It's all too likely you'll tie the knot with someone who has eating habits drastically different than your own. From going meatless to eating meat at every meal, or curbing cravings with vegetables rather than reaching for a bag of chips, our eating habits vastly differ from person to person. And that, our experts say, can create marital conflict for which you may not be prepared.
"One of the biggest conflicts I see with couples is when one has a major dietary restriction," says Alissa Rumsey, registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Whether it is going gluten-free, being a vegetarian, or having a serious food allergy, there can be a lot of conflict when one partner doesn't eat certain foods." Rumsey warns this can be especially challenging when one partner does the lion's share of preparing and cooking meals.
Not only that, but if one partner goes on a health kick and the other won't come along for the proverbial healthy food ride, one partner can become controlling or judgmental of the other, warns Jane Greer, Ph.D., relationship expert and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship. "If one person is focused on their health and nutrition and the other eats a lot of unhealthy items, they might be angry at their partner for bringing temptation into the home and also for not taking care of themselves," she explains. "This can lead to a lot of power struggles and issues of control."
But you don't need to have food fights, our experts say. Your first line of defense, Rumsey explains, is to be aware of your food differences from the start. "When we start dating someone new, we generally aren't concerned about what their food preferences are," she points out. "But as time goes on, what seemed like not a big deal at first can morph into a real issue."
So before you say "I do," tell your partner what your priorities are when it comes to food. "Communication is key," Rumsey says. "Food is more than just nourishment for people. It is linked to how they were raised, their beliefs, their family, and more. Understanding what your differences are, and why your partner eats a certain way, can help you to each be more accepting."
Once you've tied the knot, Greer says it's more important to focus on your own food habits than what your partner puts on his or her plate. "Rather than telling your partner what to eat or not to eat, concentrate on your own eating habits. Put your energy into taking care of yourself."
Beyond that, Greer says, if your partner won't participate in your own healthful eating habits and is flaunting foods that would break your diet, "you can always step out and leave the room until they're finished," she says. "You can also make sure you have your own snacks so you can join in without being unhealthy."
Finally, despite your dietary differences, it's important to compromise. "Neither partner needs to completely revamp their diets, but both should be willing to compromise," Rumsey says. For example, if you're a meat-eater married to a vegan, go meat-free one or two meals a week, and try to find recipes that can easily be made both vegan and non-vegan for you, she suggests. "Try a new recipe that you both agree on. Getting in the kitchen and experimenting with foods is a great way to bond with your partner while expanding your palate."