Stuffed animal anyone? Not shown: killer teeth.

We recently adopted a puppy.

Barry is the cutest thing in the universe. He’s got huge eyes, his coat is composed diaphanous angel hair, his huge paws are soft and cuddly, his markings are suave and tasteful, and he has an aloof tuft of hair right between the eyes. He waddles, pounces, rolls, poses, and generally tricks us into thinking he’s a stuffed animal cartoon.

Barry also nibbles on everything in sight, needs to go outside every 30-60 minutes, doesn’t always sleep through the night, digs holes, kills plants and power cords, and–as I write this–is whining in his pen five feet away from me while I take a break from hand-chewing.

I’m hardly unusual. Billions of people this year will have a baby, care for a relative, adopt a dog or cat, or invite a semi-Satanic figure into their home. These experiences can be life-changingly wonderful (though to be honest, there’s little hope for the semi-Satanic figure).

They’re also guaranteed to upend business as usual, at least for a little while. Routines and patterns shift, new habits form, nerves fray, and your relationship will undoubtedly ride rocky seas.

These transitions (or, in many cases, nuclear explosions) are ideal opportunities to revisit your User Manual.

First, it’s important to follow your existing User Manual closely. Remember the daily doses of love your partner needs, and re-acquaint yourself with the right way to venture into the danger zone. Quit the drifting and make this a priority. With a demon lurking over our souls, going back to basics is vital.

Second, create new ground rules for your situation. These points aren’t necessarily User Manual instructions because they don’t focus on your partner and the relationships; instead, the focus is on managing the new force in your life.

For example: Katia works from home, while I escape every day. So she sees Barry for a good 10 hours straight while I’m off around human beings and holding meetings and not lifeguarding the dining room table chairs. Our ground rules are pretty common sense: I handle the middle of the night yard-wanders, the early-morning yard-wander (now), and evening playtime (fun!). And Katia does the big chunk in the middle of the day.

Some people prefer to leave this ground rules loosey goosey–that’s fine. Just cook up a system of sorts that works for you–and addresses the new force in your life.

Lastly, after living this new reality for a while–a few weeks to a few months–revisit your User Manual. Systems will have shifted and new things will matter while other former priorities will seem achingly obsolete.

For example, I’ve discovered that very little makes me laugh as hard as running in circles with Barry. I need that every day. But I also need dog-free time with Katia at least twice a week, to feel like adults and partners, not just puppy parents. (I’ve heard this sentiment echoed with dozens of parents, and pretty much every expert urges making time for the relationship.)

Hardly groundbreaking stuff. But critical.

In conclusion: when a big life change happens, give it time to gestate and reset, then change your User Manual too.

Now, for what you really read on for: Barry pics!

Upside-down Barry
Mama’s boy Barry
Massage-chair Barry
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