When people feel ignored in relationships

Sheba asks: Oh my, how do I get my male owner to behave? He keeps disobeying the female who feeds me!!! She is irritated because he plays video games and seems to be able to curl up in one place for hours at a time, just like us. Personally, I don’t understand why that’s an issue. But she’s weirdly into “social interaction,” I think.

Hi Sheba –

First, please check out my earlier post about kids and video games.  Though it sounds like you might be talking about an adult in this case!

You make a very good point, when you say that pets can curl up in one place for hours at a time, just like video-game players.  But the difference is, we’re not attaching ourselves to something that makes us ignore you.  (Even if I’m all focused on a squirrel, that doesn’t last hours at a time).

It hurts everyone’s feelings to be ignored – whether that’s a person’s feelings or a dog’s feelings, or even a cat’s (which is funny, since they seem to spend most of the time acting like they’re ignoring everyone!).  But at the same time, I know how irritating it is when I’m all focused on something really important to me, and someone tries to get my attention onto them!  (For example, when I’m eating.  Readers, NEVER interrupt a dog when we’re eating, unless it’s absolutely necessary, like when you have to take away food that’s dangerous for us.  We never like it, and some of us will even get so angry we’ll bite!)

So it sounds to me like your owners need to work (yes, relationships usually involve work!) to find a way to make it okay for both of them.   I mean so both of them can feel liked and cared for, and get what they need.   Maybe they can arrange a time agreement, such as that he will always take a break from his games once an hour, just tocheck up on her.  Or they could agree that if he gets to play all day, they’ll have a date that night.  Whatever works for the two of them is the best solution.

I’ll throw in one other thing here, though.  You know how cats and dogs are really different, in how much attention they want?  Dogs just love it and always appreciate it, while cats often run from it, you know?  Well some people are more like cats and some are more like dogs.  Some people need lots and lots of attention – they often become actors or singers or politicians, and just soak it all up.  While others want lots and lots of privacy.

But you know the funny thing?  Wc can change somewhat, based on whoever we’re with.  Handsome actually had a kitten once, for a few months, and he treated it more like a puppy, and sure enough that cat would come when it was called and jump into people’s arms.  Similarly, at times when Handsome has been out of town or super-busy, I get more independent.  I learn that he’s not going to be there, and so I don’t need him as much, and actually ignore him quite a bit (but I like it better when he pays more attention to me and I can jump all over him and get his clothes all messy and sleep next to him all night long!).

So we’re sure complicated all right!  The key here, in any relationship, for both members to be totally honest about their needs.  So often people will say “Well I’m the normal one, and he’s too needy,” or “and she’s too independent.”  The truth is: No one is “too” anything.  We’re all different, and we all need different things.  What makes relationships work is when everyone works together to make sure everyone gets what they need.  Your male owner needs to be able to lose himself in those games, and your female owner needs more interaction.  It’s so vital that they both respect what each other feels.  Because the second someone starts complaining that someone else is “wrong” in what they need, you know what happens?  Uh huh, everything goes all Litterbox on everyone!

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