Dating and Relationship Advice

Dear iris,

"I am a 23-year-old woman living in NYC and I just moved in with my boyfriend of two years. For the most part, we are a pretty stable couple. He's super close with my family and our relationship hasn't had many ups and downs.

Recently he brought up the idea of getting a dog together. Since we're both working from home and have a decent-sized apartment, it definitely seems feasible. The problem is that getting a dog is a pretty big commitment. We are both fresh out of college so we haven't talked about our future plans or anything like that. I love him but I'm not sure he's the 'one' or anything... and I don't even know if I ever want to get married or settle down. But at the same time, our relationship is pretty stable, and I know we won't break up any time soon. What do you think? Am I overthinking this? Should we just get the dog?"

Signed, Ms. Potential Dog Mom

Dear Ms. Potential Dog Mog

Are you overthinking this? Absolutely not. Getting a dog isn’t a decision to make on a whim just because it'd be fun. Should you get a dog? That depends, and it doesn’t have to mean as much as you think it does for your relationship.

There seem to be two things you’re struggling with here. The first is that you don’t know if you should get a dog with your live-in boyfriend; that much is clear. But you’re also struggling to tell if your boyfriend is “the one” when you’ve only been dating for two years and are new to post-grad life.

Let me be clear: these are two separate situations.

I’ll address the dog situation since it’s why you wrote in and seems to be the more pressing issue. Getting a dog is entirely up to you and depends on whether you two can handle the responsibilities. Are you both able to take care of the dog, even when work-from-home orders are lifted? How about going on vacation (if that happens anytime soon)? Who will watch your pup? How will you split the bills? What if your pup gets the doggy flu and needs to go to the vet? Are you both sharing the cost on that bill, or is your boyfriend paying for it?

The second question you need to address—a conversion to have with your boyfriend—is, if you break up, who keeps the dog? Countless couples break up and do the awkward dance of joint custody (which means you'll regularly see your ex, not a great situation to be in). Or worse, you'll have a Legally Blonde scenario on your hands: one person steals the dog while the other is left feeling betrayed. Unless you’re married, you need to discuss who gets to keep the dog if you break up.

I didn’t bring up the longevity of your relationship in the response above because, really, it doesn’t matter. You could think you’re going to stay together forever but, a year from now, things change. You don’t need to know if your boyfriend is “the one” to get a dog. On top of that, it’s completely normal to have reservations about your relationship. I mean, you’re 23 and living in one of the largest cities in the world! Of course, you’re wary about getting a dog if you equate it to committing to your boyfriend forever.

Getting a dog together can be an incredible addition to your life, as long as you’re responsible for the decision. It can be a bonding experience for you both, and a new fur baby could spice up a rather mundane quarantine life. But you don’t need to think of getting a dog as saying you’ll marry your boyfriend. As long as you both have a plan for what would happen in the event of a breakup, you can move forward in deciding to get a dog purely from whether you want an addition to your nights spent watching Netflix on your couch.

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