Carolyn Hax: Evicting the cat so the boyfriend can move in? Maybe not.

Hello Carolyn: I’ve had my cat since middle school (almost 10 years). I’ve been dating my boyfriend for two years, I love him more than I’ve ever loved anyone, and we’d love to move in together.

My boyfriend hates cats. Hated their. He’s not allergic (although he used to say he was, until I insisted on a test). He has a strong dislike for them, probably from his family, who have some sort of belief that they are bad or unclean. I sought to understand it, but I could never get a coherent explanation from any of them.

He jumps when the cat is in the room. And my cat is extremely affectionate so can’t understand why he can’t come sit with us and be friends.

My boyfriend is offended, I won’t give up the cat so he can move in. I suggested compromises like keeping the cat in one part of the apartment, but he insists he needs the cat outside.

I think the cat was here first, so that’s an unreasonable request. My boyfriend thinks if I really love him, nothing should outweigh his move in, and he now says my hesitation is causing him to question the foundation of the whole relationship.

I can’t imagine bringing my cat home. I also can’t imagine ending my relationship. Am I being unreasonable or is it him?

S.: “Team chat. No question. And I don’t like cats. This opened up my first draft of this answer. But it bothered me: it’s a person, not a Kleenex, and you’re gutted to have to separate you from a deep love of two or 10 years. I owe you a better answer. So I sat with it for a while. (And my dogs.)

Some people like us better in our context, among our own people, our pets, our quirks and our old furniture. Some people like us better out of our context and in theirs, with everyone and everything. It’s an oversimplification, but it hits a core tension in some couples who truly love each other, but both feel drained, uncomfortable, unsupported.

If the pair are both invested in overcoming the initial discomfort in order to create an environment together that works for both of them – and strong enough to recognize and break through a deadlock – then it’s worth trying to make it work.

It could be the two of you, except you tried to figure it out and offered compromises (unrealistic, perhaps, involving cat-free zones, but still) – while he chased the cat, lied about an allergy, then, once arrested, settled on emotional blackmail: if you “really love him then” blah blah and “make him question…the whole relationship.”

So reasonable or not- is the wrong standard.

You both want to live by your own definitions of comfort, reasonably — and you don’t have to live by someone else’s just because it’s “reasonable.”

The norm for each of you is internal and concerns you only: is a particular accommodation for someone else comfortable or not? Is it healthy for you or not? Could you live with the choice peacefully forever, or not? Cat, dog, city, faith, children – it could be anything.

The cat is a furry decoy, distracting you from the big mistake you’re about to make: thinking about your relationship in terms of what you owe the other person. All you owe someone is to be yourself. Respect others; be you.

It’s on him asking your own questions about living with that real you. It is up to him to take on the work of living with his own answers.

To you, taking responsibility for their feelings through your actions probably seems normal for a couple: “Should I prioritize my cat over my partner?” Of course not, obviously. But what it really does is shift the basis of your decision to someone else’s emotional needs, someone else’s comfort, while removing your own appeal. The more he insists, the more “you” fade away.

THE question when you commit to someone is whether the relationship meets your need enough to you be yourself in it, comfortable as it is, considering all that you earn and surrender in the market, and why. (That’s why allergies and consistency are important.)

This is not selfishness or a right; it is self-knowledge so that you can meet freely rather than with hidden and unsorted baggage.

When you succumb to the pressure, believing that you owe the other person to change, old desires survive within you. It prepares you both – yes, him too – to face an awkward crisis and the daily struggle to get along.

You both want each other in your own context. It happens. But he waits it’s up to you to choose hers over yours, to serve her feelings with no apparent regard for yours (or the cat’s).

Don’t. Not without careful reflection on life with someone who assumes primacy. And who would want you to send your mate to the curb, locked in a box with the rest of your background, so you can live with them on their terms.