Sometimes I Love My Cat More Than My Boyfriend, But Apparently That’s Actually Normal
I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’m a cat person, but I am definitely a Daphne person.
Daphne is my beautiful white, long-haired cat, who was rescued from the side of the road after being discarded as the runt of the litter. She’s deaf, has big beautiful blue eyes, and is one of the most affectionate cats I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.
She’s low-key the love of my life. Whether I’m grumpy with endo cramps, tired after a big work day or emotionally drained simply because it’s winter and the cold is extra brutal this year; Daph is always there to greet me with a meow and a snuggle.
Often, I think I love her more than my boyfriend. Probably because there’s never a time where I don’t want to hang out with her, and there are definitely times that I feel I need space from him (which is healthy in any relationship sometimes). She’s all give and no take. Aside from the obvious: food, fresh water, a clean litter tray, comfy pillows to sleep on and lots of attention; she really doesn’t ask for much.
“Unlike many other relationships in our lives, our pets are always there for us,” says eharmony psychologist Sharon Draper. “They give us unconditional love.”
“Dog owners for example can usually expect an excited welcome home, while cat lovers know the comfort of a cuddle and a purr. No matter what, these little furry friends know how to give us the love we need.
“We often don’t realise it, but from a nervous system perspective, pets help co-regulate us, meaning they can help us feel more grounded and calm.”
Recently, both my partner and I have been struggling with separate mental health issues, and have therefore been unable to ground each other like we usually would. So naturally, I’ve been looking to Daphne.
With Daphne, there are no emotional conversations about the future, or debates about priorities, or talking about big life decisions we feel unprepared for. She just sits and snuggles and stares at me with her cute blue eyes. Sometimes she’ll chase her own shadow, or curl up on my feet when I’m on the toilet, or nuzzle her cute little head into my neck when I’m sleeping. Even when she’s asleep on her own bed, she looks so cute it’s impossible not to just fall in love with her.
But even beyond that, she’s always calm. When I’m hungover in bed and questioning all my life decisions, she’s just there snuggling, or wandering around like someone who doesn’t know what a hangover is. Having her calm energy around — as insane as it may sound — really helps to ground me.
“A close pet can be like a best friend and can provide us with comfort, love and attention when we need it. Unlike a romantic relationship, we know what to expect with our pets as the relationship dynamic puts us in a position where our pet is our responsibility to look after and, most of the time, they are grateful.
“A romantic relationship is not always as predictable and the power dynamic is certainly different and can be different from couple to couple. While romantic relationships can offer us obvious things that pets can’t, they come with their own complications.”
Moral of the story? Sex complicates everything. And when you mix in gendered stereotypes, the pressure we feel to “get it right” and just the general stress that comes with being a 20-something in a serious relationship; well, it’s a lot.
“Like a friend, when life gets busy, we need to carve out space for our pets to spend quality time together, and sometimes this can mean prioritising them over your partner,” says Draper.
“It’s important to notice when we are always choosing our pets over our partners because it can mean that something is lacking in our relationship and we’re not quite admitting it.”
I’m not sure I’m quite there, but I definitely feel that there’s a lot of pressure in the world right now. It could be my age — 26 — where everything begins to ramp up and become more serious, or the seemingly constant scramble to get our lives back on track after the monstrosity that was COVID-19, or if it’s just the solid winter blues — but things are feeling a little intense right now.
For me, that means snuggling with Daphne a little more than usual and finding her exceedingly easy to love. Also lots of self-care. Both of which I sometimes choose over my boyfriend, which is not only okay, but actually pretty damn healthy.