Long days at the office and jam-packed social lives mean that for you guys, dinner is usually consumed in front of the TV or at your desk. And sitting down -- at a table, no less -- just to eat and talk is a rarity. Well, you’re certainly not alone, but believe it or not, your parents were onto something with the nightly TV-free dinners at 7 p.m. Eating dinner together at the end of the day is an important ritual that can benefit your relationship and your health. It helps you stay connected, wind down after a stressful day (so falling asleep will be a bit easier) and even eat better (studies show you eat less when you’re not distracted by TV, work or the computer). Convinced yet? Good. Now read on for tips to making the most of the dinner hour.
If you’re surfing the net, you can’t carry on a meaningful conversation. And it doesn’t exactly send the message to your partner that you’re interested in hearing what they have to say about their day. So make dinner a computer-free time.
Turn Off the Tube
Likewise, TV is a distraction. Don’t force your partner to compete with Jon Stewart. There’s a reason they invented TiVo, people. So turn the TV off and actually talk to each other for 30 minutes. Novel idea, huh?
Put Dinner on the Calendar
It’s easy to let work, friends, etc., get in the way of dinnertime, so make it a priority by scheduling it into your week. Okay, we realize eating together seven nights a week isn’t realistic, but aim to do it at least a few times a week. Trust us -- your waistline and your relationship will thank you.
Listen and Remember
Remember something your partner told you about their day from the morning or night before, and follow up on it. It shows you actually care about what they have to say.
You may have forgotten how to just talk (sans TV, other couples or the paper in front of you), so here are some pointers for getting the ball rolling again. Ask about things that you know happened during their day (like a presentation or meeting with the boss), bring up a news article you read on the train that you enjoyed or talk about your upcoming vacation or weekend plans.
Don’t hog the floor, even if you had the worst -- or best -- day ever.
Now’s not the time to air grievances, tell your partner your mother-in-law is coming to stay with you for a week or nag your partner to vacuum. Make your dinnertime ritual something you both enjoy and look forward to by saving downer topics and heated conversations for another time.
Compliment the Chef
Remember cooking takes time and effort; do always thank your partner for cooking (or picking up) your dinner. A great way to show your appreciation? Ask how you can help, both before and after dinner. Do the dishes or post-takeout cleanup. Come on, it’s only fair.
Nestpert: Dr. B. Janet Hibbs, couples psychologist and author of Try to See It My Way: Being Fair in Love and Marriage, TryToSeeItMyWay.com