Six in 10 Americans own some type of pet. Among pet owners, about 73% own a dog and 49% own a cat. In addition, Americans spend more than $50 billion a year on their beloved cats, dogs, and other animal companions.
You probably already know that owning a pet can be good for your emotional, psychological and physical health, because pets provide unconditional love, companionship, and loads of fun! Studies have linked pet ownership to lower blood pressure, better heart health, reduced anxiety, and greater overall life satisfaction. But, you might be surprised to discover that pets also undoubtedly have positive benefits for your love life.
When you take your dog or other furry companion to the park or on a walk in your neighborhood, it is an effective and easy way to meet other people and start a conversation. Who doesn’t love or want to pet a cute puppy or ferret? Pets definitely create opportunities for people to interact with one another. According to a recent Gallop Poll, most dog owners (70%) take their dog for at least one walk per day, with the average duration of that walk being about 17 minutes.
Also, taking care of an animal with a partner can bring you closer together and enhance your relationship. Studies show there are 5 major ways that pets can stabilize and benefit the relationship with your love partner:
1. Shared identity.
A pet can give you and your partner a shared identity. Both of you are pet owners, whether you take care of one pet together or each of you has your own separate pet. This shared sense of self and common experience(s) connect and bond you together.
2. Shared activities.
A pet provides you and your partner with activities to do together. You can take a walk with your pet (or pets), go to the store to buy pet food, and maybe even go to pet training school together. These shared activities are a great way to unwind, relax and spend time together.
3. Reduce stress.
Since pets are fun to play with and provide lots of laughter, they can diffuse any stress and conflict that a couple may have. Pets also reduce stress in a relationship by taking you and your partner outside, giving you the opportunity to exercise in the fresh air, and providing you with a lead-in to talk to other pet owners. Fresh air, exercise and social time with others are all great stress-relievers.
4. Love transfer.
The love, affection, and attention that you and your partner have for a pet (or pets) can easily get transferred to the relationship and to each other. You also can learn about your partner’s possible love capabilities by observing his or her connection with the pet.
Before getting a pet together, a couple should clearly communicate about the responsibilities of the pet and how to divide these tasks. Responsibilities need to be shared by both partners. If this communication and joint decision-making occurs, it can bring the couple closer together. If you don’t talk about these responsibilities or the expectations aren’t clear, conflict and frustration may arise.
Dr. Terri Orbuch (aka The Love Doctor®) is a relationship expert for OurTime.com, as well as a professor, therapist, research scientist, and author of 5 best-selling books, including “Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship,” available at amazon.com. Learn more about her at: DrTerriTheLoveDoctor.com.