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Category: Marriage and Relationships

I am on a mission to make sure that the traditional family dinner doesn’t become a thing of the past. Why? Because I believe that eating dinner together (or any meal, for that matter – but we’ll get to that in a minute!) is a fundamental part of building and maintaining a relationship.

My and Kyle’s first date was to Chili’s, where we got to know each other over buffalo chicken sandwiches and sweet tea. Our get-to-know-you’s have continued over thousands of meals over the last ten years. After dating long distance for nearly six years, being able to sit down at the dinner table together on a random Tuesday night has been one of our favorite parts of married life. Because I want to share the dining love, it’s also our tenth hint for a happy marriage: Eat Dinner Together!

Conversations shared over plates of lasagna, without distractions, are my favorite.

I love to cook and Kyle loves to eat. This arrangement works out great for us. However, I happen to know that John does the cooking in the Thomas household. No matter who cooks — takeout is also an option! — the goal is sitting down at the dinner table to share a meal and conversation.

For us, it takes planning and sacrifice – I spend time meal planning and grocery shopping on Sundays, and of course cook meals during the week. Kyle is my sous chef when needed, and he also sets the table and helps clean up after supper. So yes, there’s time involved, but the reward is connectivity and an investment in our relationship (in addition to a tasty meal). We’ve figured out a plan that works for us and allows us to sit down at our table and eat together as many nights a week as we can.

Why do we make this a priority? We view dinner as an important time to engage and communicate. It’s where we talk through issues from the day so they don’t fester and come out in other, non-constructive ways (i.e., tell your spouse you had a bad day and why, rather than taking it out on them unannounced later). We talk about our days, our plans, our hopes and our dreams. Yes, really! Dinner conversations can get deep! We also tell stories and laugh — and occasionally, we sit at the table long after we’ve finished eating, not able to stop talking through this or that.

Sound incompatible with your current reality or schedule? Here’s the trick – figure out what works for you and your sig-o. I have a sweet friend that gets up early a few days a week to have breakfast with her husband because he travels. We actually live in a small town and Kyle comes home for lunch a few days a week because he has work conflicts in the evenings during football and basketball season. Whatever works – there’s nothing magical about the dinner hour, the magic is sitting down together with no other interruptions.

The great news is that this hint works for all relationships. I followed the same rules with my roommate and would love to have regular dinners with my parents if they lived closer. There’s just something so valuable about breaking bread and sharing conversation.

Schedules get crowded. Evenings get busy. But I promise the sacrifice is worth it. It might not happen every night, but making it a priority is important. I’d love to hear your tips for sharing meals together. Do you have great recipes to share? How do you protect your schedule so that you can eat a meal together?

Sweet engagement photos by Paige Jones, one of our delightful Blue Ribbon Vendors! See more on Facebook Friday!

P.S. New to the whole cooking thing and looking for some suggestions? Currently Kyle’s favorite suppers are crockpot lasagna and chicken squares with roasted Brussels sprouts.

kristin Written with love by Kristin
5 Comments
  1. avatar Emily reply

    I love this post! John and I eat dinner together every night, and it’s one of my favorite things! We’re always looking for new recipes, so I keep two separate Pinterest boards, one for recipes we’ve tried and loved, and one for recipes we want to try. If others are looking for suggestions, you can find them in my profile! http://www.pinterest.com/emformarvelous/ We also have tried lots of good ones from The Newlywed Cookbook by Chronicle Books!

  2. avatar Nicole reply

    I SO agree with this! The wonderful thing is that growing up, my parents were huge fighters for family dinners, which makes it a priority for me now. Taylor works a lot of nights, too, which is why one of our resolutions was to thoroughly plan our dinner dates so we could spend more time talking and less time deciding what to do.

  3. avatar Links I’m Loving | Jenn for JOY reply

    […] the wedding, I just love the “Hints for a Happy Marriage” series on Southern Weddings. This post on eating dinner together reminded me just how important it is for Paul and I to find time to eat together each week. Right […]

  4. avatar jenn reply

    I couldn’t agree more. Nothing better than sharing a meal. I have so many great family memories over meal times, I hope to give my future children the same… and I’m starting out by having with dinner with my new husband as much as we can. We also try to do breakfast. Even me getting up early to send him out the door with coffee and a breakfast bar helps us share some extra time together.

  5. avatar Southern Newlywed: In the Kitchen with Kristin Winchester + a Giveaway! – Southern Weddings Magazine reply

    […] the week, as well as the ability to detour when something unexpected happens. It also helps protect regular meals at the table, which are incredibly important to […]

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We were so grateful for heaps of wise advice from couples who have lived and loved together for decades in V6, but the advice we collected from newlyweds was just as sweet. It gave our engaged readers butterflies of excitement for what was soon to come, and made our older couples smile with memories of their own just-married days. Victoria from Happily Ever Strader had been married for just ten months when V6 came out, and she and her husband recently celebrated their one-year anniversary! We love what she had to say about her first year of marriage.

Caroline Joy Photography

When our lives were joined in marriage, we established some habits that I hope will stick around for years to come. Our faith has been more practical and tangible to me in these mere months of marriage than ever before. For every decision we make, there is an opportunity to choose our selfish desires, or to choose wisdom and respect for each other and our beliefs. We get to make these decisions together for the first time. I pray that I’ll always remember the sweet joy I feel now when deciding even minor things like our grocery budget…because we share groceries, and because we are a “we.” It’s an overwhelming joy that I would encourage you to cherish and hold on to. Some topics to discuss with your new hubby include: how often you want to entertain, finances and budgeting, serving others together, making time for date nights, and really just establishing what is priority to you as a couple.

For my new role as a wife, the focus is thanksgiving. With almost one year of marriage under my belt, an odd moment that evokes gratitude for my husband is when I catch a glimpse of him in our bathroom. I will notice him shaving or brushing his teeth and I am still overwhelmed by the newness of it all. It catches me by surprise that we get the blessing of sharing the ordinary things of life. In these moments, I choose to smile, because I’m blessed to have a loving man in my bathroom, even if his beard hairs now litter the counter I just cleaned. I’m thankful, and that’s a practice that I want to continue for many years to come.

Katherine Klein Photography

Keep up with Victoria:
Blog: Happily Ever Strader
Facebook: Happily Ever Strader
Instagram: @VictoriaStrader
Twitter: @VictoriaStrader

lisa Written with love by Lisa
3 Comments
  1. avatar Katie Garrett reply

    So excited for you, sweet Victoria! I love your blog, your heart, and your sweet post about being newlyweds. I can say, 3 1/2 year later, it’s a joy and a blessing that my husband & I still have those butterflies.

  2. avatar Cassie reply

    Love this! Such a sweet couple and I love her blog. Being a newlywed myself I love to see couples that are a little bit ahead of me. Thanks for sharing. :)

  3. avatar Emily reply

    Thank you for sharing, friend! There is great joy in never taking for granted even the smallest and most ordinary moments together.

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I treat my marriage like a job. Sounds glamorous, right?

Well, let me back up a minute. You know the old adage, “find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life?” I think I would tweak it to say, “find a job you love, and it will make all the hard work worth it.” That’s what I mean when I say I treat my marriage like a job, because it can be hard work, but it is most definitely worth it in the end. For me, most of the “work” comes in the form of time, usually time spent learning how to really care for my other half. As innately selfish creatures, this can be tricky for Kyle and me, so at the beginning of our relationship we made up a phrase to define how we wanted to take care of each other: Let Your Care Cup Run Over.

For us, this starts with identifying each other’s needs, and then willingly (not begrudgingly) putting them before our own. We’ve found the concept of Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages very helpful in identifying and learning to fill those needs, because we’ve also learned that it’s no use trying to care for each other in a way that doesn’t resonate. You can take the short, free quiz here if you’d like.

If you haven’t read the book, I’d definitely recommend it. I’d also recommend revisiting the quiz from time to time, because your love language might change depending on your circumstances. For instance, after getting married, I learned that acts of service were my new favorite way to receive love.

What does this look like in our life? Kyle cares for me by making the coffee every night, so I wake up to freshly-brewed coffee in the kitchen each morning (acts of service). And he sneaks notes in my luggage when I go out of town (words of affirmation). I cook dinner because Kyle loves to eat and appreciates healthy home-cooked meals (acts of service). I will scratch his head or his back while we are watching TV together on the sofa (physical touch).

Sounds wonderful, right? Most of the time, it is. But here’s the trick: when you’re in a committed relationship, you sometimes have to care when you don’t feel like caring. Sometimes you have to push through and dig deep and reach out and put the other person’s needs before your own when all you want to do is be selfish. Sometimes you have to care even when the other person doesn’t seem like he or she cares.

The good news is that if you are both committed to this idea, you won’t be the only one who is always “over-caring.” If you’re both trying to give more than 100%, there should always be a little leeway to make up for the partner who needs it.

Of course, I also think caring can be illustrated outside the immediacy of your relationship. And, the more you do this, the easier it is to embody a “care cup” mentality within your VIP relationships (spouse, kids, family – places it’s admittedly easiest to be selfish). Outside of your relationship, this could look like community service, church activities, coffee with a hurting friend, bringing a meal to a new neighbor or new parents, driving a distance for an event (wedding, funeral, etc.), or even pitching in at work to tackle a task outside of your responsibilities. The more you work your “care” muscle, the more natural it will feel to call on it.

I would love to hear your thoughts on how you let your care cup run over. How have you learned to communicate your love and care through your spouse’s love language? Have you learned what ways you receive love and care the best?

See more from this sweet engagement session by Blue Ribbon Vendor Robyn Van Dyke on Facebook Friday!

kristin Written with love by Kristin
12 Comments
  1. avatar Emily reply

    I just took the Love Languages quiz again, and I would say my results were… inconclusive. My highest (7) was physical touch, which I’m surprised by, because I’m not a very “touchy-feely” person. But it does say “physical presence and accessibility are crucial,” and I definitely thrive on spending any kind of time with John. I got a 6 each on words of affirmation, quality time, and acts of service, and a 5 on receiving gifts. Apparently I just like everything :)

    • avatar Kristin reply

      Em! I am not surprised at all that you are able to speak almost all of the Love Languages equally! I love that you retook the quiz.

  2. avatar Lindsay {Everistta} reply

    I love this! Marriage is work and needs investment. A nice reminder. My hubby and I try to practice this way of thinking as well.

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