This is Rose. She’s been with me now for six years. I adopted her from the Humane Society in Pueblo, CO in January 2009. Having mourned the loss of my beloved cat, Jade, and my precious dog, Ricky, for nearly two years (they died within six months of one another), it was time for me to get another house pet.
I didn’t intend to adopt a cat the day I got Rose. I was simply making a routine shopping trip to Pueblo, and I offered to run errands for my friend, Jenn. She asked me to pick up a few feeder gold fish for her water troughs, so I made Petco my last stop before heading home that afternoon. I’m an animal lover, and I enjoy visiting the pets available for adoption whenever I’m in a pet store. That day was no exception.
I’ve always admired calico cats, and there was a calico kitten there that immediately caught my eye. She wasn’t very friendly or engaging however, so I wandered down the row of cages to say hello to the other two cats there that day. The second one—a big grey tom cat sleeping soundly—opened one big green eye to see if I was interesting enough to justify cutting short his nap. He clearly decided I wasn’t as he dismissively twitched his tail, and resumed his slumber.
The third cat was Rose. According to the record on her cage, her name was “Daphne” at the time. She was about two years old and had been recently surrendered by her owner. She had a bad upper respiratory infection and clearly didn’t feel well, but she greeted me like a long lost friend. She practically jumped into my arms as soon as I asked an attendant to let me get a closer look at her. I knew instantly that she belonged with me.
My relationships with animals and humans alike nearly always begin with an intuitive nudge that I feel in my gut. I respect and appreciate all life forms, but I’m extremely selective when it comes to those I invite into my life. To the extent possible, I limit my relationships to those that begin with that gut feeling. Although I wasn’t looking for a cat that day, and despite the fact that it was a calico kitten that first captured my attention, my gut told me that Rose was my cat. I’ve learned not to question my instincts when it comes to this sort of thing, so I adopted her on the spot. She’s been my constant companion ever since, and I love her dearly.
The reason I’m telling this story is because I’ve been thinking a great deal lately about the ways that people emotionally manipulate one another. I read something on Facebook recently about emotional violence. That article was an eye-opener for me because I’d never really thought of emotions as weapons before (I wish I could relocate the source so I could link to it). Since then, I’ve sifted through my past and looked for signs of emotional violence in my relationships. Unfortunately, I found a lot of it. One relationship in particular involves Rose.
I got a phone call from an old friend in Alaska on my birthday in August 2012. He’d been going through a difficult time and needed a friend, so he offered me an all-expense paid trip to Juneau. The history I shared with this guy was complicated. We’d been coworkers for nearly a decade, and we’d dabbled at a romantic relationship a couple of times through those years. It never took because we have completely incompatible lifestyles. We both knew this, yet here we were, trying again to force something that was never meant to be merely because we both happened to be single and unattached at the time.
Trying to force pretty much any human relationship is futile, but attempting to force me into a situation that I know in my gut to be wrong for me is something akin to trying to push a chain. Countless people have tried and failed through the years. Bosses, coworkers, friends, relatives… interview anyone from my past, and they’ll tell you how stubborn and immovable I can be. Nonetheless, this guy, who should have known better given his prior experience with me, was determined to “make” us work this time around. He had a pretty good sales pitch going for a while. Our relationship really did work on some levels, so I suppose it wasn’t inconceivable that it could have worked if I was willing to make certain concessions.
The thing is, I don’t believe in making certain concessions when it comes to relationships. For instance, I refuse to change who I am in order to make someone else feel more comfortable with who they are.
I refuse to diminish my light in order to make someone else’s light appear to shine brighter.
I refuse to exchange one relationship that I value for another.
I refuse to leave some truth unspoken or unacknowledged simply because it might make someone else uncomfortable.
Most importantly, I refuse to engage in a relationship with anyone who expects me to make any of the above concessions. And this is where that relationship came to an abrupt end. This guy claims he’s allergic to anything with fur or feathers, but I definitely have allergies. I’m allergic to both cats and horses, as a matter of fact (two of my favorite animals), so I’m acutely aware of the signs and symptoms of allergies. I choose to live with a cat, and I spend as much time around horses as I possibly can despite my allergies because the unconditional love these animals bring into my life far outweighs whatever physical discomfort I might experience as a result of my interactions with them.
During his one and only visit to my place in Colorado, this guy proceeded to insist that he’s allergic to my cat, Rose, yet he showed no physical symptoms. He went on to suggest that I would have to get rid of her—for his sake. That was the end of that. I was unwilling to exchange my relationship with Rose for a relationship with someone who demanded that I discard my cat (as if she was merely an inanimate object rather than a sentient being) for his personal comfort or convenience.
The point of this story isn’t to say, “love me; love my cat.” The point is this: if anyone—no matter how important you think they are to you—asks you to give up something you genuinely love for their sake, that’s not love talking. It’s selfishness. It may also be a sign that you’re involved with a narcissist. At a bare minimum, it’s a misguided act of emotional violence upon you; and your gut will tell you so, if you’re paying attention. The fact of the matter is that anyone who truly loves you will accept the things that are precious to you as part of the package.
Where Rosie is concerned, she and I are now living our “happily ever after.” My husband absolutely adores her. This fact is plainly evident by the number of photos of her that he’s published on his blog. Here’s one of his latest posts. I can’t help but love my husband all the more because of the way he so graciously accepted Rose into his life. In fact, it was Rose who helped me realize how perfect my husband is for me. Just like she greeted me all those years ago in Petco, she greeted Matt like a long lost friend the first time they met in the summer of 2013. And now she cheerfully greets him at the door every day when he comes home from work.
Life is too short to waste on relationships with people who need to manipulate you into being someone you’re not or mold you into some sort of fantastic ideal. Choose your relationships carefully, cultivate them with love and respect, and notice how your life begins to flourish as you limit your relationships only to those who are capable of reciprocating love and respect.