Forget “crazy” cat lady. Having a cat can be the smartest thing you do for your love life, because they’re the ideal dating mentor.
In dating, we’re all either Dogs or Cats. Not in preference, but in personality.
Dogs: tactile, enthusiastic, emotional, malleable.
Cats: aloof, poised, independent, groomed.
In long-term relationships, Dogs are the best partners. Think of the faithful companion, sticking with you (doggedly) through life’s ups and downs. They’ll eat whatever you eat. They’ll joyfully accompany you on any adventure or just sit for hours in the pub. They’re even so loyal that statues have been erected to their devotion.
Now think of a cat.
Cats sound cold, but they can be better at managing the ups and downs of early dating because they’re poised, self-preserving, and composed. In the first couple of months, the more Cat you can be, the better.
Cat love lesson 1: Ignore setbacks
Have you ever seen a cat fall off a wall? Instead of getting embarrassed, flustered or panicked, they simply act like it never happened.
Fall. Shake. Move on.
From now on, that’s you, in any kind of minor (or even major) dating situation. It works for everything.
Date doesn’t reply to your last message? (A cat would never send any messages anyway, but we’ll start where we are.) Be more Cat. Don’t try to attract your date’s attention by sending more messages. Stretch, then go out until 3am.
Date asks you a rude or intrusively personal question early on? Don’t try to think of a witty comeback. Just pretend you have only 16 facial muscles, and most of those control yawning.
Accidentally say “I love you” during a call? No, you didn’t. And that’s the end of it.
Cat love lesson 2: Self care
Cats spend 15% of their time on grooming. In 24 hours, that’s around 3.5 hours. How long do you spend? If you’ve fallen into a slump and have been dodging the bath, you’ve gone Dog.
Don’t make self-care something you do in a hasty panic before a date. Make it part of your daily routine. Cats don’t groom themselves only before they hit the catflap for a night out; they do it every day, for themselves.
From now on, that’s you.
Find ways to comfort and soothe yourself every day. Nap, stretch, rest.
Find easy ways to pamper yourself that you can do wherever you are. Get a great-smelling hand lotion and when you’re on a break at work, rub it in. Brush your hair, right down to the roots. Keep your favourite lip balm on your desk.
Self-care tells yourself that you’re lovable and important, exactly as you are right now. Don’t put off taking care of yourself until you’ve lost weight, have a partner, or just have somewhere to go. Make it part of your day. If you can’t manage 3.5 hours, could you try 35 minutes?
Cat love lesson 3: Trust
When I started writing this, my cat was asleep on the bed at my feet. But after about 10 minutes, she woke up, stretched, and went to walk out of the room.
Only, I’d shut the door. Tight. She couldn’t get out.
As research, I just watched to see what she’d do. Would she miaow? Come and sit on me with a pointed look? Climb out of the window?
No. She just sat down in front of the door, and stared at it.
That’s all. She just looked at the door.
Now, she knows she can’t open it with just the power of her mind (I’m pretty sure?) but she also knows that I love her and that I’ll try to make her happy. She knows that all she has to do is signal her needs and that I’ll try to accommodate them. She trusts me.
When you’ve been dating for a while, it’s easy to lose that kind of trust.
When you’ve been let down or stood up, it’s easy to assume that just signalling what will make you happy won’t do you any good.
You start to feel you have to fight for what you want. Demand better treatment. Sit on someone’s face just to get breakfast in the morning. (OK, that one was a bit too Cat.)
But being loud or demanding about your needs doesn’t signal strength; it shows how scared you are that you’ll never get what you want.
It also signals that you’ve forgotten you are powerful, you are strong, and you have options.
My cat can wait patiently by the door because she knows I’m a fool for her every whim — but also because she knows she can cope without me. It’s easier for her if I open the door, but if I don’t, she can survive the long jump down to the garden.
She likes that she can gaze at the cupboard where we keep her cat food until we crack and get her yet another pouch… But she also knows that if we stopped feeding her, she could hunt her own food or just leave and find someone more attentive. She probably has several of our neighbours in reserve already.
In dating, that should be you. At the beginning.
Trust that people want to do what’s right for you, without your having to make a big fuss about it. And know you can cope if they don’t.
Cat love lessons: a recap
Early on, in those first 2 or 3 anxious months, keep your Dog on a leash and channel your badass Cat self:
- Ignore setbacks – don’t dwell.
- Self-care like it’s your job.
- Trust you’ll be treated nicely, but know you’ll be fine if you’re not.