Have you ever compared the quality of your relationship to a dining experience? Probably not. Yet, most people relish a delicious, home-cooked meal, or a gourmet dinner at a fine restaurant.
It's common knowledge to my family and friends that I would rather go without eating than eat fast food. It's not that I'm a food snob; I simply don't feel good after eating most of its fare. An occasional meal at McDonald's or Burger King isn't going to give you anything but indigestion. Yet, if you make a regular habit of eating fast food, your convenience may go up, but your health can rapidly decline.
Okay, back on topic. Relationships work that way, too. A healthy and thriving relationship requires effort, quality ingredients, and an investment of time and love.
How a Negative Mindset Affects Your Marriage
When we think about a love relationship we don't often think about a dining experience, but I think the way we treat our bodies and the food we eat has a lot to do with a certain mindset. If we don't care for our bodies, will we care for and nurture our relationship?
Are you looking for a drive-through experience or a rich, meaningful relationship to savor?
The drive-through window is a lot faster than an evening in a restaurant, but the experience may not last as long, be as gratifying, and it may have unpleasant aftereffects. There's always a price to be paid for our health and vitality, and for the health and vitality of a relationship and marriage, too.
Stop and think for a minute. If I asked you to describe your current relationship with your partner as a dining experience, what would your description reveal? What creates an exquisite daily experience and a "delicious" relationship?
However, it all comes down to this question:
What kind of relationship do you want to create? You get to choose!
First of all, you need to decide the quality of relationship you want to create. It's up to you. If you want to have a potluck relationship, you will create an atmosphere that is informal, spontaneous, and fun. If you want to serve a formal dinner, you set the menu and the atmosphere accordingly. The meal and the type of experience are created and guided by you. What do you want?
Second, what are your partner's values, preferences, and personality traits? Is he or she a vegetarian? Then a fat, juicy steak or even prime rib would not be appreciated. If your partner has a quiet and perceptive personality, a thoughtful and purposeful discussion would be far better received than a heated debate. But there are lots of delicious vegetarian dishes and plenty of alternatives to heavy-handedness in the relationship.
So—here's a scenario. You haven't had time for a meaningful or heartfelt conversation as a couple for quite a while. Your partner has just settled in for the evening, and you're ready for a break, too. What's your choice? Fast food or a real dining experience?
Hmm... fast food? You probably know the menu by heart. You're hungry and you just want something to eat—quick. You pull up to the order window of your relationship and start running through a honey-do list: "Great that you finished cleaning out the basement! Tomorrow can you please fix that faucet like you promised?" Ouch.
Or you both quickly plug into your preferred technology: he's on the computer, you're on your I-phone. An hour or two go by without connection with each other so you order a pizza for delivery.
If you do start talking, you launch into an ongoing problem at work: "I just don't know what I'm going to do. My manager is impossible and withholds information that I need to do my job effectively!"
Your spouse may even fill your order and try to solve your problem. You may get a lot aired in a short time; at least the venting felt good (in the short term, just like fast food). Yet, one or both of you may wind up with indigestion. Or perhaps you just flip on the television and zone out.
It's not that fast-food interactions aren't necessary, even enjoyable, in our busy lives occasionally. But like cheeseburgers, they're not good for a steady diet. To really nurture your relationship, it helps to create fine dining experiences metaphorically. They don't cost anything or add to your calories, and over time they build a foundation of supportive routines, meaningful rituals, and a strong connection as a couple.
So—let's redo the same scenario with quality in mind. You haven't had time for real conversation as a couple for ages. Your partner has just settled down on the couch, but instead of sinking in, you acknowledge the need and desire to connect more meaningfully, so you decide to go out for a relaxing dinner and a replenishing experience. (Yep, it takes more effort for sure.)
Closeness and connection are forged; they don't just happen!
How to Have a Healthy Relationship and the Recipe for a Happy Marriage
Imagine that you have just sat down at your favorite restaurant for a four-course meal. What comes first? The drinks, and a little small talk before you place your orders. It's your first exchange as you sit down, a greeting and slight connection. This opening allows you both to settle in and prepare for the lovely experience.
Next, comes the appetizers—little nuggets to appease your hunger pangs but not fill you up. Maybe there is a gentle peck on the lips of your spouse or a little playful banter as you relax into each other's presence.
Now comes the soup or salad, something nourishing: a kind gesture, a compliment, a humorous story or two, or perhaps a question about a topic you know is interesting to your spouse. Soup is warm and inviting; salad is cheerful and stimulating—your choice.
The main course is the bulk of the meal. It should be substantial, nourishing, and leave you both satisfied and comfortably full (but not overstuffed!). Like a well-balanced meal, full of lovely colors and a diversity of flavors, the main course is the time of conversation on more in-depth and meaningful topics. In the main course, we lose ourselves in the sheer pleasure of each other's company. An hour feels like only minutes.
Finally, dessert. The dessert is just as important as all the other parts of a meal. It acknowledges that the relationship and our time together are, indeed, very sweet. And lastly, it rounds off the delicious experience with delight. When we leave the restaurant, we are fully satisfied and feel closer to our partner.
Top it off by treating your partner to kind, random gestures this week that add more sweetness to your relationship. Then every day your relationship will provide an unforgettable dining experience that supports your love for one another.
For personalized support to make your relationship sweeter, check out our relationship resources. For premarital counseling or marriage coaching, contact Heartmanity today!
For other ideas of how to make your relationship sweet, check out our infographic below