Why Nipping At Others Doesn’t Work In Kennels Or Marriages

Nobody likes to be nipped at all the time. Just ask our German Wirehair, Ezra. We got a yellow Labrador puppy a few weeks ago, and she will not stop biting, jumping on, and hounding poor ol’ Ez. (Click on file below to see a short video of Ezra’s new life.)

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Nipping at your spouse isn’t a great strategy for marriage, either. Couples that bite, jump on, and hound one another have toxic, energy-depleting marriages. When I meet with a husband and wife in a dog-eat-dog marriage, I hear comments such as:

“My wife doesn’t do this…”

“My husband won’t quit asking for this…”

“He’s a pig!”

“She’s a nag!”

I’ve spent entire counseling sessions listening to couples verbally bite and scratch one another over and over. Everyone’s covered in slobber by the time the hour’s up. In healthy marriages, husbands don’t pester their wives, and wives don’t badger their husbands. Their goal is entirely different—it’s to solve problems and understand each other. When I meet with couples that have good marriages, I hear comments such as:

“What did I do to hurt you?”

“I’m sure I played a role in this mess, can you help me understand what that was?”

“When you did this, it made me feel like this…”

(That last statement isn’t “nipping,” but rather seeking to understand your spouse. It gives the other person a chance to explain whether he/she meant to make their spouse feel that way.) It’s sad, but we can bite and scratch our way out of what could have been a good marriage. I just spent thirty minutes trying to find Ezra. When I let him out of his kennel a while ago, he took off into the cornfield and didn’t look back. His goal: shake the little yellow pest once and for all. This same thing happens in many marriages—eventually one person, or both, gets tired of the biting, and they run.

Who let the dogs out? That’s not important. What matters is that they now get put away. If each person will take responsibility for his or her mistakes, and stop the blaming and name calling, all dogs everyone ends up happier, and nobody wants to run away.


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