Sage Advice: New Dog Creates Marital Rift

By Amy Dickinson | June 24th, 2020

When the responsibilities of a new family member fall onto the shoulders of one


Feeding the new dog in the family Image

Dear Amy: My wife and I have been married for over 20 years and have three boys at home.

We recently adopted a three-year-old rescue dog after our previous dog died.

This might seem like a silly question, but my wife is annoyed because sometimes at dinnertime, I will ask whether or not our new dog has been fed.

Initially (unbeknownst to me) she assumed the job of dog feeder and says that others (me) checking to see if the dog has been fed is insulting.

Feeding our previous dog was generally a shared responsibility, so asking whether he was fed was relatively common.

We have other animals for whom inquiries about their feeding status are not insulting.

My wife wants me to stop asking, or to take over all feeding of the new dog.

I have agreed to try to stop asking, but, realistically, it will probably slip my mind (he is huge and skinny).

This really isn’t a terribly big issue, but I am bewildered by it.

Any thoughts?

– Confused Husband

Dear Confused: Just spit-balling here, but I’m going to take a stab at what might be going on.

When you ask, “Has the dog been fed?” This is what your wife hears: “Why haven’t YOU feed the dog?”

Her interior monologue then goes something like this: “Of course I fed him, because I do everything around here. I feed the kids, the other animals, you, the neighbors, my folks, my co-workers… I’m quite the feeding machine, in fact. So don’t you waltz in here and ask if I fed the dog, because you know damn well that I did. Oh, and by the way, did we really have to get a HUGE dog who, have you noticed, is an eating machine?”

Your family’s life has changed since your last dog died: A pandemic came along and forced the kids out of school and (I assume) you and your wife into an entirely different home environment. Although I have read (and seen) that the extended home-time has brought many previously less-involved men into the domestic fold, it has also tripled the work for many women. So this really is NOT a trivial issue.

Sit with your wife privately. Look into her eyes. Hold her hand. Ask her if this dog’s presence has put her over the edge. Don’t merely offer to, but (yes) DO take total responsibility for its feeding and care. Total responsibility. You will then be in charge of assigning various dog-related jobs to your three sons. Your wife’s only responsibility concerning the dog should be to pet him and to coax him off the couch.


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In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2020 by Amy Dickinson

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