Every week, Dear Prudence answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.
Q. Doggone impasse: My fiancée is a dog person. She’s always made comments throughout our relationship about how having dogs is nonnegotiable. I didn’t grow up with dogs, but I’m OK with the general idea of them—I enjoy seeing them at the park and such. Now, she’s pushing for us to have at least three dogs. I hate this idea. They’re incredibly expensive, dirty, and needy—I don’t want us to be tied down in our 20s because of a small creature we have to constantly babysit. I’d rather reserve that for our actual (human) children. This is the only source of disagreement in our relationship. Is it absurd to break up over differing dog desires? Are people really this obsessed with dogs that it would be a deal-breaker?
A: It’s not absurd to break up over very strongly felt and incompatible desires to own pets, although it would be premature to break up before talking about it pretty thoroughly, exploring all possible options, and at least attempting to find a workable compromise. This seems like it might be worth taking to premarital couples counseling, especially since it’s the only issue that’s dividing you two right now. But “at least” three dogs is a pretty significant lifestyle choice, and I hear every week from couples whose strongly held and conflicting attitudes toward pets bring them serious trouble. This is worth paying attention to! I don’t think I could live happily with someone who needed at least three dogs even under the best of circumstances (a large home that gets cleaned and aired often enough that it doesn’t regularly smell of dog when you walk through the front door, plenty of room for the dogs to play safely, access to excellent and relatively inexpensive training and veterinary care, regular cleaning). And life so rarely takes place under the best of circumstances.