SOS: I don’t eat the same thing as my partner

Today, eating in a specific way is more and more common. Indeed, from the paleo diet to the vegetarian, awareness has never been felt so much in the kitchen. Add to that lactose intolerance, opposing meal times, or a religious ban, and you have the diet version of a love tragedy.

“It traumatized me to such an extent that it was among the first questions I asked people I met after her: ‘Are you a vegetarian?’ “.

Khalid, 46, is a doctor of pharmacy. A few years ago, he met Célia* at work. At first, they get along very well, and quickly the young couple decides to move in together. If their professional careers seem to take similar paths, in the kitchen, they do not necessarily share the same habits. “I eat everything but rarely pork, unless I’m invited to people’s homes,” explains Khalid, a Muslim. His companion at the time, meanwhile, is a vegetarian, and in fact wrote her pharmacy thesis on this subject. “She was not vegan because she ate cheese, but for her, it was a bit of a departure from her principle, he specifies. As soon as she could, she tried to replace dairy products with vegetable substitutes. At noon, the young lovebirds rarely eat together, because of their busy schedules. In the evening, it is around meal trays that they meet. “Everyone prepared their plate,” explains Khalid. If I wanted meat, she didn’t mind me eating it, but it was up to me to cook it, which was fine with me. »

Read also: Food hypercontrol: when controlling your diet turns into an obsession

A categorical reaction

Initially, the food is not subject to disputes, and the lovers live peacefully for some time. However, as the month of Ramadan approaches, Célia does not hesitate for a second to make her partner understand her disagreement with this religious practice. “For her, Ramadan is just unnecessary suffering that is inflicted on her body,” recalls Khalid. Books, articles, videos… All means are good to help the pharmacist convince her other half to give up the idea of ​​fasting. “I don’t force you to follow the same diet as me, it’s your personal choice, argued Khalid somehow. So I expect you to do the same”. But the young woman is categorical: for her, her choice is reasoned, and that of her partner, an aberration.

A desire for sameness

Once Ramadan is over, the relationship resumes its course, and tensions quickly ease, until the arrival of Ramadan the following year. That’s when Célia decides to end their story. “For her, it was essentially religious faith that was the cause of our breakup,” says the doctor. In his vision of things, our eating habits should not be too different. I felt a real desire to merge with someone similar, more than a search for complementarity. This is something that we notice a lot in people who have strong convictions. At this level, I am someone who can change, but I cannot be forced to change. I change by conviction, but never under pressure. »

The Olive Theory

Fans of How I Met Your Mother, the famous American series, will be able to testify to this: according to the theory of the olive, for a couple to work, it is imperative that one of the partners loves the little green oilseed, while the other hates him. Spoiler alterte, in practice, it’s a whole different story! If the romance of Khalid and Célia seems quite specific, in everyday life we ​​come across all sorts of scenarios in which food is a subject of dispute within the couple. “Diet occupies a very important place in a relationship, which is often underestimated,” says Aurélie Bailliat, psychotherapist. The meal symbolically reflects the balance within the home, but also the relationship that everyone has with their own body and identity. »

People attach much of their identity and values ​​to food. The plate that we prepare on a daily basis obviously affects our health, from a biological point of view, but also allows us to show a multitude of our choices to the rest of the world. “It’s a kind of business card, continues Aurélie. Someone who would be a vegetarian, for example, conveys values ​​and transmits a message through his plate, even without wanting to. »

For Aurélie, the symbolism of food is all the stronger among women, who feel compelled to correspond to the figure of “the good mother” within the home. “To nourish materially is also symbolically, to nourish with love for many women. If the husband, or the children, does not appreciate a dish that she could have made for example, it is as if they did not like it in return. »

And according to her, we tend to appreciate in the other, this feeling of being at home. However, too many similarities with one’s partner can lead to a risk of confinement. “Somehow, it’s too easy, and the relationship is impoverished. Everything becomes flat. In a cardiogram, flat signifies the absence of life. It has to be able to go up and down, without of course going to extremes,” explains the psychotherapist. “I understand the olive theorem: if we both like the same thing, we don’t confront each other, we are not in otherness, and we have nothing to learn from the other . Conversely of course, just because we have a lot in common doesn’t mean we can’t be in a relationship. »

A keyword: tolerance

But one thing is certain for Aurélie: humans tend to create far more problems than exist. “If a couple is split on diet, I would just start by asking why is it so important for each of them to have the same diet? Indeed, it is often a lack of tolerance or open-mindedness that are the source of complications. “For me, there’s no reason it shouldn’t work,” says the professional. The key word is tolerance. If I like olives and you don’t, it’s up to everyone to accept and tolerate the difference. That is enriching. »

It is through this same principle that Khalid analyzes his past relationship: “before, I thought that people who were minorities would have more tolerance vis-à-vis other minorities, but this is not always the case. Sometimes we can ask for tolerance for ourselves that we would not necessarily grant to others. It is this lack of openness, and this desire to change the other that poses a problem in the long term.

For the psychotherapist, the very dichotomous vision established by the Judeo-Christian education widespread in the West does not make our task any easier either. “There are the good guys and the bad guys. You have to be perfect, otherwise you’ll be in the bad box, develops Aurélie. But in reality, people are very cut off within themselves too. For food, it’s the same: there are no good or bad diets. Everyone has their own tastes and needs, provided of course not to go to extremes. »

communication work

Behind the stove, as in life, communication remains a major tool in the proper functioning of a relationship. “The first thing is to be clear about your needs, insists the expert. If your partner is in the habit of skipping dinner, explain to him that for you this is an important moment of exchange. Maybe her relationship at that time of day left her with bad childhood memories. On both sides, you have to express yourself because the partner cannot guess your feelings. »

For the psychotherapist, it may also be interesting to ask the following question: if our spouse had to follow a specific diet for medical reasons, would this cause so many problems? So why not tolerate this difference when it comes to a question of values, tastes, or habits, as long as it is not imposed on us by the other, or is not harmful to his health.

Making exceptions for the person you love is often necessary for a relationship to last, provided of course you don’t get lost in these compromises, and see your other half making just as much effort. It can be effective to set days in the week to prepare one or two times each person’s favorite dish, which you will enjoy together. Besides, cooking is a great way to get closer to others in general. It can be a new activity that you would do together, from selecting ingredients at the market, to making recipes, to setting the table. Because in the end, it’s not just the result that counts!

Thanks to Aurélie Bailliat, psychotherapist

*Names have been changed

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