Today, I saw several different variations on the theme, “Woman Walks Dog”.

In the morning, heading for the bus, I saw an older woman wheeling a one-eyed, older dog in a stroller.

During the day, I watched a woman patiently wait for her dog, who was wearing a coat, to finish sniffing and then move on to the next spot. The dog seemed engrossed in inhaling the world; the woman was paying attention to what the dog was doing and at what pace.

On my walk to the store this evening, I saw a very familiar sight. A young woman was walking her dog, who was pulling her in the opposite direction–toward another dog. The woman was talking on her phone.

Will this young woman go through all these phases with her dog(s)? Going from being lively but separate to more appreciative of the time spent together and cognizant of the other’s path to catering completely to another’s perceived needs? Probably not; but these three scenarios are often seen in human relationships.

This young woman was not engaging with her dog other than by tugging on the leash.

From my knowledge of dogs, it would be important to stay focused on the dog–and most definitely go to dog training classes when it is a young dog, to establish the boundaries and the hierarchy. A dog wants to know what the rules are; it wants to know how to win your approval. In order to make this reality, it is necessary to establish the guidelines of what you want from your dog and how to make yourself understood. This takes practice.

With a young dog it is easy to believe that the leash will be guideline enough. A young dog tends to stay closer to its owner. It all seems to work out with a few tugs on the leash–a puppy doesn’t put up much resistance. As the dog grows, gains in weight and strength, and acquires its own desires, the tugging becomes more of a war.

All too often that is also the way we choose to communicate with our fellow upright companions. As long as we are sure they are along for the ride (or walk), we take it for granted. If we notice that they are on a slightly different heading, a few words will pull them alongside again. We don’t engage with them enough or ascertain that we are both heading for the same goal before starting off. Additionally, it is easy to get distracted, dividing our attention and not fully engage in a dialog. We let ourselves be distracted, by career demands, project deadlines, other people, etc.; falsely believing that relationships will grow and develop in the desired way without our attention.

In a relationship, it is essential to take the time, put in the effort to build solid lines of communication to not only get to know your partner well enough, but also to practice expressing your own needs and desires. Additionally it is necessary to evaluate your partner to know if your goals and values are aligned and if you both are roughly headed down the same path.

This seems unimportant, unnecessary in the first stages of dating, when the chemistry is strong, the desire to make a good impression and the novelty of it all demand attention. The small tugs we feel–the slight differences in direction–don’t make much of an impression compared to the fun and excitement.

Eventually, however, once the honeymoon phase if over, the demands of daily life once again push to the forefront, diminishing your time and attention spent on the relationship. To retain and perhaps even strengthen a relationship, it is crucial that strong communication patterns have already been established.

It remains important to continue investing in the relationship. After all, you do enjoy spending time with your partner, right?! So, just like the young woman with the pulling dog, both of them would have found more pleasure on the walk and with each other not only with established guidelines of going on a walk, but also engaging with each other.

Yes, we are all busy, but what is your relationship worth to you?

Take time to get to know a new someone special. Evaluate values and goals, etc to see if enough common ground is there. Build healthy patterns of communication.
Schedule and spend time with your partner and other important people in your life. Get creative on how to fit it in to a day. Be mindful of each other, communicate well, and enjoy!