Dear Queer Abby,
My girlfriend and I want to live together. We are very compatible.
My lease ends in two months. Saving money would be great, BUT pets. Both sweeties, but dog is enthusiastic, may terrorize cat. Dog training is the plan, but what else?
Living, laughing, loving in Las Vegas
First I want to say mazel tov on being in a sweet, compatible relationship where you want to live together.
I’m going to answer your question about dogs and cats in a second, but first, I need to drag my soapbox over for a Public Service Announcement for everybody else. Feel free to scroll to the bottom if you just want the dog and cat scoop.
Please do not advance a romantic relationship to the “Moving In Together” step based on financial need.
Living together, in queer terms, is a bit like getting married.
I think queer people do themselves a disservice by not acknowledging this.
You might be raising your fist at me and declaring your queer radicalism (that’s fine), but moving in together is NOT CASUAL (and it’s arguably a lot more like getting married than not).
My case: You are making a giant commitment, you are intermingling finances, chores and smells in a new way, privacy and mystery are things you’ll have to make an effort to protect, and you will have to pay to break up.
Becoming a domestic unit has the potential to grow your relationship in giant, secure, warm ways, but also, if you do it before you’re ready, it can prematurely suck some of the magic and easy breezy independent joy out of a young relationship.
I wish longevity for your love, and I don’t wish for any of you to be standing on a street corner with your 14 rescued dogs and a duffel bag of flannels in hand, crying and waiting for an Uber after prematurely self-diagnosing with LBD* and getting in a fight about where the magic went, certain there is someone out there for whom sharing chores and vet bills would be an aphrodisiac.
Why do I want queer people to think of a fun step where they get sleepovers and coziness every day and night as something as archaic as marriage?
NOT because I am a grinch, dear readers; but because I want you to prepare as if you were making a giant commitment.
Being a little realistic now will help nourish your relationship later. I promise.
To your boners I may have crushed by mentioning sharing bills and smells, I say RISE UP, LAZARUS!
If you protect your personal time, your separate friendships, your interests, your mental and physical health, you’ll be fine. You’ll be great! You’ll be doing the thing where athletes hold hands and then throw their hands up in the air together to signify victory.
But these are deliberate choices toward happiness. It’s up to you to be thoughtful about your own needs going into a Romantic Unit situation and to follow through on making them happen.
Here is my Public Service Announcement:
Please, readers, only move in when you are both emotionally and financially fit, NOT because it’s a bargain.
I say this as a miser who LOVES a savings.
Your love life is worth waiting for.
This just reminded me that my mom forced me to sign a business card when I was 16 and dating for the first time that said TRUE LOVE WAITS FOR MARRIAGE. It was a chastity vow, with some hearts printed on it and a place for two signatures. I rolled my eyes and did a very realistic barf-impression at the time (I still do), and I remember showing it to my friends to crack them up.
AND YET. Here I am.
True love waits (a year or two) before cohabitating.
BUT YOU! Author of this letter!
Maybe you’re so ready and you don’t need that advice, because you want to know about your pets.
FAIR. Thank you for sitting through my TED talk on cohabitation.
I’ll answer your actual question.
I say baby gates, and give the cat some dog-free safe spaces. If you are intermingling your finances, you will be able (in theory) to afford twice what you had before. Please prioritize giving the cat a protected place to run, with the help of gates and doors. Let them sniff swatches of each other before you integrate the two families. The cat will not be stoked to have this dog in her life. I think we can all agree on that.
Do NOT try to force them together. They are not Cabbage Patch Kids. No grabbing the cat and making it sit on your lap so you can experience family time on the couch together. Let both of the animals consent to where they’re sitting.
If the cat chooses to hang out with you in dog-land, wonderful, but nothing can reinforce a negative association in an animal than the feeling of being trapped with the thing they dislike.
There has literally never been a time when someone’s been forcibly held next to someone they disliked and was the better for it.
I should say, for safety’s sake, that if your dog has any true malice towards the cat, any instinct you can see that would make him literally kill or harm the cat, then my advice may need adjusting. If this is a skittish dog/cat household, I also recommend against bringing other dogs over with whom your dog will form a pack from which to be emboldened and hunt/terrorize the feline step-sibling.
Remember that all heightened emotional states in dogs are the same. A high pitched baby voice will rile your dog up and elevate your dog’s energy in a way that could turn on the cat, so try to keep yourselves as cool, calm and collected as possible when they are near each other.
They will pick on your anxious energy, but they will also pick up on your calm-assertive energy. You lead the room, as far as vibe goes. Claim it!
Good luck, give my best to the cat, and start calling yourself Harry P, because I believe you can keep the magic ALIVE!
P.S. As someone who loves a savings, can we talk about the financial privilege that comes with being in a couple? Sharing rent and bills and vacation expenses is a strong appeal for joining a romantic team. It is as if the singles among us are being taxed for not getting with the cohabitation program.
*LBD= Lesbian Bed Death