Welcome to Tough Love. We’re answering your questions about dating, breakups, and everything in between. Our advice giver is Blair Braverman, dogsled racer and author of Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube. Have a question of your own? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Any advice for someone whose partner is really into dressing and accessorizing the dog? It seems undignified, because the dog doesn’t know any better. He hardly goes anywhere without an outfit anymore, even for walks or drives. Is there a gentle way to ask her to ease up on the dog clothes?
One of the great things about dogs is that they don’t care about the same things people do. They literally eat each other’s poop. They roll in carcasses. They hump the furniture in front of guests. There are a lot of things dogs care about—attention, love, exercise, comfort—but dignity isn’t one of them. In fact, if a dog goes for a walk in a T-shirt, and that makes more people stop to pet him, he probably loves it. He doesn’t know that his shirt says BUTT SNIFFER. He’s just glad for the attention.
Obviously if a dog dislikes wearing clothes, or if certain garments are uncomfortable, that’s an important reason not to wear them. And there are appropriate times for different dog outfits, just like there are appropriate times for different human outfits. There’s an inherent goofiness to dog clothing that could seem disrespectful at solemn events, for instance, or professional workplaces. But most of those places don’t welcome dogs anyway, and if your dog wears a bow tie to a dog-friendly wedding, there are few people who will think less of you. They’ll probably get a kick out of it. At most, they’ll think that you and your partner are really into your dog, and there are far worse reputations.
If it really bothers you for the dog to wear outfits constantly, you could try a strategy straight from dog-training manuals and focus on putting your partner’s behavior on cue. That is, work with her to develop a time and place for dog costumes, and be sure you’re celebrating and rewarding them at those times. She could set up an Instagram account and post weekly dog outfits, or come up with festive costumes for seasonal events. If your partner is focused on dressing the dog for specific purposes—and if she feels your full support in doing so—she might not care as much about dressing the dog every single day.
If you’re worried that people will think that you’re the one dressing the dog—if that doesn’t vibe with your personality or whatever—you can make clear around other people that it’s your partner’s thing: “Let’s see the outfit Hannah came up with today!”
But if you do that, it has to be earnest, not disdainful or passive-aggressive. You should regard your partner’s enthusiasms with your own delight, and make sure other people can tell that you’re proud of her.
After all, we’re all looking for our little joys, and your partner found one that she and the dog both enjoy. If it’s not hurting anyone, and it makes your loved ones happy, then it’s worth learning to embrace.
I don’t know how else to say this, but my boyfriend of six months growls in bed. I think it started from an inside joke about bears, but I’m not even sure anymore. The first time it took me by surprise, so I burst out laughing. But ever since then, he continued to growl occasionally while we’re in bed together. It is maybe once a week or so. I think he thinks it’s funny and sexy, and I don’t know how to tell him that it’s not very sexy at all.
Part of having fun in bed together is being able to goof around, and trusting your partner to be honest about what they like or don’t like. It’s not that you both have to love everything you try; it’s that you’re always communicating, and that you can experiment and have fun in ways that are safe and comfortable for everyone. It’s basically a space of play.
So unless your boyfriend is uncommonly secure, it will sting to hear that you’ve been turned off by one of his moves this whole time. It could open up a whole box of other insecurities: What else have you been thinking in bed, but not saying? How can he know that when you say you like something, you really do? In this case, your best course of action may come down to how much you dislike the growling. If it’s actively stressing you out, then it’s definitely worth having a conversation (out of bed) and explaining the situation. But if you just find it silly, it might not be worth a confrontation.
That’s not to say you should live with the growling forever. But unless growling is your boyfriend’s particular kink (and if it is, it’s a fairly innocuous one), it’s probably something he’s doing to make you laugh, because you laughed the first time and that made him happy and he wants to keep being happy together. In that case, try to focus more on communicating what you really do like. Tell him (or show him) when he does things you think are hot or sweet or funny. Be explicit in your praise. My hunch is that if he’s being rewarded for other moves, those other moves will start taking over pretty fast. And when you’re communicating well, and having that much fun together, you might not even mind the occasional goofy grr.