If you think you鈥檙e ready to take your relationship to the next level, the 鈥渘ext big step鈥 could be as simple as having a DTR (determining the relationship) talk or as exciting as moving into an apartment together. But if you鈥檝e always been a cat lady or just love giving dogs hugs, you may have something else in mind that can be even longer-term than signing a lease: getting a pet with your S.O. We spoke with relationship expert Erik Newton of Together, an online magazine and podcast all about the complicated and wonderful world of relationships, to find out the four main topics you and bae should consider 鈥 and agree on 鈥 before you buy that adorable pooch together.

pets

1. Splitting Up the Responsibility: 鈥淧ets always seem to raise the issue of time for couples,鈥 Erik points out. 鈥淯sually, both people feel like they鈥檙e doing more pet care than the other, and resentment builds up. So the first thing to consider is whether you each have the time to devote to pet care. Then talk about who is going to be responsible for what, so that everyone agrees up front. But don鈥檛 be surprised if once the pet arrives, all your careful plans go out the window.鈥 Then, work through the new scenario鈥 together.

pets3

2. Sharing Pet-Related Expenses: From the basics, like food and toys, to daycare while you鈥檙e on vacay and unforeseeable illnesses, pets cost A LOT of money 鈥 probably more than you even expect. And we all know money can be an uncomfortable topic, but you gotta do it if you鈥檙e getting a pet together. 鈥淛ust as with time management, couples should first make sure they can afford a pet, and then discuss how they鈥檙e sharing costs,鈥 Erik advises. 鈥淚f the couple has joint finances, they should discuss which pet-related expenses are appropriate and which are not.鈥

3. Official Ownership鈥 Just in Case: Erik acknowledges that this discussion might be a little dark, but necessary. 鈥淐ouples might want to discuss ownership in case of a breakup. Pets are considered personal property by the law, and when there鈥檚 a dispute as to custody, courts give the pet to whichever person paid for it,鈥 he points out. 鈥淭o avoid that anguish, it鈥檚 best to have an agreement up front.鈥

pets2

4. Being Devoted to Bonding and Training Time: 鈥淐losely related to the time issue is bonding and training,鈥 says Erik. 鈥淧ets need a lot of extra time up front in order to adjust to their new home. Couples should make sure they can devote that early on, or the pet may end up chronically misbehaving.鈥 Read: Pets are a lot of work. If you aren鈥檛 sure you鈥檙e ready, try pet-sitting for a friend to really find out if you can meet all of the demands of a sweet little (potentially destructive and needy) puppy or cat.

The bottom line: 鈥淚f these discussions are too hard, then the couple probably isn鈥檛 ready,鈥 Erik says.

Have you and your S.O. gotten a pet together recently? Tweet us how it鈥檚 going @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)