We are nearing the end of our series on seven fundamental habits in great marriages (which tend not to be present in bad ones). Habit #5, which we saw that week was this idea that we need to learn to apologize often and generously. In case you missed it, click here. Now let’s talk about a habit that is slipping away in our tech-heavy culture — eating (and engaging each other) for at least one meal together every day.
Habit #6: Eat (at least) One Meal Together Every Day!
There is still something very special about eating with other people. The attention that can be given over a meal communicates love and grace. We usually eat with the people that we really care about or at least we should. One of the things about our culture is that it speeds people up so that they don’t have time to do the crucial habits that are needed to maintain a relationship. We need to put down our cell phones and talk to each other and really listen. Ask about people’s day and listen to what they found interesting and fascinating about the day. Did they ready anything that was funny, troubling, alarming, or encouraging?
Talk with your spouse about which meal is best to set aside to have together. It will usually be the same day, but on the weekends or special work days, it may be a different time. This is especially true when there are elementary school children at home and they begin to have practices that are scheduled during dinner times. Work hard at having a meal together with no TV and no cell phones.
It is amazing how this little ritual can slip away, and before you know it, we are eating by ourselves watching little screens or big ones and missing out on the crucial little pieces that keep a relationship together.
This will seem harsh but you would be surprised at how you will learn little things about the other people if you turn off the TV and allow no cell phones to be used during the meal. The little screen will always seem more interesting but it really isn’t.
“What will we talk about?” is often a far cry from the topics of those who are used to having information they are interested in constantly coming at them. You will need to suspend your own self-focus and self-interest and create a curiosity about other people’s lives. This really is very enjoyable and profitable. The more that we show interest in other people, the more they show interest in us.
Let me suggest a number of things to talk about:
- Tell me about your day from beginning to end and all the interesting, funny, significant, and even disturbing things that happened to you.
- Did you read or hear anything that was interesting today or in the last week?
- Engage each other about the ten different relationships in each person’s life and ask a question to see what’s new or interesting in that relationship.
These are the types of questions that you can ask the other person in each category:
- Is anything interesting or challenging coming up at work or school?
- Are you saving up for anything exciting or necessary?
- Do you have any dream trips or vacations planned?
- What are you the most excited about learning?
- What changes are planned at work that excite you?
- Do you find yourself thinking about or concerned about family?
- How was your quiet time with God or spiritual life?
- Are you planning anything interesting with your friends?
- What is happening at your church?
- Is anything happening in the community that is of interest to you?
Just the fact of wanting to eat with another person, even if you don’t do much talking allows for warmth, connection, and joy. It is said that many older people are dying of loneliness seven to ten years before they should. We are seeing an epidemic of loneliness in our society because we are not cultivating relationships when we are younger. Invite people to lunch. Have them over for dinner. Yes, I know that there is interesting information on your smart phone and your book or a TV show that you would rather look at, but constantly doing that will cut you off from the people that need to be a part of your life or who need you to be a part of theirs!
Great couples in great marriages eat together at least once a day if not more. If you are going through a period where you are especially busy, make sure that the one meal minimum is met. It could be the evening, mid-day, or the morning meal. I know one man who realized that the demands on his time just kept growing, so he blocked out all meal times to be with his family. He was available for all the people who wanted him at the other times of the day but every meal time he was with his family. In this way, he spent three-plus hours with his family every day. That method was an extreme example of a person who saw the value of eating with his family.
I encourage you to make sharing meals a priority and to turn a portion of one meal you spend together into a spiritual sharing time by talking about what God is teaching you or how you are interacting with God in the problems of the day. Pray at the start of the meal. Read a devotional thought or a Scripture during some portion of the meal. When a couple or family brings God into their meal times, it makes sure that spirituality is a part of how they live their life.
Don’t miss the value of eating with your family. Commit today to invest in your marriage by eating a meal a day with good focus and attention on each other. Let me know how you’re going by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join me next week for the last habit in our series for great marriages, #7.
You’re reading this here first! This series is an excerpt from Dr. Gil Stieglitz’s upcoming book on marriage.