/u/throwRA12345678901 on /r/relationship_advice writes…
“I’ve been with this girl for almost a decade now. We’ve been through a lot together and we’ve had our fights like most couples do but this last one takes the cake. I got a puppy who turned out to be quite destructive. One day he ruined something that belonged to the wife and this is where the mistakes began. I knew she would kill him if she found out so I hid it. Try as I may, I could not replace the item. It was one of a kind.
Cut to a few months later the destructive behavior is fixed. But one day the wife asks about the item. I came clean about it and straight to the pound my dog went.
In a panic I tried to get him adopted by contacting literally everyone we knew. The next day the wife’s phone was blown up with hate mail, some of it from her closest friends. She’s since talked about leaving me. We’re legally married but never had a ceremony. We had been planning a ceremony but she called it off following these events.
She says she’s going to spend Thanksgiving with a friend in another state this year. We’re still living together but we’re not really talking. It feels like the proverbial spark is out and I don’t really know how to proceed.”
I am really sorry to hear that you and your wife are struggling. It sounds like you two are going through a pretty serious rough patch.
But I don’t think this is about your dog. I don’t think that this is even about your wife’s precious item. I think this has much more to do with a major disconnect that is leading to a complete breakdown in communication.
Let’s walk through what some of what you are feeling, what your wife is feeling, and how you two can reconcile in these difficult times.
I can see that you care deeply about your dog. But while the dog’s temperaments cannot be altered too much, you absolutely can mold a puppy’s behavior to be more acceptable. It is really interesting in the way you’ve described your relationship with your dog. Even in the way you’ve adopted your puppy, you phrase it as if you were the only one who got it even though your wife clearly resides in the same space as your dog. So that linguistic disconnect between your wife and your dog immediately stood out to me, which gave me the sense that your wife wasn’t a huge fan of you getting a dog in the first place. She might have had some hangups about dogs in general, or just might not have had faith in you to properly train and take care of your dog.
I also think that the catalyst for this conflict started not when you came clean but when you decided to hide your wife’s ruined object. It doesn’t matter whether or not that was priceless or expensive; the fact that you hid it and only came clean months after the incident tells me that your own personal conflict resolution skills need some more fine tuning. All in all, really painful situation and I really feel for you and your dog.
Now let’s talk about your wife.
Like I mentioned, I get the persistent feeling that your wife really only needed an excuse to banish the puppy she already didn’t like. But I also don’t think that this is about the dog here. She did not make an honest attempt to understand and forgive you and your pet for each of your respective mistakes. She did not make an honest attempt to communicate with you about how upset she felt and needed a change without getting vindictive. Instead, she went straight to abandoning this poor animal. That was further exacerbated by the nasty feedback she has received from your mutual friends and family, which might have made her feel self-conscious about the decision she knows was brash and unfortunate.
This is further represented by how quickly she has jumped to threatening to leave you over this incident and deciding to celebrate a major holiday without you. It sounds like this was just a very strong gust of wind that revealed a collapse of smoldering ruins beneath. Just like you and your puppy made a mistake, your wife is also making some obvious mistakes.
This is all really troubling to see. But I don’t think all is lost.
First step is to recognize that you have been disconnected with your wife, and apologize to each other. This disconnect has been growing like an expansive gorge. With water shredding each of your respective walls until the gaps widened and widened, without much sound or recognition. Second step is to admit that both of you have made mistakes: you in hiding what was broken, her in aggravating the disconnect. The third and the most important step here is to both commit to reconnecting. This was a series of pretty minor mistakes that kept on getting worse over time, that with each subsequent disconnect continued to erode your trust in each other. Instead of continuing this trajectory of freefall, choose to see more of the good in each other and decide on a path to recovery. You two are humans, and both of you made mistakes. This mistake should not be the kind that knocks over your decade’s worth of experience with each other. Both of you are better than that. Choose to be better than that. The last step is to figure out together what that reconnect is going to look like. Envision in your respective minds a way to recovery. A place where you and your spouse can heal and restore each other. If that happens to take in a couple’s counseling room, a third party might be able to help abridge that gap together helping you throw some lifelines at each other. But remember that the fundamental reconnect is a two-partner dance. Both you and your partner need to anticipate and commit to recovery.
This really is a truly, deeply unfortunate happenstance. I really empathize with you, your wife, and your puppy. It is sad that such simple event was a straw that broke the camel’s back. But quite honestly, that metaphorical camel might have been suffering from serious arthritic joints and spine degenerative issues long before the straw got on there.
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