Treat Your Spouse Like A Dog And Find Marital Bliss

Today in relationship advice from the animal kingdom: how to have a happy marriage by loving your partners like you love your pets: stupidly.

This advice comes via the Well Blog of the Times, a paper long enamored of stories that compare spouses to animals. Who can forget the famous/infamous "What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage," in which Amy Sutherland learned to manage "the American husband" using techniques borrowed from "exotic animal trainers" (Shamu apparently also taught her how to get a book deal)? Now Well's Tara Parker-Pope quotes psychologist Suzanne Phillips, who thinks couples can learn from less exotic beasts as well. Phillips writes that while we often think of pets as "undemanding" or providing "unconditional love," actually "most pets are loved in a way that makes us minimize or even deny the reality that they definitely have demands we simply accept." Translation: most pets are assholes, but we love them anyway, and maybe we should do the same in human relationships.

Phillips also offers some specifics. On "holding grudges," she writes,

When you do return home to find that your cats have redecorated the room with shreds of every tissue they could find or the dog has eaten some of the mail, you may well react with a choice expletive but you are not likely to hold a grudge. You are still going to be petting Donatello or cuddling with Thor the next day.

Of course, perhaps one reason we love our pets so much may be the fact that we are free to give them stupid-ass names that express our questionable personal aesthetics. I really hope "Donatello" above is a turtle — but in that case, why is someone petting him?

And on "assuming the best,"

There is a natural tendency to forgive pets their trespasses – after all, the dog wasn't trying to torture you by eating the mail. Was your partner really trying to torture you by putting it in such a safe spot it can't be found?

Basically, Phillips is saying that we're kind of dumb when it comes to our pets (does the guy who says "The cats are a predictable source of comfort and soothing – they want to be near me" actually have cats?). And we think they're pretty dumb too, lacking in the kind of forethought and intention necessary to, say, torture us by eating the mail. Perhaps we would be happier if we assumed a certain idiocy on the part of our partners, and adopted this idiocy as well. But really, this advice is nothing new. That wise relationship guru Woody Allen already had it figured out in Annie Hall:

Image via Annette Shaff/Shutterstock.com.

What Pets Can Teach Us About Marriage [NYT Well Blog]
Can Pets Improve Your Relationship? [PsychCentral]