*This article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events recounted to me by a friend who witnessed them firsthand; used with permission
Getting to know your relationship partner includes habits like wake-up times, cleaning, sharing chores, doing some cooking, having pets, and seeing if they like to do the same things you enjoy.
And when you're also a parent, you will have to try and figure out if they can get along with your kids and if there could be any difficulties in having a bigger family in the future.
How does the love for a pet compare to how you feel for your child?
Could you understand when your partner doesn't want to give up on a pet even if it doesn't get along with your kids? Which would you choose, and is there a way to keep the relationship going like that?
My friend Dahlia, who lives in Phoenix, Arizona, has been dating Ryan, her boyfriend, for six months. They were friends for a while after taking classes together, and they kept in touch after they finished their projects.
"He asked for my number right before our class was done, and I got excited. I liked him a lot, but I wasn't sure if he felt the same. But when he said he wanted to keep talking to me, I was sure there could be more," Dahlia said.
They kept texting for two weeks, and after that, they moved to calls.
"I got used to talking to him every day, and I missed our chats when we got busy with work. We were friends for sure, but I did think about starting a relationship. We had common goals about what we wanted, and he was always so nice and positive. It just made my day every time we got to talk for a little bit," Dahlia said.
She was still cautious about the way things were changing because she was a single mom, so she didn't just have to see if they wanted the same kind of relationship. Dahlia also needed someone who was ok with being a stepdad and creating a connection with her daughter.
"It meant a lot to see he gave me compliments and liked to talk to me. But I was a bit worried about telling him I was a mom too. It was too early to do that, but I wondered if he would be just as excited to get closer when he knew," Dahlia said.
After a few more days of texting and calling, Ryan asked her out on a date in Phoenix. They had dinner and went to see a movie too. Dahlia and Ryan had a great time and decided to do it again over the weekend.
"I had my mom to look after my daughter so I could meet him. I decided to wait just a bit longer before telling Ryan everything," Dahlia said.
Once they'd been dating for a month, she felt it was a good time to tell about her daughter. Ryan was surprised, but he wasn't disappointed or upset.
Instead, he asked questions about her daughter and how he could meet her and become her friend. Dahlia told him more about Diane, her daughter, and gradually realized Ryan was ok with having a family with the two of them, not just with her.
After two months of dating, Dahlia felt confident enough to bring Ryan to her home in Phoenix and have him get to know her daughter. Their first meeting went very well, with Diane asking Ryan lots of questions and wanting to play with him.
"There was no tension, and she didn't avoid him or anything. I was worried about that, but it went great. They laughed a lot together, so I had a good feeling about our relationship," Dahlia said.
They spent most of their time at Dahlia's house in Phoenix, but Ryan also invited both of them to his apartment. It was smaller, but he made sure to have tasty snacks for Diane, and he also had a pet he wanted her to meet.
"His cat, Ginger, is very playful and sweet. I saw her after we dated for the first time. So, I thought Diane would have no issues getting close to the cat, too," Dahlia said.
Unfortunately, the cat didn't like the little girl much, and every time she wanted to play, she either ran to one corner or struggled to get free.
"I didn't like thinking Ginger might not be nice to Diane, but it happened a few times. My daughter just likes cats so much. We used to have one of our own, but it passed away. I can't get why Ginger avoids her like that. Diane knows how to be gentle, but Ginger still runs or hisses at her," Dahlia said.
Ryan was also surprised by the way his cat behaved, but he didn't feel like excluding the pet from their family reunions. He told Diane to avoid her if she could, and both he and Dahlia hoped things would improve.
As it turns out, Ginger has a very strong dislike for Diane and won't agree to play or even be anywhere near her. The way things are going, Ryan thinks the cat needs to have a separate room in their home in Phoenix after they get married, but Dahlia feels like something else is needed.
"He could just rehome Ginger. It's obvious she won't be happy with us the way things are with Diane. I think it would be so much better if the cat could have a different home where she could get along with everyone and be more loving and affectionate," Dahlia said.
She told Ryan how she felt about Ginger, but he refused to get rid of his cat. Even if rehoming wouldn't be like letting the cat go, but making sure she had a loving family, he won't consider it. And this makes Dahlia doubt whether their relationship has a future.
"He prefers the cat over my daughter. I don't think it's so hard to rehome Ginger. We would look carefully and only give her to a family who loves her. I'm not being unkind; it's just common sense not to keep a pet that can't get along with kids," Dahlia said.
What do you think about this situation? Is it fair for Dahlia to expect Ryan to give up on his cat to make their relationship work? Should she be more flexible and consider giving Ginger a separate space in their home and wait to see if the cat might adjust to living with her little girl after all?