Pets as Marriage Counselors…

There’s an article on PsychCentral.com that says for a better marriage, we should look to…our pets.  I don’t know whether to burn all the marriage books we got when we were engaged and slap myself on the forehead for never thinking of this, or whether to shake my head at another case of dime-store psychology.  A few excerpts:

No matter how you feel or what mood you are in, you greet your pet with a positive, even animated, hello and often with a display of physical affection.

When you do return home to find that your cats have redecorated the room with shreds of every tissue they could find or the dog has eaten some of the mail, you may well react with a choice expletive but you are not likely to hold a grudge. You are still going to be petting Donatello or cuddling with Thor the next day.

There is a natural tendency to forgive pets their trespasses – after all, the dog wasn’t trying to torture you by eating the mail. Was your partner really trying to torture you by putting it in such a safe spot it can’t be found?

In most cases, pets are home to stay. People love and care for pets of every size, shape and disposition. “She’s not exactly a watch dog; she’s loving but easily frightened.” “He insists on sleeping on the bed – we have given in.” “She steals food from the other dogs, she’s pretty hyper, but cute.” Few pets live with the fear of being betrayed or with the implication that things are just not working out. Of course they don’t – but just consider how the absence of such fears enhances the trust and connection you feel from them!

Fortunately, Brooke hasn’t eaten the mail, and any spills on the carpet are generally my doing.  But, in our age of “feel good” relationships I both applaud and cringe at this: how is it that we, as people, are more committed to dogs and cats than we sometimes are to our spouses?  Why do we so easily give up on relationships with other people when we’re willing to clean up cat vomit again and again (which is the norm in our house)?

Or, rather than the commitment level, I’m especially struck by the idea of forgiveness: we forgive our pets after a cute look, and are forgiven by them so quickly if we accidentally step on a tail.  Why can’t we forgive others and let ourselves be forgiven so quickly?

In my life, if I am honest, I think it’s because I don’t fully grasp God’s forgiveness: I still, too often, live under a works-oriented regime: I am forgiven if I read my Bible enough or pray enough or do _____ enough.  And, if I am not forgiven without reservation, I cannot forgive others without reservation.

So, today, may we have the seven-second memory: may we seek and accept forgiveness first for ourselves, then offer it abundantly to those around us.

I guess the pet metaphor can work, to a point.

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