Steven Lake expounds on the unexpected virtues of dining out with your loved one. It can be a relationship saver.
Gourmand, gustatory, gourmet, and foodie are all terms those who are trying to feel superior bandy about with insouciant charm. But really, it is all about eating good food. And good food is best eaten with friends and lovers. Eating is a special treat if someone is a good cook. Eating out however, has a number of advantages that contribute, not only to satisfying the palate, but for improving the quality of your relationship.
I started eating out regularly when touring with acting companies almost four decades ago. It is a habit that has continued with me to this day. Like most North Americans, I eat out at least one meal a day.
My wife and I enjoy eating out and we especially enjoy what happens when we are conscious about the process. Eating in and of itself is pleasurable and sharing food with someone is a social process. We get to talk, laugh, and discuss life, the world, and the food we are consuming.
When I say conscious eating I am not talking about focusing on the food, how we chew, and savoring the tastes, though that is not a bad practice. I am referring to the opportunity to connect and relate through eating.
For us, eating has become a special time because it enhances our relationship. Here’s how:
1. It gives us face time – literally.
As my wife says, we get to look at each other for an extended period of time. In our busy lives this is a rarity. It is almost as if the only opportunity to sit down and talk without interruption is when having a meal together. Now, you could ask, would this not be possible while eating at home?
Yes it is possible, but we notice when dining in we often eat while watching a favorite movie or a show on the TV. This is not good for conversation or intimacy. Sad but true.
Going out forces us (in a good way) to connect. That said, I have seen many couples eating out who don’t say a word to each other. Eating out in and of itself is not a guarantee for connection. You can eat out and be lost in your own world.
Another challenge is the ubiquitous large TV screens plastered on the walls of many restaurants these days. This constant visual stimulation can be a major distraction, especially when broadcasting your favorite sports game.
Knowing how easily distracted I am, I strategically sit myself with my back to the screen(s) whenever possible. And it is not always possible as the screens are all over the place.
When focused and looking at my partner, I have the opportunity to be with her. This is not always comfortable as I may have work on my mind or some other distracting thoughts. Sitting opposite my wife allows me to drop my everyday concerns and focus on us. Even if it is us just eating a meal together.
2. We are sharing a pleasurable activity together.
I find the more pleasurable activities I share with my wife, the more positive associations are created and the more I want to spend time with her. This is positive reinforcement at its best.
This reinforcement is compounded by good food. One could say that good food, enjoyable conversation, and positive feeling derived from the experience reinforces, not only going out again, but the relationship itself.
Going out for dinner has become a special time, not just a functional time (fill my belly). We look forward to going out for the pleasure of the experience. Improving the relationship is an appreciated by-product.
3. It is an opportunity to be romantic.
This is good for me as I am not very romantic by nature. Going out for dinner puts a sparkle in my wife’s eye and I have learned it is something special for her. She likes being treated, she gets dressed up, and her mood is elevated. Over the years I have learned to listen to these signals and treat going out to dinner with respect. Put bluntly, this is a date. And if I have any brains in my head I should treat it as such.
If you have kids, setting up a meal out just for the two of you is critical to supporting the romantic aspect of the relationship. It is also a much needed break from the kids and an opportunity to re-connect as lovers not just as parents. If you are without kids, or they have left home, dining out is an opportunity or a reminder to see your partner for more than just the person you live with.
The candle at your table is a metaphor about bringing the light/spark/brightness back into your relationship.
4. It is a time to appreciate your partner.
Dining out gives a couple time to look at each other, to gaze into the eyes of your partner and see them as they are today, not how they used to be, but as they are now. Whether it is a short time or a long time you have been together there is another soul opposite you who is changing through time as are you. Whether it is your appearance, your beliefs, or your relationship, sitting opposite your partner allows you unfettered access to their inner being if you are willing to look.
This opportunity is usually taken up in the beginning of a relationship yet there is no reason to stop and many reasons to continue. Everyone likes to be appreciated for who they are. Seeing and appreciating your partner enhances the relationship by increasing the positive energy between you and your loved one. Such a simple thing to do, but when was the last time you did this?
5. A time for intimacy.
Spending time with someone, sharing a mutually satisfying activity, being romantic, and appreciating the other, creates and harbors a sense of intimacy, being cared for, and loved. Most people crave these feelings and experiences.
Some people may find it awkward and uncomfortable to gaze into the eyes of their beloved with an open heart and no agenda but to connect in a deep way. This doesn’t mean your dining out can’t be lighthearted and full of fun. That too enhances the relationship. Just as long as you are not avoiding the deeper levels available. Sometimes it just takes practice.
There you have it, 5 reasons dining out is good for your relationship. But don’t take my word for it, go out there and pick a restaurant your partner will appreciate and take the time to create an atmosphere where intimacy and love can flourish. Enjoy the food too!