Falling, staying in love
Romantic love, the experience of falling in love, is an emotional high in which we intensely love one another, ourselves and our surroundings while sometimes caring little for common sense or consequence. We all want to know why this wonderful high stops after a short time.
When the chemical intensity of the brain settles down to a calmer state, some couples are deeply disappointed. Without the exhilaration, they no longer believe they are meant for one another.
They have affairs or divorce and remarry, seeking another hit. They have not learned that all relationships eventually fizzle out into an everyday routine. They have a choice: accept the new dynamic and look for ways to enrich their lives with new mature love, or chase that romantic cocktail from relationship to relationship. If they have children, they can damage these fragile people who depend on their mature love for one another and their family.
I am 96 years old and the mother of 10 children. I am progressive minded, fiercely defensive of women’s rights, and I am so tired of seeing beautiful families split apart because our culture leaves no room for habits that nurture mature love, which at times can feel monotonous compared to falling in love. I tried without success to find research supporting or disputing my beliefs on this. So instead I present my heartfelt, experience-based belief: Family meals keep families intact.
I truly believe that making family meals a priority is protective for the whole family. This can transform a couple from two people who are in love into a partnership of two dedicated to heading a household. When couples work together each day to get dinner on the table, then unplug and share a meal, they create a routine that provides for their family’s physiological needs, safety and social belonging.
Throughout the centuries, the human family ate together. Communal eating is universal, meaning it is seen in all cultures without exception. The modern challenges of the high cost of living with stagnant wages have pushed aside family meals, and family cohesiveness is suffering as a result. My research on family meals affirmed that children who regularly eat dinner with their families perform better in school, have fewer drug problems and lower incidence of obesity and eating disorders and more positive family dynamics. The couples themselves are united through the act of preparing and sharing meals. Their consistency and dependability creates the foundation for a family to regularly check in with each other. Eating itself releases dopamine, the neurotransmitter that started this whole mess. Its release in small, regular intervals can be the glue that transforms a romantic relationship into mature and lasting love. Almost a century on this earth has taught me that if you can find a way to eat together, everything else will fall into place.
Mabel Gil worked for the state Task Force on Food and Farm Policy for 17 years and researched the Good Faith Donor bill, which bolstered food banks in New York.