When I was a small child we adopted a kitten from a neighborhood pet store and brought her home, making her our first pet (besides the many fish we had over the years, which often died within a couple days despite concerted efforts to care for them — my dad even spoke to a vet once in an effort to keep one of them alive).
We nurtured the cat for a few years before deciding to adopt a dog as well. At the beginning, we tried our best to make our cat feel comfortable with our new dog, but it didn’t work. They would run into each other somewhere in the hallway, the cat would hiss, the dog would bark, and it would end in our cat running for her life.
However, before the situation got worse, the two animals figured out a solution: the cat would stay upstairs, and occasionally come downstairs at night, while the dog would stay downstairs and stay away at night, allowing the cat to roam around. Surprisingly, this situation has lasted ever since, with the cat and the two dogs we’ve had in our household. Although we will occasionally hear the dog running upstairs to taunt the cat with an immediate response of a warning hiss, our two animals generally coexist peacefully.
Looking back at how our dog and cat handled this issue, I see how we can learn from them, and I can even understand how I could have used this tool in the past. Most of us can think of someone that always seems to get us frustrated, annoyed, or hurt, and who often brings out the worst in both of us. We find ourselves getting caught up in drama or unnecessary conflicts with these people, when the reality is that sometimes it is best to take a step back and take a break from the relationship.
Oftentimes, personalities simply don’t mix, and that is completely fine — it’s not the fault of either person. Not everyone is going to get along, and before you cause more stress to both people, it’s great to step back and set boundaries, similar to how our cat and dog did. Whether that is hanging around each other less or socializing with them fewer times, learning to see that your personalities don’t mesh, and deciding to coexist instead of engage in conflict is a true skill we all could learn from my dog and cat.
Humans are extremely different people with varied skills and weaknesses, so it is reasonable that not everyone will be good friends. Understanding how to disengage with someone whose relationship is toxic for both parties is certainly a skill that worked for my dog and cat, and will work for you too.