DEAR NATALIE: My boyfriend of three years decided that his New Year’s resolution would be a clean break from our relationship. He said that he hasn’t been happy for months and wanted “to clear the air.” I am really hurt. Also, we have a dog and two cats and he wants to keep all of the animals with him. Not only did he spring this break-up on me, but now he wants to have all the pets, too? When I told him I wanted to share the animals, he told me, “that would be weird.” Well, I think it’s weird that he thinks he can just have whatever he wants, however he wants. I’m so disgusted. My friends are telling me to just move out and move on, but our pets are like my children. I can’t and won’t just abandon them. Any ideas on how to deal with the real dog in this situation and get my pets back, too? – RUFF TIME
DEAR RUFF TIME: Just because he doesn’t want to be in a relationship with you anymore doesn’t mean he gets to dictate the terms of the breakup. This all sounds like he is on a power trip, too. What I would first figure out is who paid for the animals? Who took care of them primarily? Did one of you favor the cats over the dog? Did one of you have the animal/s prior to the relationship? Start there as a way to deal with this. For example, if he had the dog before you were together, he probably has a good case for keeping it. But, if you bought the animals together, you may have to make a choice as to who keeps which pets. Maybe the cats should stay together? Maybe the dog goes with one of you and the cats with the other? Sharing custody of them probably won’t work well if you aren’t getting along – and it sounds as though you aren’t. Plus, animals do better in a stable environment and may not fare well being shuffled back and forth to different locations each week or month. He has to meet you halfway unless he had them all before you got together. On the other hand, a clean break may be what is in your best interest, too. Maybe getting a new pet that is all your own is a good solution. But, if that feels too sad to think about leaving yours behind, try to work it through first. He may realize having three pets to take care of on his own isn’t as fun as he thinks and will give in and compromise.
DEAR NATALIE: My husband and I have had a rocky few years in our marriage. He cheated on me early on but we went to therapy and worked through it. We now have a beautiful son and I would like to try for another baby this year. He told me he was on board with this several months ago, but lately he has been acting as though he has no interest in having another child. I am worried that he is disconnecting and slipping into old patterns. I have found myself checking his phone when he isn’t around. While I haven’t found any evidence that he is cheating again, I have this nagging feeling that I can’t shake. Something is off. Whenever I bring it up, he says, “you can’t punish me forever.” I’m not trying to make his life hell, but I also don’t know what could have changed that suddenly he doesn’t want a second child. Any ideas on how to handle this? — OLD HABITS DIE HARD
DEAR OLD HABITS DIE HARD: Bringing another baby into this situation may not be in either of your best interests. He may not feel on solid ground right now and that is why he is hesitating on having another child together. Children present challenges – even in the very best of times. If you aren’t feeling strong together, this may be a time to check in with a therapist and work through some of these feelings and issues. There is nothing wrong with reaching out for support. While I agree with him that “you can’t punish him forever” that also is a deflection. Did he actually answer any concerns you have around his recent behavior? Has he elaborated and explained why he doesn’t want to have another baby right now? It isn’t fair to you to be kept in the dark. Take this day by day for right now until you can get to the heart of the matter. Trusting again after infidelity takes time. Some couples never recover. Others do, but you can’t be expected to just forget what happened – even if you managed to forgive.
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