“Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate”- Aland D. Wolfelt
Consider this scenario: You have been dating a person for a considerable amount of time and decide to move in together. The chemistry is strong, you’re both happy, but you find that every day, you’re ordering out. Your partner eats a certain way, and you have your own culinary preferences. You are never sure what to cook for each other and are nervous about disappointing your partner. Resorting to sushi or Chipotle becomes unaffordable when you’re placing orders through food delivery apps every day for dinner. The expenses add up and it leads to arguments.
Have you ever been in this situation?
Sharing a living space can be stressful and trusting your partner with access to your dietary needs and cravings can be difficult. According to Angela Sadlier at SWNS Digital, the average couple argues 156 times per year over what food to order. When couples spend an abundance of time arguing 3 times per week, it can impact the rest of their relationship and hinder their romantic connection.
Preventing Food Fights
When thinking about a resolve to these issues, consider the following:
1. Use empathy
Empathy is the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes. If your partner works long hours or experiences a lot of stress at work, it is crucial to empathize by using verbal and nonverbal communication skills. Consider primary emotions, which can often be masked with anger or frustration when having serious conversations about food choices. Practice speaking with a neutral tone and remove blame from the emotional menu. Validating your partner’s thoughts and feelings builds a greater platform for problem solving.
2. Provide validation and express appreciation
Positive affirmations and acknowledgment of your partners strengths and efforts can speak volumes. Be sure to compliment more often than criticize, especially if you notice your partner putting a lot of effort into planning a date night or preparing a meal. Listen attentively and take note when your partner mentions a new cuisine that they would like to try. Ask questions about their day and express interest in their lives outside of home while you are preparing meals together. Be mindful that validating does not equal agreeing with your partner, but it more importantly shows concern, care, and interest in their feelings. Show them that you genuinely understand through acknowledgment.
3. Communicate assertively by using I statements
Constructing an I statement is a skill used to communicate your honest feelings in a nonaggressive manner. This provides the listener with a broader understanding of your wants and needs. The speaker takes accountability for their own feelings rather than blaming the other person. The Workbook Managing Our Anger Managing Our Lives does a great job explaining how to use I Statements. Refer to image below:
4. Set boundaries
Fear of conflict is a common reason that people have a difficult time setting boundaries, however, having clear and reasonable boundaries can help resolve many issues between partners. Naturally, different people have different food preferences. Perhaps you or your partner find yourselves ordering Chinese takeout on multiple occasions throughout the week because you are afraid of arguing over what to cook for dinner. If you or your partner find that there are an abundance of differences that cause conflict, it could be helpful to exercise setting boundaries. This could be done by creating a grocery list, setting a limit on the amount of times to order out during the week, and budgeting for each of you to have an equal amount of money for your own foods. Always take the opportunity to respect boundaries by abiding by the agreement.
Open yourself up to meeting halfway with your partner on disagreements. Creating a plan that allows both of you to share a comfortable dining experience can be executive through constructing a food calendar for the week. Plan each day by considering finances, food preferences, and health. This can be done on a weekly basis to ensure that meals are sufficient and not repetitive. Both of you should be able to make your cake and eat it too! Create a list of foods that you both enjoy and hang it with a magnet on your refrigerator as a reminder.
Many times, arguments between partners derive from unmet needs, or feeling a lack of consideration. It is imperative to make your partner feel appreciated and valued to maintain a healthy bond. To have a conversation about a plan to create a balanced, enjoyable food plan for the week can be a valuable learning experience that can sweeten the relationship. Don’t be afraid to spice things up! Make an objective to try new types of foods with your partner and perhaps find new enjoyable things that satisfy both of you.
A healthy bonding experience could also include meal prepping for the week, which could also reduce the time it takes to prepare meals. Delegating roles in the kitchen could potentially help a couple become the perfect blend. Be sure to compliment your partner when they are helpful or have an appetizing idea.
Sadlier also states “It takes the average couple 17 minutes of deliberation to finally make a decision where dinner is coming from but 16% will take 30 minutes or more.” Deciding which food to prepare or order could become a recipe for disaster if it escalates to an argument. Luckily, there are plenty of smartphone apps that assist in the decision-making process. Mealtime, Make My Plate, Plan to Eat, and PlateJoy are a few incredibly helpful apps that suggest customizable meal plans that you can personalize to your diet. They also allow you to exclude any foods that you dislike or are unable to have. Always try to be considerate of your other person’s favorites and reserve a day once per month to treat them to something special.
Don’t Let Your Relationship Spoil
It is often overlooked how impactful food can be in a relationship. However, it is one of the most important things that make us feel valued, respected, cared for, and satisfied. Food can create comfort and bring together a home.
A tip that I would like to share, especially for individuals who prepare food for their significant other for the week who may be working during dinner hours. Express love and admiration in other ways to show that you care. Sometimes, even a small gesture, such as ordering food to send to their job or including a note expressing love and gratitude on a napkin could show that little bit of care that could go a long way.
Lifestyle adjustments require patience, accommodation, enjoyment, trust, and consideration. Learning this aspect of love is a sure way to add the right seasonings to your relationship.
By Mike Giannino