The Dinner Date

Assuming that the initial courtship ritual is successful, potential lovers will likely move on to the next step, the dinner date. Food has been a major element in romance since the dawn of human existence. At one time, men needed to demonstrate that they were avid hunters and providers in order to attract a mate. Today, women are perfectly capable of obtaining their own food, but the ancient ritual of breaking bread together is still carved into our psyches. The dinner date represents a significant step in the potential relationship. Preparing for it can be exciting and fun. Here is what science tells us about the dinner date.

The Dinner Date - The Anatomy of Love

Food and Drink

Today’s dinner date does not necessarily involve a fancy restaurant, although it certainly could. However, it is equally likely to take place at a local cafe or an open-air market.  One partner or the other might offer to cook a meal at home.

Any of these options, or numerous others, may be perfectly acceptable for the dinner date. The point is to relax and share time together over food and drinks that are mutually pleasing. The situation lends itself to conversation, and you are able to get to know each other more deeply.  Eating together is an activity of close relationships, from meals at home to celebrations, to entertaining with established friends.  It is a basic activity to be tested with a potential partner.

Music and Entertainment

Some form of music is almost always involved with the dinner date.  This used to be especially important in Russia, where romantic passion can run high.  There would be a strolling violinist or a piano player engaged by the restaurant. Today, it might involve the partners sharing their favorite YouTube videos on their smartphones, or satellite radio playing in the car. Whatever the musical interlude, it provides an opportunity for nonverbal bonding.

Other forms of entertainment could also play a role in the dinner date. For example, you might choose a dinner-theater show, or the classic dinner-and-a-movie date. Adding entertainment could work well as a first date, or might be saved later, depending on the individual personalities of the people involved.

Expectations

Navigating expectations is always tricky, and it is easy for misunderstandings to arise on a dinner date. Some people believe that allowing one partner to pay for the date creates a sense of obligation and an unhealthy imbalance of power. Others believe that it is simple hospitality that need not be reciprocated. Unfortunately, some people even believe that physical intimacy is owed to the person who paid, a dangerous expectation that has no place in civilized society.

Ironically, the whirlwind of possible expectations that can be generated by the dinner date can actually be productive and healthy for both partners, as well as for the emerging relationship. Clear and honest communication is the bedrock of trust, which is absolutely essential for any lasting relationship.

Yet at the time of the first dinner date, the partners do not yet know each other well, and have not had the opportunity for many meaningful conversations. Talking through their mutual expectations and clarifying any misconceptions can be a great way to jump start a new level of communication.

Changing Gender Roles

Gender roles are changing rapidly and, like expectations, can be fraught with confusion and misunderstandings. Should the man hold the door for the woman? Should he stand up if she leaves the table? Should the woman defer to the man’s opinions regarding where to dine and even what to order?

These rituals seem silly, quaint, and even sexist to many people today. But they clearly demonstrate the changing roles that modern daters must face. The dinner date may be as old as time itself, but the way it plays out today is thoroughly modern and often quite confusing. As with expectations, though, navigating gender roles can help you learn to communicate with each other. In addition, beliefs about gender roles are just another part of the personality that each person must consider when deciding whether to continue the relationship.

Looking for verifiable information on the science of attraction and relationships? We’re a neuroscientist and a biological anthropologist eager to help you put the Anatomy of Love to work in your own life.

Written by: Lisa Fritscher

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