DAME’s Friendkeeper gets a woman more QT with her fam, and helps another who’s stuck between her daughter and a possessive dog.
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My husband and I had a son about a year ago, and we are really into doing the family thing right now. We just bought a house and I can think of nothing I like more at night than putting the kid down and watching TV in our pajamas on the couch. The problem is that one of my best friends is single. But not happily, independently single. Like, she really wants to be in a relationship, and I think she’s sort of using mine vicariously. She’s constantly showing up at our house with a bottle of rosé and a heap of gripes about dating life. She literally does everything with us from making dinner on random weekdays to picking out a Christmas tree over the holidays to going to my parents’ house for Sunday brunch. We don’t necessarily invite her, but she doesn’t necessarily invite herself either, it’s just sort of the routine we’ve gotten into and I don’t know how to break it. I love her, I do, but I’m at the point where I just want to spend some quality time with my fam without her and I don’t know how to say so without hurting her feelings. She’s already in the dumps about her singledom, I’m afraid she’ll take it like a platonic breakup.
The fact of the matter is that what your friend is doing is as unhealthy for her as it is for you. And that’s the way you’re going to need to approach it with her. Many years ago, I was single and had been fired from my very first job. I was miserably lonely and I think I wanted the idea of a person in my life, but the thought of putting myself out coupled with the recent smack to my ego basically made me want to go under the covers and never come out except for an occasional Dagwood-type sandwich. Across the city lived a kind woman who loved me very much, let’s call her “Aunt Mattie.” Every day I’d wake up, have breakfast, and walk my dog over to her house. We’d eat lunch, play 8,000 hands of cards, watch Judge Judy, and slowly segue into dinner, after which I’d walk home. One day she told me the story of when she was single and she’d go hang out at her sister Iris’s house (Iris was going through a divorce so welcomed her) and that Iris had told her at some point that what she was doing was hiding from having her own life. Mattie never ever told me I shouldn’t come, she made me feel welcome, and, c’mon, I was great company! And I also believed I helped her marriage—like for example, it’s much easier to get a table for three on Valentine’s Day. Anyway! Here’s a little secret about life: We generally don’t make changes until we are too uncomfortable to live the way we are living. And your friend is much less uncomfortable in her life while she’s joining you. If she’s looking for a relationship, she ain’t gonna find it with you, your husband, and toddler. I would offer to very seriously help her—she may need to start by talking to a therapist about finding what she wants, or how to approach dating differently. But she will have to experience some emptiness and discomfort in order for her to find the thing to fill it.
This is more of a parenting question than a friendship question, but it involves a dog, and I know no one more able of tackling these two topics than you. After ages of enduring our daughter’s begging, we got her a little rescue dog about two years ago. He’s an adorable, sprouty, little mutt. But because I work from home and do the majority of the walking and feeding, he’s much more attached to me than my daughter. In fact, he will occasionally nip at her if she goes to pet him while he’s lying near me. Beyond the fact that I don’t like the aggressive behavior, it really hurts my daughter’s feelings that “her” dog doesn’t always like her. What can I do, both as a parent for my daughter, and as a dog owner for my misbehaving pup? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
In the Dog House
I know this situation backwards and forwards. I honestly think that this happens much more than a dog attaching to a kid, because of the very reason you say. As the person who does the walking and feeding, and are most available, you’re the one. I grew up with dogs, but until I was the grownup, I never felt like any dog was mine. And I think in some cases, rescue dogs gravitate to the most nurturing and responsible person. Recently, my daughter said she wanted our puppies (that are almost seven years old) to be more attached to her. I told her to feed them and walk them. Walking them isn’t easy because a) they’re them and b) it’s New York City. But she did it! Once. And then she lost interest. And I think that’s what the dogs pick up on … they need consistency. And hers lasted part of one afternoon. If your child really puts in the hours though it might work. I wouldn’t know.
Don’t tolerate the nipping, that’s not allowed. But I think the hurt feelings are kind of the thing here. What might help is that if you explain to your child that your dog doesn’t see himself as the dog being fought over, he sees himself as her sibling. So he is jealous of her getting close to you. Have you thought about getting another dog and being mean to it so she can have it? (Kidding.) Or maybe get a hamster or a goldfish. Those pets are much more obedient.
Got a platonic problem of your own that could use the Friendkeeper’s advice? Fire away: [email protected]. No situation is too uncomfortable or too small and all details are kept confidential.
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