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September 7, 2012 6:43 AM   Subscribe

Cool or uncool: your spouse gets a second dog from a local shelter without asking or consulting you?

The answer is obvious to me, but my spouse is acting like this is no big deal. I'm confused and feel like I need my outrage calibrated. Mitigating facts:

-1.5 years ago, I was talked into getting one dog, who I now adore. But one is more than enough right now.

-I'm the sole breadwinner right now. I've schemed hard to trim our spending and boost our savings. An action like this feels like a financial slap in the face on top of the garden-variety disrespect.

-At every casual mention of a possible second one, I've indicated my absolute unwillingness.

-Spouse informed me of the new arrival a few hours before we were to pick up visiting house-guests for the weekend. I feel this was a power play to make me put on a happy face. Awkward.

-The second dog is the same (rare) breed as the first. Two days ago, my spouse forwarded me the dog's adoption page on the shelter's website. I was nonplussed but suggested if she was so excited to maybe go "visit" the dog. She believes that my suggestion obviously conveyed my approval.

-Yes, our communication skills are terrible. Yes, we've sought assistance with this.

-I wanted to sleep on it before putting my foot down, but I got no sleep last night. I am completely stressed out by the new arrival. Our first dog has already snapped at the new one several times. What's the threshold for owner/old dog incompatibility?

tldr; Spouse went and got another dog unilaterally. Am I being a reasonable partner to want to talk about the shelter's return policy? Is it right to entertain disturbing questions like, "what other craziness is my spouse going to do on a whim?" Precisely how angry would you be?
posted by fatllama to Human Relations (88 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Absolutely, completely, utterly uncool.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 6:47 AM on September 7, 2012 [88 favorites]


You know this isn't 100% about the dog, for either you or your partner, right?

Of course this is unacceptable. I know people who work in specific breed rescue and adopting a dog to a family where anyone in the family doesn't want that dog is a complete non-starter. Your communcation skills aren't just terrible - it sounds like you're not really communicating at all.

If this is a rare breed, are there breed-specific rescues that you could suggest giving the dog to, rather then back to the shelter?
posted by muddgirl at 6:48 AM on September 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


-At every casual mention of a possible second one, I've indicated my absolute unwillingness.

This clinches what seems like an other wise obvious question to me. You said you didn't want a second dog, she/he got one without telling you presumably because you said you didn't want one. Because of this, I would be pretty angry in your shoes.

In general, my rule with my wife is that we talk about purchases over $50 or so. A dog is a lot more expensive than that, considering lifetime care costs.

Completely uncool.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:48 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Without your consent, your spouse made a commitment that will require 10-15 years of your financial, emotional and practical support. I don't anger easily but on a scale of one to ten I'd be at like eight.
posted by lalex at 6:49 AM on September 7, 2012 [11 favorites]


If your spouse thought you might be excited about a new pet and it was intended as a happy surprise, it would be okay. But this:

-At every casual mention of a possible second one, I've indicated my absolute unwillingness.

makes it not okay at all.
posted by something something at 6:49 AM on September 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


Excruciatingly uncool.
posted by Lucinda at 6:50 AM on September 7, 2012


Is it right to entertain disturbing questions like, "what other craziness is my spouse going to do on a whim?"

Tempting, but no. Focus on the issue at hand, don't catastrophize. The rage feels so good but it is not productive for either of you.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:50 AM on September 7, 2012 [21 favorites]


Uncool.
posted by rtha at 6:51 AM on September 7, 2012


Reflecting back on my own past, I think the answer would really depend, not so much on the dog, but on the relationship with the other person.

I've been so in tune with people that such a conflict could never have come up, and if it somehow did I would instantly have gone along with something so heartfelt on her part. I've been in relationships where my instant response to this kind of behavior was that my partner should have known better than to cross that line.

I'd think more about the nature and status of the relationship as a whole and then judge the specifics from there.
posted by tyllwin at 6:51 AM on September 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I would be pretty angry. Adding a dog is a big deal!! It takes a lot of time and energy to adjust to a new family member. I would look into returning it.
posted by Fig at 6:51 AM on September 7, 2012


Uncool. And spouse is being manipulative.
posted by carter at 6:52 AM on September 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


Totally and completely uncool. You know it, she knows it.

Dogs aren't free. They cost in vet, food and resources in the house.

You need to discuss this with your spouse now!

"I know that you've been wanting a second dog, and we've discussed it frequently. I flat our said that I don't want another dog, and certainly not when our finances are as strained as they are now. Why did you go out and get this dog, when you know it would upset me?"

Your spouse may be depressed, or manic. This is a baaaaddd state in which to be making decisions. This seems to be the kind of impulsive move a manic person would make.

For sure, see if you can find a rescue group to take the new dog, espcially if its not working out.

You may have larger issues in your marriage, and this is just a symptom, so consider counseling.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:54 AM on September 7, 2012 [10 favorites]


Completely and totally inappropriate. I am also surprised that the shelter allowed this -- the ones in this area require approval from all adult members of the household pre-adoption.
posted by pie ninja at 6:56 AM on September 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


I would be really pissed about this. But it makes me wonder--what need is this second dog filling for your spouse? Why was she all hot to get another dog when she knew you really didn't want one?
posted by smirkette at 6:57 AM on September 7, 2012 [8 favorites]


I really feel like the details of this interaction are paramount:

I was nonplussed but suggested if she was so excited to maybe go "visit" the dog. She believes that my suggestion obviously conveyed my approval.

I would suggest that it is possible that your spouse interpreted your suggestion to visit the dog as a change in your position on the matter. I would encourage you to carefully consider just what was said and/or communicated there, and if there are ways that you need to change the way you communicate in order to avoid these kind of situations in the future. The answer may be "no". You may have been perfectly explicit that you were just suggesting a visit and nothing more, but think carefully.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:58 AM on September 7, 2012 [28 favorites]


A friend revealed one of his secrets to marital happiness: the buy-in. When he wants to buy something significant (and particularly something that will affect them both), he engages his wife in a weeks-long conversation about it, and they hash out the pros and cons together, and she expresses her concerns and then -- and this is the important bit -- he doesn't take any action on the purchase until she says "I've come to support this idea because..." He solicits and waits for her buy-in.

No buy-in? No purchase.

Using this framework has kept them on the same page about a number of things, allowed communication to flow, has preserved harmony, and has prevented recriminations and pressured, resentful acquiescence to questionable unilateral decisions.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:58 AM on September 7, 2012 [14 favorites]


Super extremely uncool. Bad for your relationship, bad for each of you individually, bad for your original dog, and bad for the new dog. Even if you might eventually come to care for and be able to afford the dog, that won't make up for this bad start and the stress it puts on you will be reflected in the dog's wellbeing. Don't let your spouse manipulate you further by trying to say that it'd be better off with you; it won't.
posted by Mizu at 6:58 AM on September 7, 2012


Yeah, I'm gonna go with "no" here. Totally disrespectful and manipulative-looking, from where I'm sitting. The solution to "we can't communicate" is "let's take on even MORE responsibilities."

Also, on preview: what smirkette said.
posted by Alterscape at 6:59 AM on September 7, 2012


So not cool.

If you did get a second dog, there is groundwork to be done to help the new dog get along with the old dog-the dogs should meet first in a neutral location, they should have several meetings to see how they get along. So this is irresponsible dog care in addition to bad spousing.
posted by medusa at 6:59 AM on September 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think it's best to try to avoid ascribing motivations to one's spouse, rather than focusing on behavior. Maybe she was being manipulative. More likely she really wanted this dog (if it's a kill shelter, she wanted to save its life), so she interpreted your permission to visit the dog as you changing your mind and giving her permission to evaluate the dog for adoption. This is a pretty common example of two people talking completely past each other, and assuming the other person is on the same page, when they're not at all.
posted by muddgirl at 6:59 AM on September 7, 2012 [11 favorites]


I have a dog. I love my dog. My dog is the best thing ever. I am a Dog Person. I have even entertained the thought of at some point in the future getting a second dog.

If someone, ESPECIALLY someone I was married to, sprung a surprise dog on me, ESPECIALLY if I had specifically said I didn't want another dog, I would be livid. Absolutely livid.

Your feeling outraged is not even a little bit unreasonable. I can't offer you any advice on how to deal with this situation, unfortunately, but your feelings--consider them validated.
posted by phunniemee at 7:00 AM on September 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


So what is stopping you from popping into the car one day and unilaterally taking the dog back?

And while at the shelter you can express to them your shock and dismay that they did not confirm your consent.
posted by thebazilist at 7:00 AM on September 7, 2012 [16 favorites]


Rock Steady: "I really feel like the details of this interaction are paramount:

I was nonplussed but suggested if she was so excited to maybe go "visit" the dog. She believes that my suggestion obviously conveyed my approval.
"

Definitely agree here. Did you respond via e-mail? Could you copy&paste that response here for us?
posted by Grither at 7:05 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have a dog, I love my dog like crazy. I would, someday, love to have another dog. My boyfriend loves my dog like crazy. He would, someday, love to have another dog. I wouldn't get another dog without talking to him first and we don't even live together.

So yes, consider your feelings validated. But as said above, the dog thing isn't the problem just a symptom of something else.
posted by magnetsphere at 7:05 AM on September 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Your spouse just disrespected you, manipulated you, and hurt your mutual finances. To me, this is indicative of larger issues in your marriage.

Also - to a certain degree, at least - it seems like she is testing your boundaries. If you don't firmly assert yourself here, it will only get worse.

This means that it is absolutely critical that the second dog go back to the shelter (or be otherwise evicted from your house), no matter how much your spouse begs, pleads, or sulks. If you let her keep the dog, you're sending the message that your spouse can sometimes benefit from deliberately doing things that hurt you, and that is most definitely not something to encourage.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 7:08 AM on September 7, 2012 [6 favorites]


At this point I think what happens with the dog, or rather dogs, is more important than what all this means. You should not keep the second dog if it's already causing problems for the first; it is a betrayal of the first dog. You owe it to your existing pet to be very careful about getting others. Take this dog back where it came from or if it is not a good place, find a breed rescue. Then you can discuss your communication problems.
posted by BibiRose at 7:15 AM on September 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Although I totally agree with the general consensus that this is quite uncool, I'd like to point out that your initial statement "At every casual mention of a possible second one, I've indicated my absolute unwillingness." is pretty much contradicted by ""I was nonplussed but suggested if she was so excited to maybe go "visit" the dog."

Extrapolating wildly from this, it could suggest that your other communications were not as clear as you might hope. It is a critical distinction whether your wife knew that you were adamantly opposed to a second dog and chose to ignore your wishes and make a unilateral decision or whether she misunderstood your position and genuinely believed that you would be fine with the decision.

You have a serious problem with your relationship if you honestly believe that your spouse bought a second dog knowing that you were strongly opposed and, in a calculated attempt to manipulate you, did so just before guests would arrive to in order to control your reaction. I am having some trouble imagining a scenario where I would ascribe such motivations to my wife without thinking we had gone very seriously off the rails.
posted by Lame_username at 7:18 AM on September 7, 2012 [10 favorites]


It may not mean anything more than she made a huge commitment without consulting you. no ulterior motives.

But that doesn't mean it is not a wildly shitty thing to do.

It sucks, take the dog back. A dog should not live in a home where it is unwanted.
posted by French Fry at 7:24 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Uncool.

That being said, it's not the dog's fault. If you're going to take it back, make sure the dog is going to a no kill shelter or a good home.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:25 AM on September 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Completely uncool, and this has nothing to do with the dog. This is everything about the communication problem.

In your shoes, I would insist that the return the dog, regardless of the financial consequences of doing so.
posted by DWRoelands at 7:27 AM on September 7, 2012


So uncool that I'm actually surprised the shelter allowed it. The rescues and shelters here generally require written consent from all adults living in the home where the animal is to reside in order for an adoption to happen.

That said, coming to Metafilter to get us all to tell you how right you are that she is wrong is a bit of a dick move, you know? Relationships are not a win/lose game. And even if they were, you and she would be tied at about negative 12 right now, because you're both dealing with this very badly.

It sounds like you've been completely shutting her down on this issue for a long time, so she took any change in your position as a yes vote. It also sounds like this isn't all that far off how you ended up with your first dog, so she probably thinks you'll eventually come around to this one, too.

That's not a fair choice for her to make on your behalf, but if you've simply been stonewalling her desire for another dog for the last year or so, that's not fair either.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:30 AM on September 7, 2012 [9 favorites]


Well, if you're that upset about the dog itself, then you could just take the dog straight back to wherever s/he got it from.

I'd be furious, personally. I think it's bizarre that people are accusing you of being difficult here; although I can understand how maybe your spouse thought it was ambiguous that you told her to go visit the dog.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:30 AM on September 7, 2012


Have you expressed your worries and feelings to her without anger?
posted by discopolo at 7:33 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't see why you encouraged her to visit the dog if you were so strongly against her bringing it home, though. Why visit a dog you can't have? It would take a very strong will to visit a dog you desperately wanted, fall in love with it and then leave it behind, especially if you thought it could be put down unless you took it. I can see how your wife could have read what she wanted to see into your visit suggestion.
posted by hazyjane at 7:36 AM on September 7, 2012 [21 favorites]


I'm the dog person in our house. I look at pictures of puppies and collapse into a puddle of goo on a daily basis. I'm the one that points out dogs on the sidewalk or running around doing doggy things. I wander by an off-leash park on a regular basis just to enjoy all the dogs running around doing dog things.

But if my wife came home with a surprise puppy one day, I'd be more than a little "What the fuck?" about it. I'd probably keep said puppy because PUPPY!, but I'd definitely be a little put out about making a purchase of a major responsibility without us going over it.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 7:36 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


(When I said in a previous comment, "Your communcation skills aren't just terrible - it sounds like you're not really communicating at all," I didn't mean the OP specifically, I meant the plural 'you' - y'all. The OP and his wife.)
posted by muddgirl at 7:40 AM on September 7, 2012


Return the dog.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:43 AM on September 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Uncool, but you already knew that. I think though that a better question is "why?" and perhaps more importantly "what now?"

At the very least, if you end up keeping the dog, you two need to get serious about socializing it with your first dog and working togeather to bring it up right (and consider that, at some level, perhaps, that is what your wife wanted, to work together like that)

Also, speaking as someone who has been the primary breadwinner, and as someone whom has long valued and sought a sense of financial security: a sense of financial security is overrated. I am currently underemployed, which means we are less secure, financially, than we have been in years. On the other hand, in many ways, I am happier than I have been in years.

But yeah: You two really need to get better at communicating.
posted by Good Brain at 7:46 AM on September 7, 2012


No - people do not make major unilateral decisions, except when the are stifled or feel powerless. Something caused this, and you should look carefully at yourself vis-a-vis her.

This disturbing statement invalidates and nulifies any upper hand you may have thought you had:

"what other craziness is my spouse going to do on a whim?"
posted by Kruger5 at 7:48 AM on September 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


This isn't a slap in the face, this is a kick in the balls.

This is so not about the dog either. This is about your relationship. She is clearly openly hostile and is in my guess planning to leave or get you to leave.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:50 AM on September 7, 2012


you asked about anger -- anger is not the response you want -- you want cool, emphatic, decisive, confident, calm, controlled composure.
posted by mrmarley at 7:50 AM on September 7, 2012


Not ok... Not even if it was a hamster would this be ok.

Hell I'd be grumpy if it was a fish...

Disclaimer: Joint owner of two dogs, obtained by each other for each other and at seperate times. I was more careful about the communication surroundig getting the dogs for MsEld than I was in getting her wedding ring. 'Cuz rings don't poop and require upkeep and boarding and bathing, ya'know...
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:52 AM on September 7, 2012


Quite not cool. My now ex-wife (surprise!) brought home an incredibly annoying cat not long after I had said "two's enough. No more cats." It's a siamese cat who howled all night, hounded the other cats constantly and generally set about making me utterly hate everything about him. I built up a huge pool of resentment over it for a good long time.
posted by nevercalm at 7:53 AM on September 7, 2012


Not even a little bit ok. I think that, in your situation, I would be angrier than I've ever been in my life.
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:58 AM on September 7, 2012


Also, the title of your post is apt if I'm correct in reading between the lines that your spouse is the type of person who accumulates animals. I was married to a guy like that, and after a while we were little more than members of a pack, and maybe my husband was the alpha dog but I am not totally sure. And yes, he brought home a dog-- as a birthday present for me! After a while I did not feel bonded with any of those dogs. I did actually return a dog that my husband was pressuring me to keep after someone tried to abandon it with us. Whenever he got, or tried to get, a new dog there was always some emotional reason for it. There always will be.

Anyway, if your wife looks like she wants to have that lifestyle with a ton of animals, and you don't you're going to have to address it before you have another crises or three.
posted by BibiRose at 7:59 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Honestly, I'd have a long hard think about the play here.

I assume you both want to be married to one another tomorrow. The dog is a metaphor for your relationship.

Getting the dog on a flimsy, not-really say so is a dick move. Or a cry for help. Or a fuck you. Or an assertion of control over something.

Taking the dog back unilaterally is also a dick move, regardless of how outraged you are. Or a fuck you. Or an assertion of control.

You ask about your feelings and your actions. Fair enough. I'd be angry as hell too. But I would suggest if this is the first sign of cracks appearing that you devote your energies to first talking to your spouse about what she was thinking. Let her talk before you launch into outrage or action. You might be enlightened.

You don't mention kids. I speculate wildly, but wanting more little critters *can* be indicative about views on having a family. Or it might not. It's not about the dog though.

tl:dr - asking and listening will get you far more answers and resolutions to this, or any future issues with your marriage, than thinking about this from the perspective of your anger, your actions or the disrespect shown to you. If your marriage is the important thing here then who is right is secondary to why something wrong happened.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:04 AM on September 7, 2012 [10 favorites]


Okay definitely uncool of spouse.

However the snapping by the old dog at the new dog is pretty common and will subside, it takes a while for things to adjust, so I wouldn't use that in your argument (to yourself or spouse).
posted by radioamy at 8:04 AM on September 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Totally uncool, but your wife obviously did it to force you to demonstrate how important (or unimportant) you are to her, so you're going to have to address that when you talk to her about it.

JohnnyGunn: This is so not about the dog either. She is clearly openly hostile and is in my guess planning to leave or get you to leave.

I think you're right that it's not about the dog, but I really don't think it's hostility, it's insecurity and anxiety. If he treats it like it's hostility, though, it will definitely become that.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 8:05 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's definitely uncool. I've had a less-egregious* version of this happen to me with a cat, and you sound pretty much like I felt at the time. In the end, I decided to keep the cat and forgive the incident, but made sure it was understood that this was not an acceptable behavior and that I couldn't forgive it a second time. I don't generally recommend ultimatums, but it was taken seriously and greatly improved communications long-term, so there you are...

* = cat was being thrown out of a house with no front or rear claws, so there was an immediacy factor that presumably your new shelter dog didn't have.
posted by Pufferish at 8:06 AM on September 7, 2012


Massively uncool. This is a big change to your living conditions and responsibilities. If your spouse truly thinks this is no big deal that would be appalling enough by itself. The fact that you have already made it clear to him/her that this is a no-no for you makes it absolutely inexcusable, and s/he needs some re-education about the mutual respect aspect of the marriage contract.

If this were me, I would be going pretty bloody nuclear at this point.
posted by Decani at 8:16 AM on September 7, 2012


Uncool, but it's definitely a sign of other relationship problems. Does she feel you are stifling her spending more than you are trimming your own expenses? Does she want (more) children? Oftentimes, pets are proxies for children in a relationship. Have you always made her do without if you are slightly uncomfortable with a change? Maybe she finally feels like doing what she wants (in her eyes). It's still uncool, but it's an issue you need to work out together.
posted by ethidda at 8:18 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would be livid if I was in your situation.

I think you need to have a calm, not-angry, conversation and ask her why she adopted a dog when you specifically mentioned on more than one occasion that you did not want one. To me, her actions indicate that she understood that she was doing something that would upset you, she adopted the dog without talking to you, and she waited until the absolute last minute to tell you when the new dog would be arriving.

It's okay to be angry at her, and it's important to (calmly) express to express to her how angry her actions have made you. But even though it sounds like she is completely in the wrong in this situation, it's still important to listen to what she has to say.
posted by inertia at 8:20 AM on September 7, 2012


It is uncool of her to have brought a dog in without your explicit say-so, but -- "How about you go to the shelter and look at the dog?" does sound like an implicit okay, and I suspect your "totally clear" is not as clear as you think it is.

I don't think an implicit okay is enough for a dog, either, though.
posted by jeather at 8:22 AM on September 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm worried by the responses that you should just take the dog back without talking to her. Is this about the relationship, or about control? Because at the end of the day, you can't control another person. And I don't think getting into a passive aggressive war will solve the underlying problem.

That said, I think it's uncool. If she chooses to keep the dog, she should choose to pay for its care and upkeep out of her pocket. If you don't want the pup, you have no obligation to maintain it.
posted by windykites at 8:44 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Completely uncool.

We have two dogs that I absolutely love. I had to be "talked into" both of them, and now I'm glad I was, but it was never at the point where I said "no, absolutely not, we are not getting (another) dog." Had I said that I think (or, rather, I hope) my wife would have respected my wishes.

As previously mentioned, dogs are not free, as I'm sure you well know from having your first dog. You pay for dog food, training, carpet cleaning (if you have to housebreak them), new furniture (if they're teething), an endless supply of toys, vet bills, licensing, flea and tick treatments that don't work, and so on. The first year is the costliest. Especially as you're the sole breadwinner, your spouse should at least have consulted you first. (If your spouse brought in some money, it would be a little less uncool as you can say she needs to completely pay for the dog's care.)

This is more than just a disagreement wherein she won. You say you had two HOURS notice and had made your disapproval abundantly clear several times beforehand. Not cool in the slightest.
posted by tckma at 8:55 AM on September 7, 2012


And I don't think getting into a passive aggressive war will solve the underlying problem.

Picking up the dog was the passive aggressive move, not OP's response to it. In fact, picking up the dog was probably intended partly to trigger a reaction from OP.
posted by carter at 8:55 AM on September 7, 2012


Taking an animal back unilaterally is something one does to a child. The adult response is to recognize that she has the right to adopt a dog if she wants to, and you have the right to dictate your boundaries - you won't pay for it's care, live in the same house as it, whatever your boundaries are.
posted by muddgirl at 8:59 AM on September 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, but how is the OP going to live apart from the dog? OP is already worried about finances without oh, getting another home. And OP is the sole breadwinner, so who's going to pay for it?

I nth the "shelters seriously do not allow you to adopt a dog without the consent of everyone" thing. It makes me wonder if she claimed to be single or something in order to get away with them not talking to you.

I think taking it back to the shelter and telling them they did not get your consent is a good idea.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:02 AM on September 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


The wife can get a job (part time, full time, at a grocery store, babysitting, whatever) and pay for the dog. If she loves dogs that much, maybe she can be a petsitter. If she has that much free time on her hands that she feels the need to fill it with a living creature so desperately, she probably has too much free time.
posted by ethidda at 9:07 AM on September 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, but how is the OP going to live apart from the dog?

Usually it's called a "separation."
posted by muddgirl at 9:09 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Carter, I'll reword: engaging in a passive agressive war.
posted by windykites at 9:12 AM on September 7, 2012


Very, very uncool. Huge relationship issue.
BUT.
Suggesting she visit the dog - whether or not one takes the position that this implies consent - does indicate something going on in your head that maybe you are unaware of. Because for people who love animals, to see the animal, to touch it and smell it and play with it, to look into its eyes and make that connection to the lovable being it is - makes it very very hard to say goodbye. If my husband suggested I visit a cat I'd indicated I was already somewhat in love with, that would mean TO ME (maybe to him) that we'd taken a step towards agreeing that it could join our family.
That said, the cat wouldn't pass our door without a phone call to the husband for confirmation of an ok. (see my posting history for a situation where a cat did pass our doors without his ok, and how freaked out I was about doing such a thing without his consent).

tl;dr, why did you suggest she visit the dog? Do you know yourself why you said it?

Aside from that:*
1. This is about power. It's possible she feels powerless and this is her way of asserting herself.
2. This is about love and comfort. Animals give us a loving emotional bond that we can depend on. Maybe your wife is feeling unappreciated or unloved. Maybe the first dog is "your" dog and she needed something that was "hers" to love her. (anecdata: my husband is so much extra happy because the third cat is "his" and loves him best; the first two are much more "mine.")
3. This might be about wanting kids. But imo, that dovetails into #2.

*Note that none of the following points makes the unconsented adoption ok, cool, or acceptable. But... the dog is in your house now. I don't envy your position.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 9:13 AM on September 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


Reading between the lines, another story can be reconstructed.

She did consult you: she sent you the link. You suggested she visit, and as hazyjane points out, the only good reason to visit a shelter animal is because you're considering adopting it. You also suggested SHE visit, rather than that she wait until you could go as a couple. You thereby delegated (at least some) responsibility to her.

Domestic responsibility is something one might be eager to seize, as a housewife married to a spouse who emphasizes that he is the sole breadwinner, rather than that you are jointly living on one income.

-Spouse informed me of the new arrival a few hours before we were to pick up visiting house-guests for the weekend. I feel this was a power play to make me put on a happy face.

Surely a more effective power play wouldn't involve several hours' gap for discussion (enough time, in fact, to return a dog to a shelter)? And surely the timing is more readily attributable to your local shelter's acquisition of a 'rare' breed, the same breed as the dog you now love?

Should she have double-checked? Yes. Should you have reiterated your 'absolute unwillingness' to get a dog, rather than suggesting she GO VISIT THIS RARE BREED? Yes. Both of you have terrible communication skills, as you say. Divorce your wife and the dog if you insist; but stop looking for someone to blame.
posted by feral_goldfish at 9:19 AM on September 7, 2012 [10 favorites]


1. Totally not cool. I'd be very upset if my spouse did something like this without consulting me first.

2. As others have said, this is not about the dog. This is about power. Without trying to read between the lines too much, it is possible that, as the sole breadwinner, you feel that you can tell your spouse what is and is not going to come into the household, that you have the absolute final say? Perhaps your spouse feels like you are controlling and like they lack autonomy. This could be a reaction to that.

3. Do not do this:
So what is stopping you from popping into the car one day and unilaterally taking the dog back?

And while at the shelter you can express to them your shock and dismay that they did not confirm your consent.
Seriously, don't do that. That is a terrible response. Responding to passive-aggression with more passive-aggression is a terrible way to operate in a marriage, especially one which you recognize as having a communication problem. This will only make things worse.
posted by asnider at 9:20 AM on September 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


-I wanted to sleep on it before putting my foot down, but I got no sleep last night. I am completely stressed out by the new arrival. Our first dog has already snapped at the new one several times. What's the threshold for owner/old dog incompatibility?

imo, your dog is probably getting most of their stress about new dog from you. They might have issues of their own, but there is no way they're going to accept the new one as anything but an intruder if YOU feel it is an intruder. Just keep that in mind before you factor in incompatibility. If, after discussion with the wife and some time to think calmly on your own, you decide that you want to give new dog a chance, make sure you take the time to try to love it before introducing it to old dog as a new friend, not a new hostile incursion.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 9:20 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Did they possibly run out and get the dog without consulting you because the dog is a breed not commonly found in shelters? I'm thinking that maybe they were scared someone else would snap up the dog first? That still doesn't make it okay, especially since you made it clear several times that you did not want a second dog.
posted by lovelygirl at 9:32 AM on September 7, 2012


Even if you agreed to it, which sounds nebulous to me, you can change your mind. Having it cross the threshold does not obligate you to it forever. The discussion is still open.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:41 AM on September 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Even if you agreed to it, which sounds nebulous to me, you can change your mind. Having it cross the threshold does not obligate you to it forever. The discussion is still open.

While I don't think the OP actually agreed to it, keep in mind that this is a living creature. While there are certainly circumstances that would force someone to give up a dog, it shouldn't really be something that you change your mind about. In the situation that the OP has presented, yes, the discussion needs to remain open. In most other circumstances, I would say that it should actually not remain open barring some extreme situation.
posted by asnider at 9:51 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I disagree. This dog has been in the house 2 days. It will adjust to going back to the shelter.
posted by small_ruminant at 9:53 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


And now trying to look at this from the best perspective on your wife's motivations:

She could be kind of dizzy i.e. not the type of person who thinks about money or responsibility (not a characterization I make lightly, but based on the fact that she brings no income and the rest that happened).
She visited the dog (with your permission), fell in love with it, and excitedly brought it home to share with you. Some people are just like that; they get excited and don't stop to think about the ramifications, they just go with their heart. This could have been done out of love and sharing, and she could well be crushed right now about how it all turned out.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 9:53 AM on September 7, 2012 [4 favorites]


Thanks all for the advice. Just wanted to close the thread as the issue is resolved. Had the talk. Dog's going back. Intentions were as good as possible and (my) poor communication is implicated. Spouse is a great, loving person.
posted by fatllama at 10:16 AM on September 7, 2012 [14 favorites]


The other side:

-At every casual mention of a possible second one, I've indicated my absolute unwillingness.

So that's pretty clear to you. Pretty clear to her as well. However....

-Two days ago, my spouse forwarded me the dog's adoption page on the shelter's website. I was nonplussed but suggested if she was so excited to maybe go "visit" the dog.

She was excited you told her to go see the dog. I can very readily see why She believes that my suggestion obviously conveyed my approval.

To her, she heard: "No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No. Not no." And not no equals yes. In her eyes, you relented and got the dog.

Yes, there is an obvious communication issue going on here. From what you describe, she kept asking until you said not no which she interpreted as yes. From her perspective, you *did* give her an okay to visit a dog that's up for adoption, and once you did that, you took the prohibition against adoption away. In you're shoes, though, I'd still be pissed off.
posted by Doohickie at 10:17 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


"...you relented and she got the dog."
posted by Doohickie at 10:17 AM on September 7, 2012


That sounds like a good resolution to a bad situation. Be kind to each other and work on clear communications.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:05 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Uncool in a cold way.
posted by bz at 11:40 AM on September 7, 2012


At every casual mention of a possible second one, I've indicated my absolute unwillingness.

OK, were clear that you were against getting a second dog. Until this:

I was nonplussed but suggested if she was so excited to maybe go "visit" the dog.

I'm not sure what meaning you even thought this would convey to her, maybe you expected her to interpret this as "I'm against a dog but if you want to go fall in love with a second dog and really want to take it home, have fun visiting and torturing yourself with what you can't have."

She believes that my suggestion obviously conveyed my approval.

Suggesting she visit the dog would give me that impression. One doesn't go making appointments to see rescued dogs if one doesn't wish to acquire a dog for two reasons -- first, the shelter isn't there so you can purposefully and rudely use their time and resources to "visit" with a dog when it's a given you won't be adopting a dog. Second, because you will end up with a dog.

Your spouse probably assumed, without even thinking about it, that you would never be so rude as to think it right to treat a shelter as some sort of a petting zoo for people who don't actually want a dog.

I don't think you have to worry about your spouse doing anything else crazy on a whim, so long as you can avoid suggesting things. If you don't want to go where the road leads, don't start down the road in the first place.
posted by yohko at 12:35 PM on September 7, 2012 [5 favorites]


I don't know - in my house, as well as the two flats downstairs (all inhabited by cat owners and their spouses/longtime housemates), discussion about getting an additional animal is explicit, and both people go to "visit" the shelter, since an animal who really likes person A may not like person B. And one of the people might really like a very different animal from the other person.

When we got our two most recent cats, we went to "visit" cats at the shelter, but we already both knew we were going to get cats, because we had talked about it and agreed to it. We did happen to come home with two cats that day even though we didn't mean to, but it was a matter of timing, not whether or not we were going to adopt them at all.
posted by rtha at 12:46 PM on September 7, 2012


uncool
posted by Ironmouth at 1:17 PM on September 7, 2012


I think people are making way top big a deal if this, its a dog not a mortgage. About everyone I know has sprung a pet on an unsuspecting spouse at some point or has one sprung on them. If its a stable marriage and living situation, its not that big a deal practically. Certainly not some dramatic, massive betrayal like people here are implying.
posted by fshgrl at 1:41 PM on September 7, 2012


You need to work on communicating better with each other, and that is the real issue here.
posted by J. Wilson at 4:05 PM on September 7, 2012


Yes, communication is an issue.

I have to say though, that I have brought home horses without telling my spouse! The standard joke is that there's usually so much dust, how can you count them? I just got a new dog several months ago--I'm sure he figured it was coming, as we lost one of our dogs, but he just walked in one evening after work...
Cats, too. He just sighs.

There's never been a critter he didn't love.

But then again we talked about it twenty years ago. When it's time, we just seem to have an unspoken consensus. And I certainly wouldn't get a critter we couldn't care for properly.
posted by BlueHorse at 4:45 PM on September 7, 2012 [2 favorites]


Now use this as an opportunity to ensure that the two of you talk about things very clearly and explicitly in the future.
posted by heyjude at 5:34 PM on September 7, 2012


Very very uncool.
posted by ead at 8:25 PM on September 7, 2012


Absolutely uncool and inappropriate. And manipulative. Your outrage is vindicated and justified.

But it's probably not wise.

All of us here are taking what you've given us and projecting our own experiences and assumptions onto it, and when I read one-sided relationship questions (whether here or on Savage Love or wherever) I always try to picture how they might read coming from the other side. Here, I can't imagine there's a way your spouse could have worded the situation which would have resulted in anyone telling her to unilaterally get the new dog, but I can at least see maybe why she did so.

1.) If she grew up in a home with a lot of animals, this might not seem like a big deal to her, and it might seem weird to her that it's such a non-starter for you. In this case, "why don't you go visit the dog?" could seem like tacit approval. Maybe.

2.) You're having communication problems. And if she's the super-animal-loving type, that need for companionship (especially the unconditional approval that comes from a dog) could be something she was truly just desperate for.

3.) You're the sole breadwinner, which might be throwing a massive one-sided power dynamic into the relationship, paired with the communication problems. Poor communication + powerlessness is a horrible combination in a relationship.

So while you're saying "absolutely not," she's saying, "I need this badly," and the two of you are talking past one another.

And no advice vis-a-vis the dog can come from us. It can only come from y'all actually talking about things.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:03 PM on September 7, 2012 [3 favorites]


I want to just mention one other thing. You said you're the sole breadwinner, and then seemed to imply that this gives you more authority over how money is spent.

My husband and I decided to never play that game provided that each of us was working hard, regardless of how much money each person brought in. So when he was in school full time and I was working, so long as he was working hard as a student, our money was our money. Period. The fact that his paychecks would not come in for another four years was irrelevant; he was working hard now, and so had equal say in how we spent money. We've found that this is incredibly important for our marriage.
posted by Capri at 12:12 AM on September 8, 2012 [3 favorites]


Uncool as described.

Y'all know I am as crazy a dog lady as they come, and even I wouldn't do this (as described).

That said, I agree with Rock Steady that the details of your interaction about the dog are key. I might also have taken your encouragement to go and visit the dog as tacit something-like-approval for adopting it if I were really wanting the dog.

I made it approximately one godzillion percent clear to my beloved before we were married that I would need to have dogs, they are important to my happiness in life, and they are my hobby as well as my pets. I try my best to make sure the dogs aren't too much of an inconvenience to him, and I believe that he trusts me enough to know that if I said a dog needed to stay, that it would be a good thing. But I still wouldn't sneak-adopt a dog behind his back.

But I think this is a bigger problem than the dog. Your wife is unwilling to actually ask for what she wants, and you are unwilling to be straight with her. Also the "sole breadwinner" comment is concerning. Think about that for a minute. Looking at it as being "single income" is one thing, but "I am the sole breadwinner" has a tone that implies you have greater right to decide about how your money is spent than she does. As does the "scheming to boost our savings" comment - money is not the most important thing to everyone, you and your spouse may well be in different places when it comes to money, this is something else you need to work out.

I don't think two dogs is too many dogs, personally (but again, crazy dog lady here), but the problem here is that you and your wife don't seem to be able to talk about what you each want out of life, and if you're going to be each others' life partners, you need to fix that. Remember that a marriage isn't a competition, it's a partnership, and your spouse's happiness is directly tied to your own. "Happy wife, happy life" (or "Happy spouse, happy life" for that matter) is a saying because it's true. This isn't really just about the dog.
posted by biscotti at 7:50 AM on September 8, 2012


You both know it's not okay. It's not fair to bring a new animal into any household without discussion. Partner relentlessly asked, you said No explicitly. Go visit the dog at shelter is not the same as Yes, and it sounds like you felt bullied/manipulated.

Am I being a reasonable partner to want to talk about the shelter's return policy? Reasonable? I would call the shelter asap, get the info, and have a serious discussion about returning the dog.
Is it right to entertain disturbing questions like, "what other craziness is my spouse going to do on a whim?" The fact that you have wondered this means, at the very least, that your spouse has broken your trust. I suspect there are more cases of this type of behavior - making significant decisions without discussion/agreement.
Precisely how angry would you be? Ripping.

I'm glad it's resolved. Non-working spouse could volunteer at the shelter; dogs need to be walked, socialized, etc.
posted by theora55 at 4:03 PM on September 8, 2012


You said that you are having trouble with communication -- at least in this case, both of you communicated very well. She communicated what she wanted, regardless what you wanted, and that she is willing to run you over. You communicated that you're going to keep your head but you're absolutely not going to play that way. Extremely clear communication, on both sides.

This situation -- along with a printout of this thread -- great fodder for next visit to therapist.

I'm so glad for you that this has worked out. Glad for you, glad for your wife, glad for the pooch.
posted by dancestoblue at 7:01 PM on September 8, 2012


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