Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Dog Visitation After Breakup

DEAR NATALIE: My girlfriend and I have recently broken up, but we share a home together. We bought the home a few years back (we've been together almost seven years), and now we are fighting over everything, including our two dogs. She says she deserves both of them because they were hers originally, but I have known them since they were puppies and feel as though I have every right to see them. She is really holding fast to this and doesn't want to compromise. While the relationship is definitely over for us, it isn't fair that I won't be able to see our dogs. Is there any way I can convince her to share time with them? -- IT’S A DOG’S LIFE

DEAR IT’S A DOG’S LIFE: Sounds as if this is turning into more of a battle of wills than anything else. If this is really about the dogs and not your ego (and I say this because I don't know the circumstances around the breakup), sit her down and say: "I know we are going our separate ways, but there was a lot of time and love here. I don't want to dishonor our past by disregarding how we used to feel. I know you are upset with me, but I know we will both heal over time. Eventually, we may even be able to be friendly. I really care about the dogs, and I still care about you. Is there any way we can work something out so that we can both spend time with them?" Too much mush? Good. Bring her defenses down by going in softly, sweetly and defer to her. At the end of the day, it isn't about the dogs really. It's about how you want to move forward from one another. She may not realize that having help with the dogs could be a nice thing! It may not happen right away, but over time, she may soften. Just tread softly for now and hope for the best. (And maybe give her something she wants if she will give you time with the dogs.) Hey, a little bribery goes a long way when it comes to breakups! 

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Want to get people to open up when you first meet them? Ask them about themselves. People love to talk about themselves, and the more you listen, the more you can gather information and find out what can be useful and helpful to them to help build a better rapport.

Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)