Canine complicating family dynamics
December 23, 2011 6:51 PM   Subscribe

How do I address my parents' insistence on bringing a dog into our house when my wife is opposed to it?

My wife, newborn baby, and I live a little over an hour from my parents and adult sister. Parents and sister rescued a small dog several months ago, and they have been insistent on bringing the dog with them to our house if they were to visit. Things between my wife and my parents/sister have been tense separate and apart from this issue.

Neither my wife nor I are "pet people." I am incredibly indifferent about the dog, but my wife has been adamant that she does not want the dog in our house. Her stated reasons for this are allergies, smell, potential for making a mess, and destroying our furniture. In reality, the dog in question is extremely mild mannered.

As a compromise, we offered to allow the dog in our house but stay kept in the laundry room with a gate up. We tried this today, but the dog whined, squealed, and barked the whole time it was in there until my sister sat with the dog in the laundry room, which made things very awkward for everyone. Eventually, my sister carried the dog out of the laundry room and sat with us in the kitchen. The dog was quiet and well-behaved. My wife was not happy that the dog was brought out of the laundry room but did not say anything so as not to turn a tense situation into an ugly one.

Is there room for compromise here? Is it reasonable for us to ban the dog from the house? Is it reasonable for the dog to stay alone at my parents' for around 6 hours (avg. length of visit including travel)? How do I effectively communicate my wife's position when I am so indifferent about this issue? Help!!!
posted by Run.Faster to Human Relations (54 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
It would seem that this time the battle is already lost. Your problem was agreeing to host the dog in the first place. Having given into that demand, enforcing limits on places it can be which inconvenience everyone isn't really a viable option. Under other circumstances, you might put the dog outside, but it's likely to be pretty cold, so unless you're someplace where it isn't, you're probably just stuck with dealing with it for the next few days.

But next time around? Just say no. Your wife's opinion should be more to your than your parents'. They have no grounds to insist that they be permitted to bring anything into your home that you do not want there. So they've adopted a dog. Good for them. You haven't. They need to respect what amounts to the sanctity of your home and make other arrangements next time.
posted by valkyryn at 6:56 PM on December 23, 2011 [21 favorites]

In my view, failing to back your wife up and present a united front will result in far more problems for you than the dog. If I disagreed with my wife's position, I might work with her to compromise, but once we made a collective decision I would back her completely and totally. Your indifference is irrelevant.
posted by Lame_username at 6:58 PM on December 23, 2011 [30 favorites]

"My wife is allergic to dogs. It's exhausting enough being the mother of a newborn, but throwing unnecessary allergies into the mix is overwhelming. Please don't bring the dog when you come to our house."
posted by two lights above the sea at 6:58 PM on December 23, 2011 [38 favorites]

I read "newborn baby" and automatically sided with your wife. She is in a delicate time right now, physically and emotionally, and she needs you to back her 100% even if you think she's being irrational.

The dog is not a member of the family and your family is probably bringing it as a power play to show that she can't tell them what to do, or because they don't respect her, or whatever. Nip this bullshit disrespectful behavior in the bud ASAP. You and your wife are the authority over your house, period.

If you let them get away with this they will carry the disrespect through to your child, feeding the baby things your wife isn't okay with, refusing to give the baby back when your wife asks for it, openly countering her's a slippery slope. Stop it now.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:02 PM on December 23, 2011 [86 favorites]

If you have someone who is very indifferent to an issue and someone who feels strongly one way, I think that things should go in favor of the person who feels strongly - especially if it concerns matters of their home.

You already tried to compromise, and your sister disrespected that. You repeat the options to your sister and parents, and they are free to choose. It is not fair, nor I believe right that they get to decide matters pertaining to homes of other people. I think this may be a precedent for your wife to trust that you have her back. Especially considering that she just had a baby, and is kind of dealing with more than enough right now.
posted by raztaj at 7:04 PM on December 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Is it reasonable for the dog to stay alone at my parents' for around 6 hours (avg. length of visit including travel)?

Of course it's reasonable to leave a dog alone for 6 hours. Do they not otherwise leave the dog alone for that amount of time? Somehow I doubt it. If they try to pull an excuse like, "But the dog will destroy the house if we leave her alone!!", that is not your problem; there are ways around that (like crating, which dogs enjoy as they feel cozy in their own little cave).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:04 PM on December 23, 2011 [8 favorites]

If it's not ok with them to leave it alone for 6 hours, they could get a sitter or put it in a dog daycare when they visit you. There are several options that do not involve bringing it to your house.
posted by jacalata at 7:18 PM on December 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

You are supposed to be on Team Us with your wife. Team Us decides what happens in your house and then they make sure that's what goes on. This will apply to childrearing too, by the way, and everything else you do together (which is basically everything you do at all, now that you're Team Us.) If one of you cares about an issue and the other one doesn't, then really, truly, the one who cares is going to have to win, and both of you have to take up the fight together, because that's how it works.

(Team Us isn't necessarily the enemy of Team Your Natural Family - it's just that you're not on that team anymore. That whole "leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife" business and all.)
posted by SMPA at 7:31 PM on December 23, 2011 [9 favorites]

Please back up your wife on this one. Courtesy and respect for one's hosts when being guest in another's home shouldn't disappear just because a host happens to be family. I love my dogs, and I would never think of bringing them into anyone else's home without permission. It's not only unfair and disrespectful to the homeowner(s), it's unfair to the dogs, no matter how well behaved they are. In this case, because it's your parents, you need to be the one to step up and clarify the boundaries rather than making her be the bad guy.
For non-doggy people, dogs can be smelly or scary, and there's no way she can enjoy a family visit if she's worried about a dog; it doesn't matter how well-behaved the dog is, its presence bothers her. She's got enough to worry about with the baby; she shouldn't have an easily-avoidable stressor in her own home. Part of being a responsible dog owner is making arrangements for the care of dogs when traveling; this is what boarding is for, and it's unreasonable to insist and/or assume that one's host should also board one's dog.
Think of it this way...are you a nonsmoker? If so, how would you feel if her parents showed up and started smoking in the house around you and the baby, and she let them in spite of your objections?
posted by Dr. Zira at 7:31 PM on December 23, 2011 [6 favorites]

Personally, I think your wife's being a bit doctrinaire. The dog hasn't made a mess, it's mild-mannered, and perhaps, since your parents rescued it, they are concerned about bonding, etc.. Normally, I'd agree with everyone else that you should back up your wife, but why is she so adamant about this? Does she usually demand that everyone concede to her?

And if she thinks the dog has potential for mess-making, wait til your kid can walk.

Can the dog stay outside? Are you never going to bring to baby to Grandma's house because the dog is there?
posted by Ideefixe at 7:33 PM on December 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Your wife went the extra mile here and tried to compromise. I don't think she was under any obligation to, and it speaks well of her that she was willing to try. It didn't work out, and now the guests need to respect their hostess's requirements.

Also, it is is incredibly common to leave a dog alone for 6 hours. Many people, for that matter, routinely leave a dog alone at home while they are at work. A rescue/special needs dog may need to be crated during that time, but that's also not unusual. A dog is not a child that needs constant supervision, it is an adult of its kind. As another data point, adult dogs have routinely been left for hours to supervise and defend other livestock for most of recorded history. It's not going to hurt a dog to leave it in a safe place without a human nearby for half a day, unless it's ill.
posted by tyllwin at 7:35 PM on December 23, 2011 [4 favorites]

Her stated reasons for this are allergies, smell, potential for making a mess, and destroying our furniture. In reality, the dog in question is extremely mild mannered.

You don't seem to be taking your wife's concerns very seriously, the way you set up "her stated reasons" in opposition to "reality." So what if the dog is "mild-mannered"? She's allergic. And I don't know what "mild-mannered" means. Apparently your definition of "mild-mannered" is consistent with constantly barking and squealing. To someone who really doesn't like dogs, calling the dog "mild-mannered" is irrelevant. This is not a dilemma: you don't get to force a dog on your wife in your home.
posted by John Cohen at 7:40 PM on December 23, 2011 [16 favorites]

Wow, I'm as big of a dog person as there is, but this is ridiculous... I would never expect to bring my dog to someone else's house unless he was invited, even to a family member's house. And if there were a compelling reason not to allow an animal into my house (your wife not wanting it seems compelling), I would say no and be rather offended if the other party didn't respect that. Are you really indifferent about this if it is something your wife wants?

And 6 hours is fine to leave a dog home alone. After all, how else would dog owners hold down full time jobs? Dog food is expensive.
posted by deadweightloss at 7:41 PM on December 23, 2011 [6 favorites]

Caveat...I have 3 dogs and 3 cats. All rescues. All who I love dearly and want to make happy.

Back your wife up on this. Don't hide behind her. Don't make her into the bad guy or the heavy. Be a husband who has her back. The reward for being this kind of husband will be priceless.

Or you could be all namby pamby and lose her respect and trust...over your parent's dog. Your choice.
posted by murrey at 7:59 PM on December 23, 2011 [10 favorites]

Rip off the band-aid!

"Hey, Mom. I need you to leave the dog at home. Yeah, yeah, I know it's a rescue and all. But my wife is allergic and it's my house. I love ya, but this is how it's gotta be. Remember how you taught me to put my family's needs ahead of my own? This is what that looks like."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:02 PM on December 23, 2011 [12 favorites]

Personally, I think your wife's being a bit doctrinaire. The dog hasn't made a mess, it's mild-mannered, and perhaps, since your parents rescued it, they are concerned about bonding, etc.. Normally, I'd agree with everyone else that you should back up your wife, but why is she so adamant about this? Does she usually demand that everyone concede to her?

this has nothing to do with everyone having to concede to the wife's wishes. i LOVE dogs. i have two dogs, one which i just adopted several weeks ago. i would have a whole pack of dogs if i had the space for them.

my older dog is well-behaved, and my new puppy just wants to sleep in my arms all the time. they would not be a bother. even so, i would never impose my dog(s) on anyone who definitively opposed having my dog in their house. period. it's their house. i can choose to visit them at their house, or, if i don't want to leave my dog, then i can choose not to go. i do not get to dictate to someone else whose house i am visiting that they must allow me to bring my dog to their house, just as they don't get to dictate to me that i put my dogs outside when they come to my house.
posted by violetk at 8:09 PM on December 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

Look, I think your wife is being a little high-handed at least as you describe the situation - but it's her house. With her baby in it. You can try to change her mind, but if it's made up all you can do is tell your parents that the dog isn't welcome and let them do what they're gonna do.
posted by nicwolff at 8:16 PM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

You are supposed to be on Team Us with your wife.

This. The behavior of the dog is not relevant. You wife has said no, and you need to have her back. Call your parents tomorrow and tell them how much you look forwarding to seeing them but that they simply cannot bring Fido. And don't blame it on your wife! Speak in the plural: "We just cannot have a dog in our house."
posted by LarryC at 8:19 PM on December 23, 2011 [10 favorites]

Her stated reasons for this are allergies, smell, potential for making a mess, and destroying our furniture. In reality, the dog in question is extremely mild mannered.

"Mild-mannered" and the things your wife is worried about are not mutually exclusive. Our dog smells, because she's a dog, and some hairs inevitably fall off her even when she's not shedding too much, because she's a dog. Neither of these things is mitigated by how obedient and docile she is. People that don't like dogs, I assume, are even more bothered by the smell and messiness. I haven't met a dog yet that didn't smell like a dog. We love our dog, so we put up with her dog-ness; we would never expect others to put up with it.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 8:30 PM on December 23, 2011 [7 favorites]

Why can't your sister stay home with the dog while your parents visit, and then they stay home with the dog when she visits? I truly don't get why everyone has to visit at once and/or why they absolutely have to bring their dog. I think it's pretty ridiculous to insist that one bring their pet to someone else's home, especially when they've stated that you not - you are a guest, and this is about respect. Even if your wife's reasons are totally BS, it's not their house. All your indifference has done is drive a wedge between her and your family (and possibly, eventually, between the two of you).

You already tried to compromise. It didn't work - no one was happy. Tell your family that whle they are welcome, the dog is not, and the topic is now closed for discussion. (I actually think that now that the dog has been allowed into the house and out of the laundry room, the whole situation is kind of FUBAR but mileage may vary - I hardly think they are going to avoid seeing the child on account of a dog, though. At least, one can hope.)
posted by sm1tten at 8:58 PM on December 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I am a crazy dog lady and I am horrified that they insisted on bringing the dog to your house when it was clear that your wife was not cool with it. I bring my dog to a lot of different places, but I always make sure that he'll be welcomed, I don't just show up with him. If the dog is having some emotional or behavioral issues that prevent him from being left alone, one of them needs to stay home with him. That's part of being a responsible dog person.
posted by crankylex at 9:47 PM on December 23, 2011 [7 favorites]

You said things were already tense. The dog issue sounds like a power play between your wife and folks rather than anything about the dog itself.

Thing is, if your wife should be able to assert her authority anywhere it should at least be her home. Whether or not you think her issues with the dog are legitimate (and reading between the lines it sounds like you don't) you need to back her up here. This is not about a dog. This is about who controls the going-ons in your private home: you and your wife or your family.
posted by Anonymous at 9:51 PM on December 23, 2011

For only 6 hours, it's hard to read this as anything but a power play on your parents' part. Have they offered any compelling reason why the dog needs to come with? You say there are already issues between your wife and family - I think that's what this is really about. Your wife has already been a good sport in compromising. I think a white lie about how her allergies were bad after the dog was in your house might save face.
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:52 PM on December 23, 2011 [5 favorites]

Unless the dog is really sick, it can be left alone for six hours, and if it's sick it should not be anywhere near a baby. Your family is ridiculous.
posted by desjardins at 10:09 PM on December 23, 2011 [4 favorites]

They bring the dog, but leave it in the car, possibly with blankets and a hot water bottle if cold is a concern. One of them can check on the dog as often as they desire, walk it as needed, and refill the water bottle. However, get each one's promise that they won't try to bring the dog inside, otherwise the dog stays behind - gotta back your wife.
posted by at at 10:24 PM on December 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

I say this as someone who has three dogs, one of whom goes almost everywhere with me: Your parents are being selfish and rude, and they need to be set straight--by you--in no uncertain terms.

It's totally not ok to take your dog somewhere if that "where" is owned or occupied by people who will not be comfortable with the dog. (Obvious exception for service animals, but it doesn't sound like that's the case here.) It doesn't matter how much you like your dog--people, especially people whose hospitality you're enjoying, come first.

My dogs are routinely left alone for anywhere from two to twelve hours--this is normal and expected for dogs. I know that my personal dogs can go a bit longer than that, even, but any relatively normal, healthy dog should be just fine on their own for six to eight hours. If they weren't, how would any dog owners go to work?

Next time your parents are coming over, tell them they can't bring the dog. If they protest, or point out that they've brought him before, say that yes, they have, and it's not something that works for you and your family; you're sorry, but the dog will have to stay home. Full stop, end of story.
posted by MeghanC at 10:35 PM on December 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

They bring the dog, but leave it in the car…

six hours in the car? uh…no.
posted by violetk at 10:36 PM on December 23, 2011 [12 favorites]

I agree that you should have the wife's back on this issue. She doesn't want the dog in the house, and she is currently in momma-bear mode, so it's not a good time to reason with her. It doesn't matter what the dog does, it's what she's worried that the dog will do, and she's got enough to worry about as it is.

If you can't get your parents to leave the dog at home, though, then it is a humane (if annoying) solution to lock him in the laundry room (not the car--too hot/cold). Alternatively, you might try a portable folding crate like this so doggie can stay in the same room with his pack. The animal will at least be contained. Or you could loop a leash around a table leg and keep the little guy tethered with a sheet under him so he doesn't get underfoot or mess up the floor with an accident.

But to answer your question: indoor dogs are fine left alone for up to 8 hours, and it is totally reasonable to ask that they leave it at home.
posted by elizeh at 10:53 PM on December 23, 2011

Your wife doesn't want the dog in her house. The answer is no because we said so. It doesn't matter why; it's her home and she gets to say who/what can visit. Your family was dickish for bringing the dog. Never bring a pet to someone's home without their express permission, not a dog, not a cat, not a rat, not a pot-bellied pig, not an aye aye. This is common courtesy and respect.

They bring the dog, but leave it in the car, possibly with blankets and a hot water bottle if cold is a concern. That's kind of ridiculous. If your dog is that fragile, that needy, that sick, that whatever, keep your ass at home.

This would bring out the uber-bitch in me. I would stay in my room, with the door shut, with my fucking baby. You and your parents and sister could sit out there talking to each other and the butt-licking dog instead of bonding with the new baby.

I would never impose upon people with my dog. Some people have issues with animals inside their homes. People like my mother. I forgot to make arrangements for my dog for Thanksgiving this year. I called and explained that I couldn't find anyone to watch him and that the kennels were full and asked if I could bring him to her house (a 14-hour car drive) for the 3-day visit. She said no. I stayed home. Why on earth would I have shown up and made her, me and my dog unhappy by bringing him?

No means no.
posted by shoesietart at 10:58 PM on December 23, 2011 [7 favorites]

You are supposed to be supporting your wife and newborn because that is *your* family now. As hard as it is, that trumps everything.
posted by mleigh at 11:37 PM on December 23, 2011 [5 favorites]

Dogs can stay in cars for extended periods of time just fine. Unless they are hot. Then, no. But otherwise, yes.
posted by Aquaman at 11:40 PM on December 23, 2011

You need to back up your wife and side with her in this and all those other matters that are tense between her and your parents. You need to let her know that you and she (and now baby) are the family and your parents don't have a vote.

This mother-in-law business can be an incredible source of stress for a young mother and it is particularly galling if the young father thinks all that is going on is whether or not the issue is worthy of his notice and, if so, which side he agrees with. If you take that tack, you're in for a very tense time and lots of hostility, even if sublimated.

You can't be mommy and daddy's darling if it means leaving your wife dangling in the breeze every time you think there is nothing worth making a fuss about. Back her up every time without question and one day you'll find she's able to trust you enough to be generous and kind to your mom and dad. And you might also find your mom and dad respectful of your wife and you. If you fail at this, marriage will not go smoothly for you. Most of such warfare, by the way, will be completely invisible to you but it will cost you a great deal.
posted by Anitanola at 12:05 AM on December 24, 2011 [13 favorites]

I had not read your previous question before I answered this one. You have a mother who is not letting go of you and is causing a lot of trouble, I think. You and your wife have this baby, now, and that is the trump card to end all trump cards. You and your wife can use this time to establish that you two are calling the shots, not your mother.

When she says "your family" reply in your own head, if not aloud to her, "My wife and my child are my family." I can only urge you to step up and do it. You are stronger than you think and you hold all the cards--even if your parents give or withhold financial or social incentives, you have to stand with your wife and child. The bonding and the trust between the two of you is the best investment you can make for the future of your child and for your own happiness.

I also want to tell you that I know this is very hard to do. I was married to someone who wanted to do this but could not. He let me deal with his mother, a much more experienced in--fighter and manipulator, and he often seemed, incomprehensibly to me, to take her side against me.

After the marriage failed, later, I began to think that what he really wanted of me was to fight his battles against his mother's influence and control and free him from her because he was not able to do it by himself. Maybe that was fanciful of me, but it was a very sad family, both 'his family' and what I had thought was 'our family' but which never was really allowed to form.

I wish you better fortune that that. Learn as much as you can about marriage and communication and parenting. It's a big job to do it right. I wish you the best success of all, a happy family.
posted by Anitanola at 12:46 AM on December 24, 2011 [8 favorites]

I didn't see it mentioned in this thread, so I'm going to throw this out there (because it happened to us):

It seems kind of interesting that your parents decided to get a brand new puppy right around the time you had a baby. Rather than doting on your new child and being caring grandparents, were they all about the dog? Maybe your wife was insulted/hurt that your parents were more interested in some stupid dog than in their own grandchild.
posted by sleeping bear at 1:11 AM on December 24, 2011 [5 favorites]

If I had a brand new baby in the house, I would most certainly not want anyone bringing a dog over that I didn't already know extremely well. You just don't know how dogs and babies are going to get along. Even small dogs have claws, and if the dog tries to jump in someone's lap while that someone is holding the baby, it could result in a nasty scratch at the least. Even if I were taking my newborn to someone else's house who had a dog, I would not hesitate to ask that the dog be put in another room if I had any qualms whatsoever about the dog's behavior. I would not be surprised if your wife was angry with you for allowing the dog in the house, or to be brought out of the laundry room.
posted by IndigoRain at 1:43 AM on December 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

What a great opportunity!

I have an 8 month old son and 2 cats. my understanding is that the more animals you can expose little ones to, the better! Apparently, it helps stave off allergies and boosts immune systems. That could be cracky internet wisdom, but so far so good in our household...

sleeping bear makes a great point just above, but I'm still keen on the canine germs for my child because he needs the exposure. I have a good friend with pups that I bring my child around all the time since we don't have dogs at home.

This is a win-win unless the grandparents or your wife want to make it into something else.


About kids and pets....

Dogs are not cats - DOGS BITE. Even loving, sweet dogs bite. This is not a good mix with children, generally. You want to use Good Judgement here.

I have a cat that is a stone cold killer. Yet she pretty much let's my 8 month old beat the shit out of her - to a point. Then she'll hiss and swat to let him know he's gone too far. Meanwhile, she positions herself so that he can play with her. When he goes too far, she lets him know, and then runs away.

Dogs aren't always like this. They have instinctual responses (depending on breed, which you did not specify) that make the danger of Child+Dog a bigger or lesser concern. Breed pays a big part, yet all dogs seem to have a point where safety is a bigger concern. Cats defend themselves differently than dogs, and dogs don't back-off as readily as cats will. Cats feign aggression and then run off, dogs tend to cause damage and not back-off.


If you can keep a handle on things, my understanding is that it's really good for your child's immune system to be exposed to dogs. But should you let them play together without supervision? Hell's No.


I hope you can find a middle ground. I have no thoughts on whether the grandparents are choosing the dog over their grandson to be difficult - but it seems a strong possibility.

At the very least, they seem like inexperienced dog owners. We have friends with non-threatening type breed dogs, and they are super careful about how their pups interact with our child. FWIW.
posted by jbenben at 1:58 AM on December 24, 2011

WOW...your lowest level of "adopted sibling [a dog] " is more important to your parents than your wife & their grand child. Not mention this is "your the Adult Home". You got some boundary issues to look at....
posted by digital-dragonfly at 2:01 AM on December 24, 2011

I'm an animal lover. The pets don't go where they're not wanted. Period. You wife may reconsider her position when the baby's older; that's her right. She may not. Also her right.

What your child needs most from you right now is to not just back Mommy up, but to step up to be the barrier between your parents and Mom. Nthing the position stated above: it'll be harder for you right now to step up and say, "Sorry, parents, I can't have a dog in the house," and change the subject, than to take the wishy-washy way of making your wife the bad guy, but it's what you must do. And do now. If you think this issue is emotionally charged, just WAIT until there's one of the inevitable child-rearing disagreements between the previous generation and your wife. Take care of it now, before it happens over something that can't be solved as easily as by leaving the dog home or in care.
posted by theplotchickens at 3:24 AM on December 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is what kennels and cages are for. Require that they have one. A dog can survive just fine for the few hours they're at your place. If you live in a warm enough area, the dog can stay in the car.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:53 AM on December 24, 2011

It's not clear whether your wife has allergies, you have other regular visitors who have allergies, or she is worried about your son developing allergies. Not that any of this matters: your wife just doesn't want a dog in her home. Dogs shed, they smell, sometimes they're clumsy, sometimes they're aggressive.

Your wife gave it a try, but leaving the dog locked up in the laundry room doesn't work.

Now you tell them "Hi Mom and Dad and Sister, Wife and I have discussed this and we do not want Dog over in our house again. Please leave him at home next time you visit." When they say that the dog is mild-mannered or whatever, you keep repeating this. It's important for you to say it to your parents, and for you to take responsibility for this decision. You're indifferent to the dog and your wife really cares, but you care about her happiness, so you're not indifferent to this situation. Should they come over with the dog, just don't let them in the house with it. "Oh, we're so sorry you brought Dog. We'll see you next time you come over without him."

Please do not leave the dog in the car for 6 hours. There is no way this is a good idea. The dog is much better off being alone at home for 6 hours.

You should figure out ways to expose your child to the dog -- perhaps not now, but soonish. But those ways don't need to involve having the dog in your house: closely supervised visits at your parents' house will do just fine.
posted by jeather at 6:10 AM on December 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you left the dog in the car, which might be okay if it wasn't too hot, would it bark and squeal and drive the neighbors nuts? There's a whole lot of lack of simple thoughtfulness in this question.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 6:38 AM on December 24, 2011

You messed up. Your wife, the mother of your child, did not want the dog in your home. Your role should have been as her protector. Instead, you let your parents and sister decide what happens in your home.

You must apologize to your wife. She needs to know that you will fight for her. What you allowed your parents and sister to do was to come into your marriage.

If this happens again then tell them that you are sorry that they are choosing a dogs need over visiting with you and your family but if ever they change their mind they are welcome to visit, without the dog.

It is that simple. Don't argue with them. Don't try to justify your position. Change the subject or hang up. Your wife needs you to be a strong man.

You wonder why so many women stop having sex once they have been married for a few years? It's stuff like this. How can she be attracted to someone who isn't man enough to protect her from something this small?

This is not a dog issue this is a marriage issue.
posted by myselfasme at 7:15 AM on December 24, 2011 [12 favorites]

On behalf of "irrational" moms of newborns, I will speak up and say that I set some limits in those early months that were pretty strict. Some of it was just simply not wanting to deal with any extra thing. I'm tired. My focus is 99% on the baby with just a little left over for myself and I don't want one single other thing to be there that doesn't need to be there. Along with that, insistence on my irrationality or that I just "suck it up" did not go well. At all.

In short, back up your wife. She may come around on this issue or she may not. But, it's her house and this is your family imposing. Don't make it more fraught with her.
posted by amanda at 7:33 AM on December 24, 2011 [4 favorites]

A dog is not a child. A dog belongs to the owner and it is assumed that the dog will remain in the owner's house unless specifically invited. Similarly, the dog does not accompany the owner to the mall or to a restaurant. Your parents are violating accepted social norms in order to assert their power.
posted by deanc at 7:55 AM on December 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Whoa, I just read your previous question.

Here's what you wrote:
My wife has also been disappointed in my inability to stand up to my mother and expressed concern on the effect all of this has on our marriage.
Your wife is in the right anyway (don't bring a dog in the house when she's allergic to dogs, obviously) — and on top of that, you're already aware that this kind of thing has been having a serious "effect on your marriage." A serious effect on your marriage. Think about that.
posted by John Cohen at 8:23 AM on December 24, 2011 [7 favorites]

The young rope-rider has nailed this.

Apropos of that, this is a review of an excellent book on narcissistic family dynamics. I would also suggest you google the term "narcissistic family" and just start reading some of the links.

The situation you find yourself in is not all that unusual in families where the parents make it the responsibility of their children to suit their emotional needs, rather than assuming responsibility for suiting their children's needs. Frankly, your mother sounds pretty classic this way, and that your sister has been roped in is, too, really typical of this type of family system. Google "drama triangle narcissism" and you can read for days about what I'm talking about.

It would seem that you're not really grasping the seriousness of this situation. This is probably because no one in the narcissistic family gets to set boundaries and stick to them, and nobody really listens to anybody else. I'm guessing that's what you're used to, so that's likely why you see this as less of a big deal that your wife; I mean, you say you're actually "indifferent" to this issue. Well, that's not an option and would never be an option in a family with healthy boundaries. If someone is hugely uncomfortable and has clearly stated why, their needs are addressed and a solution is sought. If you'd grown up in a healthy environment where your needs were considered important in this way, you would instinctively know that now your wife and infant's needs, and thus your own, come before the needs of your mother and sister in this situation. But it's pretty clear that your mother cares about one person's needs and one person's needs alone, and that person ain't you. So I can understand why you're not exactly clear on why this is a huge issue; you've been trained not to upset mom and to make sure that mom is taken care of first. I empathize with that. But you need know that this is a very serious thing, your mother's behavior is seriously inappropriate, if you don't stand up for your wife and change the dynamic here, you are going to do serious harm to your marriage.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 8:35 AM on December 24, 2011 [8 favorites]

I'm just going to say that if I were your wife, once I was strong enough physically after recovering from birth and nursing to take on the fight, I would then refuse to have your family in the house at all, for putting me though this. They are world class jerks for (1) bringing a pet that isn't invited and to which the hostess is allergic (2) showing contempt for your wife and your shared home. Your wife needs to grow some stones, and you need to once and for all understand that you need to have your wife's back or she is going to leave you. I would.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:37 AM on December 24, 2011 [4 favorites]

You need to cut the apron strings, man. You are an adult now.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:13 AM on December 24, 2011

posted by cmoj at 12:43 PM on December 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

Your wife needs you to be a strong man.

You wonder why so many women stop having sex once they have been married for a few years? It's stuff like this. How can she be attracted to someone who isn't man enough to protect her from something this small?

Ugh, I really disagree with this reasoning and think it's sexist. The point here is that you should be loyal first and foremost to your spouse over your parents, not that you should be a "strong male protector." That goes for spouses of any gender.
posted by ms.codex at 3:07 PM on December 24, 2011 [8 favorites]

Holy crap, I just read your last question. Based on your last question I would DEFINITELY say this is not about a dog or finding a solution for the dog but about your mom trying to exert control over your wife. You want to know how to negotiate between your mom and your wife? You draw boundaries with your mom, and one way to do that is to back your wife up here 100%.
posted by Anonymous at 3:57 PM on December 24, 2011

"How do I address my parents' insistence on bringing a dog into our house when my wife is opposed to it?"

By insisting they don't do that as it is not to your liking. "Your" = both of you - don't try and make it all about your wife, or try and hide behind HER allergies, HER dislike of noise, smells, whatever - that's just perpetuating the stand-off between Wife and Birth Family by intimating that you're not too bothered but hey the little woman doesn't like it, nod wink. That's going to further condition your folks into assuming that you are on their side and your wife's opinions and wishes don't reallt count for an awful lot, so that they can keep on looking to you for validation when similar issues arise in the future.

In the spirit of compromise, which I wouldn't blame you for not actually feeling, do you have a back yard that the dog could be left to run around in for a while (with the proviso that your family dispose of any leavings afterwards)?
posted by Martha My Dear Prudence at 4:19 PM on December 24, 2011 [3 favorites]

The thing that tipped me off that this problem originates in your family of origin is your distorted view of reality. This is probably not about just the one incident but a pattern of behaviour you have chosen. In your own words:

my wife has been adamant that she does not want the dog in our house
As a compromise, we offered to allow the dog in our house

There was no compromise, there was a power play by your mother in which she won but ALSO got to act disgruntled and make you feel guilty. Win-win for your mother. Is this how all "compromises" between your wife and mother play out? Your wife states what she wants, your mother complains, your wife offers to give a little if your mother will give a little too. You mother guilts you about choosing your wife over your family of origin and then your mother gets what she wants originally anyway and has more fodder to complain about your wife while you passively allow your wife to be the fall guy?

stated reasons for this are allergies, smell, potential for making a mess, and destroying our furniture
my sister carried the dog out of the laundry room and sat with us in the kitchen

Those are very reasonable reasons. They are not dependant on the dog's behaviour but instead on the fact that physically, it is a dog. Even pet lovers have trouble sometimes with pets in the kitchen; bringing the dog there, where your wife was (I hope at the point the baby was not in the room because if it was you really failed your family) and where her food is kept was incredibly disrespectful. Bringing the dog in the kitchen was deliberately antagonising by your sister. That you did not see that right away (and take on your duty as host, husband and father and immediately confront her behaviour) indicates to me that you often chose to not see how your family antagonises and provokes your wife.

In reality, the dog in question is extremely mild mannered
the dog whined, squealed, and barked the whole time

Even though you personally witnessed the dogs behaviour you still honestly believe what your parents have told you about it tells me all I need to know about your grasp on reality. You have been programmed all your life that your parents are always right even when reality contradicts them. This is probably just one of many times where even though the facts contradict your parent's interpretation you take their side over your wife's. Combined with your refusal to see your family deliberately antagonise your wife when she know that is what they are doing is crazy-making for your wife.

How do I effectively communicate my wife's position
It isn't your wife's position. It should be YOUR position. You have really let your wife and newborn down. Considering that your marriage had already been on rocky ground because of your parents, you need to decide now which family is your priority.

Next steps I would recommend would be to apologise profusely to your wife and newborn. Hire a cleaning service to clean the house, especially the kitchen, contact your parents and sister and insist they apologise to your wife in writing and enforce strict boundaries with them in future. I would actually make your boundaries incredibly strict - possibly even no contact, so that your wife can be the one to relent a bit and for example, invite them to visit you at your house (sans dog, for a limited visit) so that for once SHE can be seen as the good guy/ally instead of the bad guy role you have cast her in. Your family need you to spend the next several years being the heavy.

You also need to step up your individual and couple's therapy. TrytheTilpa has an excellent book recommendation. Your family of origin's behaviour IS a marriage killer. I hope you take this seriously before you lose your family.
posted by saucysault at 6:36 PM on December 24, 2011 [13 favorites]

It's very difficult to argue with preferences. Go Bartleby on their arses:

"We'd prefer that the dog not come in the house."
"But blah blah blah."
"We'd prefer that the dog not come in the house."

Repeat (possibly til you die of hunger in an asylum, but probably not.)
posted by obiwanwasabi at 12:09 AM on December 25, 2011 [3 favorites]

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