Why Am I So Irrationally Jealous of My Wife’s Dog?
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Why Am I Jealous of My Wife’s Dog?

How I learned my insecurity was the real bitch

Woman in red dress hugging her dog on the couch
Plain Picture

When my future wife and I started dating, her dog Lucy’s approval was the one I sought most. A springer spaniel mix, Lucy was my wife’s best friend, trusted adviser and confidant long before I ever came into the picture. 

I knew I had to win Lucy over before I could even think of forging a relationship with her human. So I bribed her with treats, and bit my tongue when she kicked me in her sleep while the three of us shared a bed.

Lucy never growled or showed any sort of disapproval toward me. In fact, probably due to the shameless bribing, she warmed up rather quickly. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that Lucy was still my girlfriend’s favorite. 

“Part of the reason we love our animals so much is because they require very little from us in terms of the complex emotional needs humans have,” says marriage therapist Miriam Geiger. “They’re simple. In that sense, it’s almost impossible to compete with a loving, adoring animal.”

But, she adds, those feelings are rooted in insecurity, not reality. My soon-to-be wife didn’t actually love Lucy more than me, it just seemed that way because Lucy was so much easier to love. The emotional demands of a dog are easy compared with those of a man.

So I did the thing that every psychologist and therapist recommended. I sat down with my girlfriend and admitted the painful truth that I was … [deep breath] jealous of her dog.

She burst into laughter. And then so did I. Because c’mon, the whole thing was utterly ridiculous.

It helped that her laughter clearly wasn’t mocking, or piteous. It was sympathetic. She acknowledged that doting on Lucy didn’t leave her with less love to give me. And I realized that it showed her capacity to love in abundance, whether the object of her affection had four legs or two. 

Shortly after I moved in with Lucy and her mom, I became unemployed, which meant my days were spent hunting for jobs in Lucy’s company. She slept most of the time, but was always up for a belly rub or a walk to the corner and back. She was a sandwich thief, too, often snatching them right off my plate with ninja-like stealth.

When Lucy’s health declined, I chauffeured her back and forth to the vet. One day, I got a call from the receptionist following up on a recent visit. 

“Hi,” she said. “Is this Lucy’s dad?”

My eyes welled with tears. I looked over at Lucy, sitting like a good girl, and realized that I’d never thought of myself as her dad. More specifically, I never thought that she might have thought of me as her dad. But, I was.

“Yes,” I answered. “This is Lucy’s dad.” 

Lucy passed away two months after our wedding. She fought hard to stick around, and waited until she knew we’d be okay before saying goodbye. Her passing was the first true hardship we faced as husband and wife, and we still talk about her every day. 

Around a month after Lucy left, we adopted Winnie, a golden retriever we saved from a puppy mill rescue. Winnie is bold, smart, and overflowing with love. She runs the show in our house. She reminds me of a dog I used to know. 

I’m not jealous of this one. But Winnie knows she’s the favorite. And she’s right.

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