Whether you consider yourself a food connoisseur or just a foodie, it can be tricky dating someone who has a tricky-to-please palette. Experts agree that dating a picky eater comes with its set of challenges. “In today's culture, most social situations revolve around food in some way, be it the obvious going out for a meal or simply a party or event where food may be served,” explains Talya Knable, licensed clinical professional counselor in Lutherville, Maryland. “Couples who have dissimilar eating styles, might find that it takes a little more effort to make sure that both are happy in the relationship.”
Just as you should in any area of the relationship, it’s important to make sure that both partner’s needs are met, and taste in food is no exception. As long as both partners can show some amount of flexibility within their own food preferences, it is very possible to have a successful relationship with someone who has a different eating style than you, explains Knable.
If you’re dating a picky eater, here are some expert-approved tips for how not to let your different tastes in food get in the way of your relationship.
Respect each other’s food choices.
Aretha said it best: R-E-S-P-E-C-T. It goes a long way in a relationship, even when it comes to food. If you’re dating a picky eater respect their choice. Nagging them about their food choices will only cause conflict and bring division, warns Amanda Rose, dating expert, matchmaker, and founder and CEO of Dating Boutique and Prestige Connections. Instead, she recommends finding ways to respect their choices and create dates that make you both happy. “On date nights look for restaurants that offer food that both you and your partner will enjoy,” she says. “It’s as simple as checking out the menu before you go to ensure you’ll both be happy when you get there.”
Think ahead when planning social activities.
If you’re dating a picky eater, you’ve probably already realized that he or she gets uncomfortable or stiff around social situations that call for “out-there” foods. Knable’s advice is to help, not hurt, the situation. “If the activity is a meal out, make sure that it’s at a place that provides alternatives or at least something that your partner can (or will) eat,” she says. “If it is not a restaurant, it might be appropriate for the person to plan to bring their own snacks or meal so that they know they will have something they want to eat.”
When making dinner, keep surprises off the table.
Cooking your partner a meal is a very sweet gesture, but if you know he or she has a picky palate, try not to make the menu a surprise (unless you know it’s something he or she likes). “If you want to cook him or her a meal, either ask what he or she wants or make something that you already know he or she likes,” says Lexa Bender, MA, mental health counselor intern and marriage and family therapist intern. “Making your partner’s favorite meal is not only safe, but it is also romantic because it shows that you know him or her well.”
Expose your partner to foods he or she might not have tried before.
While this might sounds like the exact opposite of what you would want to do with a picky eater, Knable explains that often the case of a picky eater may be the mere result of what they’re exposed to (or the lack thereof). In other words, individuals who appear picky with foods, might be that way because that is all that they are used to. “Giving them the opportunity to try new things might allow them to move on from being a picky eater all together,” she explains. “Additionally, if someone you are dating is willing to go outside of their comfort zone for you, that is a huge positive all around!”
Find a restaurant that you both love.
“Rituals within a relationship help partners connect, so creating a ritual of going to a favorite date spot every so often can benefit the relationship,” says Bender. “As a couple, you can choose if it is a spot you go to weekly, monthly, or for special occasions.”
Try to incorporate activities that don't involve food.
Food might be your favorite thing to do, or eat, but it might not be your partner’s. If you’re dating a picky eater, find a middle ground by planning a handful of activities that don't revolve around food. This will allow you to focus on other things and enjoy just spending time together, explains Knable. “While this might not be a long-term solution for dealing with a picky eater, it will allow you to decide if the relationship is worth pursuing.”