Mealtimes With Your Sweetie
Magic at Midlife: Your Relationship Roadmap for Romance After 40
When Jennifer's daughters were growing up, she insisted that most dinners be held at the dining room table, with the TV off, and that members of the family share conversation along with their food. She would have been very surprised to fast-forward to the present day and see herself eating in front of a favorite TV program with Charles. But times change, and mealtimes change, too. In order to create a family atmosphere and a sense of stability, the traditional meal was important and valuable while raising children. Now that we are in our sixties, we can do pretty much what we darn well please. (Charles says that when he turns seventy in March, anything goes!)
The point is that flexibility and personal choice are the name of the game when kids are grown and gone (or if it has always just been the two of you). It's just as important to have meals that are nutritious and appealing most of the time, but we won't tell anyone if you want to eat popcorn or cereal for supper once in a while. In fact, you may not be eating the same thing or at the same time. Most older couples feel comfortable with a "fend for yourself" night (or several) during the week, and you and your partner may be eating differently at this point in life, which is just fine.
For women in particular, the daily responsibility of planning and fixing meals can become a burden after a few decades. Jennifer has probably already told the story of how, when her parents moved to Florida in their golden years, her mother "retired" from cooking and used the oven to store bread and crackers. She had put in her years of service, and was happy to survive on “early bird specials" from local restaurants and prepared foods.
It's always nice to make mealtimes special. That might mean cooking a favorite dish for your sweetie, or breaking out the good china. You may want to invite friends or family members to share a meal, or invite your partner out for a celebration. Occasionally, re-create your courtship meals with candlelight and wine, or make a special brunch on the weekend. Some couples become very interested in food and cooking over time, while others relish the chance to simplify mealtime routines and foods. If one of you is still working while the other is retired, the retiree who prepares weekday meals will have a very appreciative partner. If you are both working, sharing mealtime chores will make evenings more pleasant.
As always, we encourage you and your partner to talk through what you would like to do about mealtimes. Perhaps one of you is going to great lengths to fix fancy meals, and the other really doesn't care. Discuss how much (or how little) you eat out, and whether that is best for your budget, your waistline, or your need to take a break. Are you sharing mealtime chores fairly? Does the cook have to do the dishes as well? Would you like to try some adventurous recipes, or some old favorites? Would it be fun to take a picnic supper to the park in nice weather? Don't get stuck in a rut - you have the freedom at this time in life to create the mealtime experiences that suit you best.
Northwest authors Jennifer Y. Levy-Peck, PhD, a psychologist, and her husband Charles Peck are write a weekly column on midlife relationships. They are working on a new book, "Magic at Midlife: Your Relationship Roadmap for Romance After 40."
Previous Magic at Midlife Columns: