My boyfriend and I knew that it was time to end our unhealthy relationship, but there were two problems: our cat and our dog. We put off our breakup for way too long for the sake of our pets and even though it seemed like the right choice at the time, it was a huge mistake.
Our relationship had run its course. My then-boyfriend and I were miserable together. We never agreed on anything, we hated being in the same room with each other, and it was obvious that both us of were just dying to move on from each other. But breaking up would mean that we’d have to make some tough decisions about what to do with our pets, and neither of us was ready to do that yet.
I didn’t want to give up our dog. We’d taken our dog in as a stray, and although my ex was clearly more attached to him than I was, I’d still invested a lot of time, money, and love into giving that little pup an amazing life. I couldn’t imagine giving up our daily walks or waking up every day without him bouncing around the room and begging for breakfast.
He didn’t want to give up our cat. Although we said the cat was “ours,” he was really mine. I’d been the one to adopt him and my ex hadn’t even wanted him at first. But inevitably, my kitty won my ex over and soon he was almost as attached to our cat as I was. When I told him that the cat would definitely be coming with me if we broke up, he was clearly heartbroken. I know that he probably wouldn’t have fought for our relationship at all if I’d agreed to let him have our cat after we broke up.
We even worried about separating the pets from each other. The stereotype about cats and dogs hating each other didn’t apply to our pets. Our cat and dog played together, slept together, and even ate together. I know that animals cope well when they experience change and loss, but my ex and I still worried that our pets would be sad if I took the cat and he took the dog.
Our resentment towards each other grew each day. Unsurprisingly, our love for our pets couldn’t overcome the growing dislike my ex and I had for each other. Tensions were high and our arguments grew in number and intensity. Before, we’d at least tried to work on our relationship, but eventually, it was clear that we wouldn’t even be speaking to each other if we both weren’t so scared of losing the animals we loved so much.
The fighting ended up stressing our pets out. My ex and I had worked so hard to create a happy, loving environment for our pets, and our crumbling relationship was a huge setback to all the progress we’d made with them. Our cat, who had been in an abusive household before we’d adopted him, started hiding under the couch when we raised our voices. Our normally friendly dog started being more cautious around us, and we knew it was because he was scared of our aggressive voices and body language.
I felt like breaking up would confuse our animals. Even though I could see the damage our relationship was doing to our pets, I was still worried that a breakup would be worse for them. Would our cat miss his “dad” if he were to stay with only me? Would our dog feel like I’d abandoned him if my ex took him? My concerns weren’t just selfish — I really worried about the effect a split would have on our “babies.”
It reminded me of my parents before they got divorced. Like my ex and me, my parents also stayed together for their (actual) kids for way too long. It was clear to me that they hated each other, but they stayed together thinking that it would be better for my brother and me. Even though my pets couldn’t comprehend things like romantic relationships and breakups, I couldn’t help but wonder if they hated it when my ex and I were in the same room, just as I got nervous when my parents were around each other.
Eventually, we couldn’t take it anymore. My ex and I finally realized that it wasn’t worth it to be miserable together, even for the animals we loved so much. He took the dog, I took the cat, and we went our separate ways. Once we were apart, we found it easier to be civil with each other and after a few weeks, we got along well enough to let each other come over and spend time with the pet we’d left behind.
I wish we would’ve broken up sooner. Looking back, I know my ex and I should’ve ended things months before we actually did. Our pets ended up being just fine, and in fact, they seemed a lot less stressed once they weren’t surrounded by constant fighting. The breakup was so much better not only for my ex and me, but also for the pets we’d been so worried about, and I’ll never make the mistake of staying in a toxic relationship for a pet ever again.
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