|GIF by Kyle Bridgett via Giphy|
Sometimes you just have to come out and say it. There’s no point avoiding it. There’s an elephant in the living room.
Nick: In our case the elephant was actually a cat, but to get to that, you need to know I’ve been a “dog person” my entire life. I would often joke that if I wanted aloof and fickle treatment, I’d just consult one of our teenagers. I didn’t need that from a pet.
Jen: Growing up, my family had a dog because my dad hated cats. When I was in college I adopted a dog of my own. Then I married Nick and we added his dog from childhood to our house. I loved being around other people’s cats, but with dogs in the house (and kids… and then more kids) there wasn’t really room for the cat conversation for us.
And then… the neighbor’s cat had kittens. I found that I liked the idea of adding a cat to our household, but I was hesitant to bring it up because Nick had always been adamant about not being a cat person and not liking them. Then I noticed that he seemed to enjoy being around other people’s cats, so I started dropping hints. I thought for sure that I knew what Nick’s response would be if I brought it up, but it was something I really wanted, so I couldn’t just let it go.
Nick: At first, I didn’t think Jen was serious about getting a cat, but after several hints, I started to reflect on how closed I was to the idea. I didn’t really have any specific reason to say no. In not being willing to listen, I’d made it into the elephant in the living room. Being willing to let go of my old anti-cat attitude wasn’t so difficult once I realized I was just being stubborn out of habit. So after one of Jen’s hints, instead of just saying no, I agreed to talk openly about it.
Jen: Nick’s change in attitude on this topic caught me a little by surprise. I had thought I knew what his response would be, and my expectations were wrong. This little elephant in the living room is an example of how practicing good listening habits and not letting assumptions predetermine the answer can put us on the same page faster. We now have two cats. But more importantly, we have better communication.
Nick: Willingness to talk about the little elephants is good practice. Over the years, being able to open up to each other in touchy areas is what we’ve strived for – areas like job changes, our sex-pectations, and openness to have another baby even after we’d already decided we were done. We can be open if we practice being open. We encourage every couple to look for the little elephants to go after and start building up the practice you’ll need for the bigger ones.