My ‘Puppy Training’ theory for relationships


Taking my son to the station early this morning for him to catch the train to school I suddenly decided not to return home directly but to carry on to a nearby small town with a huge range of coffee shops to have breakfast. I phoned my husband, who runs his own business from home, to tell him my plans.

I have long since learnt that there is no point in asking my husband if he wants to take part in spontaneous activities like this. Invariably he will just use it as an excuse for telling me how busy he is, which is just a boring conversation. The implication being that I’m not busy. I think my husband fails to understand the artistic temperament of the writer or artist. Much work can be done in a coffee shop when your most important tool is your imagination and your ears. Sometimes I take my computer and do what he would recognise as work, but sometimes I sit and eat breakfast, read a paper, think deep thoughts, think superficial thoughts, or listen into other people’s conversations and work out how I can stitch those into my own writing.  This morning I read a great review of a play in a newspaper and booked tickets for it while sipping my green tea.

A great breakfast – but not the one I had today!

Anyway, I have found that inviting my husband to join me is counter productive but he will often come along under his own steam if I don’t issue an invite. So I just phoned him, as a courtesy, to say I’m off out for breakfast so don’t expect me back soon. It’s as though by not inviting him I am showing him that I can enjoy life on my own and indeed might actually enjoy my own company more. He then starts to think I’m having fun without him and almost inevitably he will call back to check where I am and soon he will turn up to take the empty seat across from me.

This sort of falls in with the ‘puppy training’ advice I often give to friends who are having trouble in their relationship with their partner. I explain to them my theory that dealing with an errant partner is like training a puppy. If the puppy starts to run away the worst thing you can do Is chase after it. No, that won’t work at all. The puppy thinks being chased is a great game and will run all the faster. However, if you ignore the puppy and begin to do exciting things on your own the puppy will immediately think he is missing out on something and return to investigate. So my theory is that if your partner is behaving like this fictional puppy you should get yourself something interesting in your life, assuming you want the ‘puppy’ to return.

Oops, where is that puppy?

However, I was extolling my theory to a group of friends recently and the only male in the group was adamant my ‘puppy training’ theory wouldn’t work with him. If he was running off and his partner started to look as though she didn’t really mind and was, in fact getting on with her own life, he would just be grateful and continue on his way. So much for my puppy training theory if we can believe what my friend said. I’m not so sure.  Anyway, all I can complain about with my husband is that he likes to tell me how busy he is but if I don’t comment negatively he will invariably come round to having a bit of time for a coffee and a chat after all.

Today my trawl of interesting conversational gems was quite low. I was surprised to find that this cafe seemed to be mostly the haunt of men. Well-to-do men who were on their way to golf lessons, men who were organising meet ups to watch sport on TV, men who were having informal business meetings, one with a three-year-old daughter in tow. There was a guy at the next table, obviously networking, who had just turned down venture capital investment in his new business. Seemed a little unlikely. The guy he was meeting with, the one with the three-year-old, didn’t seem to buy his story either – but he could just have been a bit distracted by the fact that his daughter needed the straw putting in her juice carton. Children can be so persistent, can’t they?

So my advice would be if you want your partner to join you for a coffee don’t ask them. But I think the jury is out on the effectiveness of my ‘puppy training’ theory in preventing the collapse of relationships.

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