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Our relationships with our pets have a big influence on our health and well-being. Pet owners experience wonderful companionship and unconditional love as a result of caring for their pets. A number of studies have also shown that pets can reduce blood pressure and stress levels, and improve our quality of life. While the benefits of pet ownership are clear, how might it affect your relationship?
The experience of taking care of a pet teaches people how to work with their partners as a team. Simply figuring out a plan for how to care for the pet (ex. creating a walking and feeding schedule) requires you and your partner to work together, negotiate when you have differing views, and find a way to compromise so you are both on the same page. Having a pet requires you to be responsible for another life besides your own, demonstrating your commitment and allowing you to see if your partner is willing to step up to the plate.
Besides learning how to co-parent as a result of owning a pet, having an animal may be associated with how we relate to other people. A 2014 study by Megan Mueller demonstrated a relationship between the time people spent caring for their pets and how much they contributed to their community (by helping their friends and neighbors). The better the quality of the relationship with the pet, the more connected the participants felt to their community. Overall, the study suggested that people who care for animals may be more likely to develop empathy and sympathy for others. While the reasons for this relationship are not entirely clear, it may be because the types of relationships people have with their animals transfer to other people or that owning a pet in and of itself makes us more likely to interact with others.
From personal experience, I can tell you that while owning a pet may be challenging at times, it is both amazing and rewarding.