1. If someone messes up because you didn’t tell them what you wanted, you can only blame yourself.
Getting mad at someone else for not reading your mind is futile, whether it’s a guy who won’t send you the specific kind of good-morning text you like, or the dog who won’t wait to pee outside because you haven’t properly trained her. And while I may have spent years in relationships expecting my partner to just magically know what I want – and getting irrationally angry at him when he didn’t – a few short months of dog ownership have taught me that my expectations must be clear in order for them to be delivered on.
2. Always be happy to see them in the morning.
If you start off a day on the wrong foot, and take out your non-morning-person grouchiness on your partner who happens to be in the bed next to you, you’re ruining their day along with yours. It’s a selfish move, but it’s so easy to get used to seeing this person every day and being grumpy with them because you haven’t had your coffee, even when they want to be romantic. But having my little pup so excited to see me every morning has reminded me that starting a morning by embracing and showing unconditional love is the easiest recipe to having an amazing day. I’ve become a thousand times nicer to everyone in the morning, even the furniture delivery guy who shows up at 8 AM on a Sunday.
3. Sometimes the only issue is an empty stomach.
Way more times than we’d probably like to admit, our grumpy attitudes towards those closest to us are all about the fact that we’re hungry and irritable. And this is never clearer than with a dog, who can go from a whiny, frustrating brat to a loving angel in approximately three minutes, with the addition of a little food. Sometimes, if you’re feeling angry and frustrated for no reason – and have a tendency to react harshly when someone close to you is just trying to be nice – you might want to grab a bite to eat, because everyone feels better after a nice lunch.
4. Concentrate on the present, and the future will feel lighter already.
Everyone has a tendency to get anxious in relationships, particularly ones you’ve been in for a while. I’ve been in a relationship for four years now, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get stressed out sometimes thinking about things that we’ll have to deal with months or even years from the present. But when I’m with my dog and we’re playing at the dog park, or going for a walk, or just having a nice belly rub on the couch while watching TV, it’s so easy to appreciate the little moments for what they are, and not worry about the upcoming hassles you can’t do anything about. (In my puppy’s case, it’s her upcoming trip to the vet to get snipped, which is definitely something I’d rather not focus on when we’re playing at the park.)
5. Shouting does nothing, and calm communication is always the key.
Potty training my dog alone has taught me one of the most important relationship lessons of my life, in only a few months: If you just get angry and raise your temper, all that will come is fear, mistrust, and sadness. If you explain things calmly and compassionately, you will eventually be understood. Yes, seeing my dog react badly to getting yelled at after her first few bathroom accidents taught me about communication in relationships. I know.
6. When you’re in a bad mood, let them annoy you into playtime.
Sometimes you just have no sense of humor and the last thing you want to do is joke around, and when someone is in your face with a joke or a funny video or trying to tickle you, all you want to do is punch them in the face. But when you have a dog, they’re not so interested in your “go away” cues, and will try to get you to play by any means necessary. Pretty soon you give in a little bit and say something like “Fine, dummy, I’ll throw your toy,” and before you know it, you are smiling and laughing and more into it than they are. The same works (often) with other people, and in relationships. Don’t rain on someone’s attempts to have some fun or put you in a good mood, force yourself to go along at first, and you’ll find that you’re quickly feeling in a playful mood yourself. Once you get the ball rolling on a good mood (which puppies can always do), you’ll wonder why you were sad in the first place.