When Pets Come Between Partners

ByABC News via logo
January 22, 2005, 9:04 AM

Jan. 22, 2005 -- -- It's a situation many pet lovers might find familiar: You say it's all right for the dog to sleep in the bed; your partner says no way. Suddenly a minor disagreement has turned into a major blow-out.

Some experts say it's becoming more common for couples to bicker over their pets, and in some cases, these "pet peeves" can lead to separation or even divorce. But at least one psychologist says fights about pets could be masking deeper relationship issues.

Lynn Goldstein Nichols owns a cat and a dog, and she loves her pets. In fact, Lynn loves her pets so much, she chose to fight for them when her marriage ended in divorce in 2001.

"We got into a big to-do legally about the possession of the animals," Nichols said. "And that's when the judge finally decided to divide the pets up, saying the cats would go to Tom and the dogs would go to me."

But Nichols wasn't ready to turn the cats over. She hid them -- and ultimately went to jail for 30 days for contempt of court.

"Six hundred and twenty five people have asked me if I would do it again," said Nichols. "And I said, 'Yes, I would.'"

Then there are couples like Mark and Vicki Dodge. Happily married for 25 years, their problems started to emerge when they introduced a dog into their home.

"We fight over her health." said Vicki. "Mark seems to be overly concerned. Takes her to the doctor at the drop of a hat."

The couple also argues over the dog's eating habits and how much time they spend with the two-year-old pointer.

"Vicki is not that warm; she's a little jealous," said Mark. "Sort of like, 'You love the damn dog more than you love me.' It's ridiculous."

As silly as it may seem to non-pet people, these pet problems can become major issues that ruin relationships.

According to Dr. Joel Gavriele-Gold, a psychologist and author of "When Pets Come Between Partners: How to Keep Love -- and Romance -- in the Human/Animal Kingdom of Your Home," animals sleeping in the bed is the biggest issue among couples.