pet.
“It doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker so long as the [significant other] respects, [honours] and understands that your pet is an important part of your life,” House says. “Even if they are different, partners must respect, [honour] and put effort into trying to understand their SO’s core values and lifestyles if the relationship will work enduringly.”
Still, House points out that learning to love a pet doesn’t always have to happen in order to have a successful relationship.
“I have seen some couples succeed despite a dislike or disinterest in their SO’s pet,” House says. “But it is difficult and requires that the pet owner compartmentalize that portion of the relationship, as their pet does have a piece of their heart that is therefore closed off to their SO.”
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