a third party enters my marriage and threatens to ruin everything

Trader Joe’s Honeynut O’s make this strange crackling sound in the milk. It’s distracting. It also freaks me out a little. Why are they popping? Is that what all-natural cereals that are supposed to be made out of pure sugar do?

The other thing that’s distracting is this tiny orange cat on my lap. Her name is Minette. Or possibly Minnow, or Minute, or all three of those and more. My cousin found her outside, being bullied by other, much larger cats. We have taken her in for as long as it takes for her to get all of the shots and tests and apartment-training she needs before she can be officially adopted. Except that she has a bump on her nose, and I sort of love her.

And Bear and I are having the most stereotypical moment in our new marriage, because, while he likes her, he doesn’t see any reason why she absolutely has to stay, and he is making a lot of points about the smell of the litter and how this is a new apartment and how there’s this awful parasite cats carry that can destroy your brain. It’s even worse if you’re pregnant. It will destroy your brain and the brain of your unborn child, who will appear perfectly normal for several years and then suddenly…I point out that I am definitely not pregnant. Still, he says, he doesn’t want anything to happen to HIS brain.

I ask him if he’s ever known anyone who this has happened to. Out of all the people he knows who have cats. He avoids the question.

Here’s the thing I did that was really stereotypical: I didn’t ask him first. I just said yes, to the cat staying here. And then, in my head, I said yes to her staying forever.

Here’s the thing he did that really surprised me: He was annoyed.

What? I thought, hurt, Why are we such dramatically different people all of a sudden? How can we want such strikingly different things? I thought we were so similar! I thought we wanted the same things…

Yes. My mind got that obnoxiously melodramatic.

You know why? Because of all those things that people are always saying about marriage. People always have so much to say, and most of it isn’t great.

“We can’t meet in public, my wife and I,” says the successful French writer who is tempting the protagonist in the movie Crossing Delancey. “We would take bloody, bite-sized pieces out of each other. Have you ever been like that– Married?”

And that prominent neurobiologist or whatever she is, at Rutgers, I think her first name is Helen, who does those studies about love, and it’s always like, “After the first two years of a relationship, the chemistry of the brain changes subtly, and the partners will find themselves no longer experiencing the emotions that we identify as ‘passionate love’.”

Shit. It’s been two years since we started dating. A little over.

Most of the time, I have that cocky attitude that newlywed people are supposed to have. I’m like, “Whatevs! That’s just cuz you guys aren’t in love like us! We’re the most in love! We win!”

But then, sometimes, it occurs to me that that’s exactly the way everyone is supposed to feel before they stop experiencing the thing that we identify as “passionate love.” Right before they move on to the stage called “constant irritation” or “platonic disapproval” or “fighting over the cat” or whatever is next.

Oh god, I think. Oh god. There’s nothing I can do.

No, I’m joking. The thing to do is be loving. I’ve figured it out.

“I hear you,” I said last night, trying to be a good wife. “You don’t want the cat to stay. We can give her up.

And as I said it, I imagined her with someone else. Some careless, faceless stranger who might not appreciate the shape of her nose as much. And I missed her in advance. And then I felt angry at Bear. Why wasn’t he missing her in advance, too?

There’s that thing again. The thing where I want him to be the same as me. It’s so immature. I’m so immature.

“Kate,” says Bear, “We are really similar.”

Which, outwardly, is a funny thing for a high-powered businessman who remembers every fact he’s ever read to say to a waiting-for-a-break writer who always almost almost forgets her own social security number. But really, we are, and we always count on our similarities.

“I just want you to know how I feel,” he says, of the cat situation. Which is totally fair.

But now that I know, what do I do? For now, I’m hoping that this will keep happening:

I think Helen what’s-her-name would agree: pretty irresistible. And anyway, our love is really strong. The people in all those studies have nothing on us! :-)

*  *  *

Unroast: Today I love the way I look when my belt matches my boots.



Kate on September 20th 2011 in life, marriage, relationships

46 Responses to “a third party enters my marriage and threatens to ruin everything”

  1. ladykatya responded on 20 Sep 2011 at 1:07 pm #

    Keep the cat. :)

    He’ll grow on Bear, I promise. ;)

    My man started like that – hating the cat. That was before the cat realized that he is the ALPHA MALE. Now cat loves him, he loves cat, yet pretends to be annoyed by cat, and everything is all good.

  2. Kate responded on 20 Sep 2011 at 1:12 pm #

    LOL!!! I know so many guys like that, who are always pretending to be annoyed by their pets, but not-so-secretly love them. My dad is like that. Maybe it’s OK?

  3. Justine responded on 20 Sep 2011 at 1:35 pm #

    Yay!!!!! Sorry, I just got way too excited about you getting a cat (even though it’s not definite that you’re keeping her). Please tell Bear that cats are actually very clean animals, like I seriously think they’re cleaner than most people. Also, there have been like a million studies about how people who have pets are happier, and it’s really true! If that’s not enough, not to be all crazy-cat-person-preachy but there are so many homeless animals out there and it’s such a nice thing to give them a loving home. Lastly, cats=endless entertainment. I hope it works out for the three of you!!

  4. Sara responded on 20 Sep 2011 at 1:38 pm #

    Adorable kitty!! :D But, just in case you keep it, I should let you know that Minette is sort of a dirty word in portuguese. Lol, you probably don’t care. But I laughed really hard when I saw that name. And btw I love reading your blog. Someday I want to be a writer too, and you became such an inspiration for me. :D D

  5. LIT responded on 20 Sep 2011 at 1:48 pm #

    Cute cat!!! It already looks as though he’s falling for it…
    About your “passionate love”, some of the most poignant advice I’ve ever heard about marriage:
    In any long-term relationship, you’re going to fall in and out of love with your partner several times- and they with you. You just have to hope that both of you don’t fall out of love at the same time.

  6. Kate responded on 20 Sep 2011 at 1:56 pm #

    Really?? Now I want to know which one…Also, for the record, that was the name she came with. So I take no responsibility.

  7. Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday responded on 20 Sep 2011 at 1:56 pm #

    I was pretty hell bent on getting a dog when my husband and I got our first house.
    And I got her. A Puppy.
    Adn my husband was not impressed in the least.
    He was annoyed and frustrated and upset that he had to help train this little animal.
    And then, when she got into the chewing stage he was annoyed and frustrated and upset that all his video game cords were being destroyed while the pup looked up at him innocently.

    I don’t think we really had a conversation about getting a dog before I decided absolutely that we were going to get one. And a puppy no less. It was kind of a big deal.

    But things have improved tremendously now that our dog is older and a dull fledged family member. I think she’s more my husband’s dog now, to be honest.

  8. Kate responded on 20 Sep 2011 at 1:58 pm #

    @Samantha Angela
    Ha! That is a very cute and comforting story!

  9. Erin responded on 20 Sep 2011 at 2:01 pm #

    Adorable! The cat will grow on him, trust. And maybe have the vet explain to him the relative impossibility that the cat will get a deadly parasite or any other awful thing as long as it’s kept indoors. Maybe the word of an “authority” on the subject would put him at ease. I hope you keep it!

  10. Raven responded on 20 Sep 2011 at 2:17 pm #

    Cereal: it makes that crackling sound due to tiny pockets of air ‘sploding when the milk gets to it.

    Cat: keep her.

    Also: When you go to the vet, ask them to scan her for a microchip. You might love her, but someone might already love her, too. I lost my (then 9-month old) kitten in January, and despite a microchip, no one ever seemed to have him scanned. I still miss him terribly, and though I got a new friend for his sister to play with, she still does things that show she misses him, too. It’s possible he got eaten by a coyote, which would make it impossible to discover, but he could also have been taken home by a loving family that was trying to do the right thing. Any other circumstance would have him scanned and reported, and I’d have closure one way or another.

  11. Kate responded on 20 Sep 2011 at 2:19 pm #

    While I’m being all ignorant about how cereal works, I’ll also admit to not knowing anything about microchips on pets. What’s that? How does it work?

  12. Jessi responded on 20 Sep 2011 at 2:26 pm #

    That is exciting! My now hubby was adamant that we would NEVER have a dog…. now we have two dogs and two cats. he calls them all “baby”.

    they’re our family!

    and as far as toxoplasmosis (the deadly cat disease…)
    its really not so bad. i’ve worked in an animal shelter and don’t have it… and believe you me, i came in contact with some FUNKY felines.

    you wanna know how i know i don’t’ have it? i was tested because i’m pregnant now! i asked my obgyn… she said its really not a threat as long as you’re clean and wash after cleaning the litter box.

    enjoy the kitty… and i hope bear does too! :)


  13. Mandy responded on 20 Sep 2011 at 2:46 pm #

    It’s always possible to train a cat to use the toilet instead of a litter box–no litter, no smell, no mess. I checked Pet Smart’s website, and they even have a kit for this purpose called “Litter Kwitter.”
    Do you think Bear would enjoy bragging that “his” cat was smart enough to use the toilet instead of a litter box?

  14. deva @ deva by definition responded on 20 Sep 2011 at 2:51 pm #

    To answer your above question about microchips, you can have a microchip implanted in your pet, and most vets have a scanner that they can run over teh cat or dog that will tell them A: if the cat has a microchip and if so, B: who the cat belongs to.

    And litter boxes don’t smell as long as you keep them scooped and change the litter routinely. We have multiple cats and I only smell the litter when I’ve let it go a little too long between scoopings.

  15. Carolyn responded on 20 Sep 2011 at 2:57 pm #

    Loved this post, as always! I love everything you write!

    Some thoughts I had while reading:
    The pregnant lady kitty litter thing is for real: http://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/pregnant.htm

    The long-term love researcher woman is named Helen Fisher: http://www.helenfisher.com/
    Fun fact: She is the chief scientific adviser for Chemistry.com.

    Anyway, two cents on the actual topic: Pet ownership is a big deal, and as crazy as I am about cats, I understand why Bear was all, WHAT THE WHAT? (And, yo, brain parasite mania aside: For real, cats can be HELLA smelly).

    Anyway, this could be a good opportunity to talk to him about other types of pets that you guys could have. What about a dog? Is it a no-pet household? What if you promised to do all the dirty work? Is this just a for-now no pets thing, or a for-always? What if you promised to always consult him on these matters in the future?

    If it’s all moot, though, and the cat must go…I might know a good couple that would happily adopt the cat, so let me know and I’ll reach out to them.


  16. Marie responded on 20 Sep 2011 at 3:08 pm #

    Sorry all, but I have to disagree. I would be absolutely furious if my husband brought home an animal, any animal, and then laid on the guilt trip about keeping it. Forcing your partner to be the bad guy over a living creature is not cool.

    I love this blog and from what you write, you really seem like an absolutely awesome woman. And you’re even self aware enough to note that you see how you’re at fault in this situation. But who wouldn’t fall in love with a cat, right?

    You know Bear a lot better than anyone else. Try to read his feelings and make sure that the cat is really “growing on him” and that he’s just not giving in. That’s where resentment comes from. Do you really want him to resent you over a cat who could be a living reminder in your home for a decade or more?

    This will also give him a precedent to do something life changing without consulting or asking your approval. Has he been asking about tattoos or a new car? This might be his ticket! ;-)

  17. Beauzeaux responded on 20 Sep 2011 at 3:10 pm #

    Here’s my hubby’s philosophy (you can pass it along to Bear if you choose).

    If you’re eventually going to lose, why not be the Good Guy and agree at the beginning?

    Now he’s pretty good at figuring out which battles to NOT fight. We’ve been married almost 25 years. We’re not “passionately in love” (too exhausting) but I would say we’re “passionately attached.” He’s been out of town since Friday and I’m SO looking forward to him coming home tonight.

  18. Kate responded on 20 Sep 2011 at 3:29 pm #

    Helen Fisher!! And I’m kinda sorry I was a little mean to her in this post, because I actually think she rocks. I was just playin’ :-)

    Thanks for the heads up about the couple you know. That’s reassuring. They would have to promise to love her nose a lot, though. And I’m not quite ready to give up yet. But we’ll see…

  19. Kate responded on 20 Sep 2011 at 3:33 pm #

    Thanks for answering!

  20. Kate responded on 20 Sep 2011 at 3:35 pm #

    I hear you! I was trying to think about how I’d feel if he sprang something big on me, and I’m honestly not positive how I’d react. So I think you’re right.

    At the same time, I definitely do have to feel the situation out and see how committed to his stance he is. I think he was also just frustrated that I didn’t ask him, and it’s hard to tell how much that frustration is informing his reaction to the cat.

  21. Marie Coons responded on 20 Sep 2011 at 3:42 pm #

    @Kate and the woman that knows portuguese:
    the name Minette came from my moms cat when she was a little girl…from switzerland so, dirty or not…its a french name.

    sorry kate – i had no idea this was happening with you and Bear… : (

  22. Kate responded on 20 Sep 2011 at 3:51 pm #

    Thanks for clarifying, although I don’t think it’d be a big deal if the name meant something dirty :-)

    Don’t be sorry at all!! It’ll work out. She’s a very charming little thing…

    P.S. Didn’t know you read my blog! This happens to me sometimes…Hope I didn’t make you feel too awkward!

  23. Marie Coons responded on 20 Sep 2011 at 4:09 pm #

    not awkward – just heartbreaking – i just felt bad for all 3 of you. forget fantasy – you should be writing fatalistic love stories.

  24. bets responded on 20 Sep 2011 at 4:20 pm #

    Nice to see a post about the not-so-sunny side of married life for once! You mean Bear can actually get annoyed? ;) It seems like you two have a really healthy way of getting through disagreements. I’ll be interested to see what happens!

  25. Marc Sapir responded on 20 Sep 2011 at 5:03 pm #

    KATE: Of course we really hope you keep that lovely creature but you’ll sort through it with Bear.
    BTW: We already had her scanned for microchips and there isn’t one. Some fool let an amazing cat get away.

  26. Kate responded on 20 Sep 2011 at 5:23 pm #

    Oh, glad to hear it!

    And Marie– don’t be too heartbroken yet, please! Or ever!

  27. bethany actually responded on 20 Sep 2011 at 5:36 pm #

    I’m with Marie; even though I am decidedly a cat person and I would want to keep the cat too, it’s dangerous territory to be guilting one’s partner into doing anything that has long-term responsibilities and consequences attached to it. But it sounds like you are smart enough to know that, so I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir here.

    Minette looks like a sweet kitty. I had a yellow tabby who looked just like her once. Her name was Sunshine, and she loooooved me. She hated everyone else, though. My family’s nickname for her was Monster Kitty. Ha! :-P

  28. Laurie S. responded on 20 Sep 2011 at 5:55 pm #

    Cat = adorable and lovely. I do love a ginger kitty.

    Crackling = Cereal making noises doesn’t disconcert me as much as Splenda fizzing in coffee. Sugar shouldn’t fizz. My coffee shouldn’t be fizzy. It’s weird. I avoid it.

    You’re post is really interesting! My only regret is that I don’t have anything more intelligent to say other than “kitty pretty! fizzy coffee?” Oh well. Next time?

  29. Janice Hiple responded on 20 Sep 2011 at 6:46 pm #

    Whatever happens-please do not bring this cat to the ACC of New York! It will get sick and be killed VERY quickly.
    You might already have immunity to Toxoplasmosis since you have had outdoor cats in the past.
    Of course I had to comment on the cat column!

  30. Janice Hiple responded on 20 Sep 2011 at 6:51 pm #

    The BEST cat litter is Nature’s Miracle- it uses enzymes to combat odor. Clean the litter box twice a day- minimal to no odor.
    You can get a blood test to determine if you have antibodies to Toxoplasmosis.
    Enjoy your kitty!

  31. Helen responded on 20 Sep 2011 at 7:05 pm #

    You should know that toxoplasmosis is only a huge issue if you are pregnant when you get infected. Get infected beforehand, not a big deal. Get infected while pregnant (or otherwise immunocompromised) THEN yes, it’s a huge bleeping scary deal.

  32. claire responded on 20 Sep 2011 at 8:01 pm #

    I was enjoying those cute photos of the kitten, and of course cannot take a stance on who is right or wrong, because in my mind you are both perfect people, and I am sure you will figure it out. I still will help you if that is necessary. LOL

  33. Sarah responded on 20 Sep 2011 at 10:03 pm #

    I definitely second what was said about getting her scanned for a microchip!
    Also, when it comes to toxoplasmosis, if you end up keeping her you can have her tested for that. If it comes back negative, then you have nothing to worry about. If it comes back positive, then if you get pregnant you could either just have Bear handle litter-related duties or you could wash your hands extra well after handling the litter (or wear rubber gloves). So many pregnant women are scared into giving up their cats when it’s unnecessary and based on outdated information. Side note: other common exposures to toxoplasmosis are from gardening or from handling/eating raw meat. So if the issue is that Bear doesn’t want a pet, that’s one thing. But please don’t let fears of toxoplasmosis be the deciding factor.

  34. Sarah responded on 20 Sep 2011 at 10:04 pm #

    Also, cheers to you for taking in an animal in need :)

  35. Claire Allison responded on 20 Sep 2011 at 10:32 pm #

    Get a litter box with a hooded roof, a high ledge they have to walk over and a door flap. Does a lot to keep in the smell and stop them from tracking litter around. Trust me- I owned the world’s most vindictive cat until four months ago. Also: get a water gun to spray her with when she gets into thing.

  36. lindsay responded on 21 Sep 2011 at 7:58 am #

    Naming a cat is so fun, unless you make the mistake I did when I got my little bean. I got her when I was dating my now husband, and we were talking about names. He’s German, and has a sneaky, silly sense of humor, and suggested the name ‘Muschi’. If you don’t speak German, let’s just say that Muschi is a fun bit of (ironic) slang. I took him seriously (but now know better) and that became her name…for a week. After I found out what it meant, I went nuts for a moment, then did some googlefu and found out that Mushi, without the ‘c’, is actually a kind of Japanese earth being. So, she got to keep her name, I have a fun story, and we never call her anything but “the cat” around his relatives :P

  37. dsquared responded on 21 Sep 2011 at 8:55 am #

    I’m not sure Bear should win any points with his “You didn’t ask me defense.” Had you gone out on a mission to bring a pet home (without consulting him first) that would be one thing; but the reality is you made a spur of the moment decision based on it being a temporary situation. (I think every married person should have the freedom to make individual, small choices- albiet within reason…no life or death situations apply.) I am very pro-rescue so I see what you did as the right thing to do. Now, the decision needs to be made together as to whether to keep her or not. At this point, I think you guys should decide what is best for the kitty. Good luck!

  38. Chairman Meow responded on 21 Sep 2011 at 10:23 am #

    KEEP THE CAT. “Bear” will adjust. As for the litter issue, don’t use any hippie shit. Use Arm + Hammer unscented and scoop on the daily. People who think cats stink probs only know the smell of a cat that isn’t taken care of very well. As for the toxoplasmosis issue, he needs to do some research.

  39. midnightsky responded on 21 Sep 2011 at 10:27 am #

    Longtime cat owner here! Most of the issues Bear has brought up can be addressed.

    Toxoplasmosis really isn’t the end of the world. A whole lot of humanity has it, and most of the time nothing at all ever happens to you. No, you don’t lose your mind or whatever; humans aren’t the usual part of the mind-altering chain (it goes from mice to cats and back, I believe). You’re not going to become a zombie or suddenly adore the smell of cat urine (which is what it does to mice, so they travel near cats).

    Also, so long as you practice good hygiene after cleaning the cat’s litter box, you won’t get it. Bonus points if you never touch anything that digs in the litter; my family just has bags we wrap around the box and then invert, rather than scooping.

    For litter smells, there are deodorants you can sprinkle over the litter, or you can try different types of litter until you find what works for your cat. Some cats are also smellier than others. And if you don’t let her get into things, or go outside, most cats never pick up a funk on their skin. Put the litter box somewhere that isn’t in the main house and that doesn’t get too much air flow into the rest of the building (laundry rooms work great).

    A less fixable problem here may be the cat clawing on things; unless you can teach her to use a scratching post, you’re a bit out of luck. You can try squirt bottles to discourage her, but cats are pretty good at figuring out that if you’re not around, they can do whatever they want.

  40. melissa responded on 21 Sep 2011 at 11:38 am #

    haha I’m with someone who is luckily pretty similar to me, but also very different. I don’t think we EVER had that “passionate love” stuff, and maybe that’s why six years later everything is pretty much the same around here.

    Sometimes it’s the little battles that keep everything fresh. We don’t do the whole “storming out, go to bed angry” thing which really helps.

    Bear will probably come around! I know a guy whose mum took in a stray cat. He was bewildered and always talked about how stupid it was, how untrainable it would be and how much he hated cats.

    After a few petsitting trips, he called me up to ask if the cat might like to go into the house as it had just started raining, and if I would wander all the way down there just to check on it.

    Oh hey, if the cat is still fairly young, those cardboard scratching pads are really nifty. I have one stray-turned-pet that took to it right away and didn’t scratch anything else.

    Though my 7-year-old-adoptee won’t even acknowledge its existence.

  41. Kate responded on 21 Sep 2011 at 1:15 pm #

    She likes her really cheap cardboard scratching post! and she seems to know to use it, rather than the couch. I’m very impressed, actually.

  42. Annie responded on 21 Sep 2011 at 4:33 pm #

    I found a tiny kitty on the street almost exactly 3 years ago. My boyfriend’s first words to me were, “Put it back.” I refused, of course, and after just 2 weeks he was in so in love with her it was as if he was the one who had found her. To this day I think she likes him better than me. Stupid cats! Bear will come around, men actually love kittens deep down inside.

  43. Amy responded on 12 Oct 2011 at 10:19 am #

    My husband went to Rutgers, earned his undergrad, Master’s and PhD there.

    Even after twelve years of being together I look at my husband and think “We used to be so compatible! What the hell happened! How can we be so different…how can you not want the things I want?! (and vice-versa.)”

    And that goes for lots of things, including how we spend our money, free time, what constitutes a fun vacation, how we rear the children, how many children we have (apparently we are done, according to him…I guess he gets the final say *grumble*), etc.


    Ten years ago my coworker’s cat had kittens and he was giving them away. Luckily, my husband loves cats and he agreed we could get one. So we drove out to this guy’s cabin the woods of Otis, Maine to look at a litter of part maine coon kittens. My husband picked up a picture-perfect cream colored long haired kitty and said “This one’s cute…” but in a strange fit of red-headed solidarity I snatched up the long-haired orange one and said “I WANT HER!”

    My poor husband, who has lived with other cats in his life, got scratched by the new kitty and developed “Cat Scratch Fever”. Yeah…it’s not just a song! It’s real! The lymph nodes on the side of neck and under his arms swelled up painfully and he took antibiotics for weeks. Poor guy. I was immune, but my unlucky, rare-flower/precious-snowflake of a husband came down with it.

    When I was pregnant, litterbox duty became his job and I don’t recall him complaining too badly.

    Nina the cat is the meanest, snobbiest feline you have ever met. My husband and I aren’t allowed to touch her if we want to keep our fingers attached to our bodies. But…she adores my two young daughters (ages 8 & 6.) She sits between them on the mudroom bench in the mornings as they put on their shoes. Most nights you’ll find her sleeping on my 6 yr-old’s pillow. It grosses me out because, as much as they clean themselves…ick…get your stanky cat ass off my kid’s pillow please! I lift her off the pillow, she wails at me, and then she sneaks back in when I go to sleep.

    A year ago my husband and I made the mistake of visiting a local shelter with our kids to, and I quote, “just have a look around.” My husbad said “We are NOT getting another animal!”

    You know damn well we did though. My husband was drawn to a pretty diluted tortoiseshell cat named Emma. We played with her for a bit and then went home and tried (not hard enough) to talk ourselves out of going back to get her.

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