This Is How Our Romantic Relationships Affect Our Food Choices

The results of a new study go far beyond what you’re going to have for dinner tonight.

If there's one question that plagues almost every couple, it's: "What do you want to eat for dinner?" No matter what stage of the relationship, there will almost always come a time when one answers, "I dunno." 


Food choices are such an integral part of romantic relationships that Jonathan Hasford — lead author of "Happy Wife, Happy Life: Food Choices in Romantic Relationships" published in the Journal of Consumer Research in August — and his colleagues conducted a study of about 1,600 couples to figure out how, and, most interestingly, when, our romantic partners influence the food choices we make. 

"In the early stages of a relationship, women are typically influenced by men's choices … whereas later on in a relationship, once it's established, men typically are influenced by the food choices of their female partners," Hasford told A Plus. These tendencies reflect "the way women typically go about forming relationships," he explained."They try to identify commonalities with other people as a way to establish a connection." 

As that connection gains strength, the power dynamic determining food choices tilts in favor of the woman, stemming "from the desire to have a harmonious relationship [and] to avoid conflict." 

Though these tendencies don’t subscribe to hard and fast gender roles, they do reflect how courting practices and household duties were traditionally divided in heterosexual relationships.

Fifty years ago, men were expected to initiate a date and choose the location, often at a restaurant. As the relationship progressed and a heterosexual couple moved in together, got married, and had children, their eating habits would change from dining out to eating meals at home, purchased, prepared, and planned by women. Women making food choices later in the relationship symbolizes a power dynamic shift. 

"Traditionally, you have all these split roles in the household. Food stuff is just one that women have traditionally held," Hasford explained. As the study showed, this willingness came early in the relationship for women who desire long-term partners, and don't mind compromising in order to establish a monogamous relationship, and prove their future potential as a mate.

Men, on the other hand, are more willing to comply with their partner's eating habits after the relationship is already secure and committed because they want to keep it that way. 

All that said, Hasford clarified, "The man-woman stuff is sort of evolutionary based and has been adopted over time, [but] in relationships that don't adhere to traditional roles ... you're gonna have to look at each individual and what kind of resources and things they contribute to the relationship." And while "there was a lot of talk that men rely on women to purchase and prepare food" in his study, as a specific relationship progresses, Hasford notes food choice power dynamic is "definitely open to fluctuation and could be affected by anything."

Though Hasford believes his study, will help couples understand their internal power dynamics better, he noted this is just "the tip of the iceberg."

"To me, the biggest source of social influence out there is your romantic partner. It's the only relationship where you share resources with them, you spend more time with them than probably anybody else, you make more decisions with them than you make with anybody else, so there's just a whole lot out there still to be learned about." 

In the meantime, you might as well eat, drink, and be merry — no matter who chooses just how you'll do that. 

Cover image via Shutterstock


Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest news and exclusive updates.