They’re great. The long lingering meals, the peering at each other over the salt and pepper, the flirtatious sips of gins and tonics, and seductive gnawing on garlic bread.
But when you live together, sometimes that’s not what you’re looking for from a trip out to an eatery. Sometimes you just want to eat.
All couples have a list of their go-to favourite places, often within walking distance of their house to allow for booze-fuelled wobbling home. We’ve got a Japanese place we frequent so often we should probably pay rent, a sushi joint where we can recite the entire menu and a cheap and cheerful noodle cafe which is as good at prawn dumplings as it is at strip lighting. And now we know them so well that we can put on our shoes, leave the house, order our food, eat, pay for it and get back through our front door within 60 minutes. Even less if the buses are on our side.
Because with knowledge comes speed. I know that at the Japanese I’ll have the calamares, the beef teriyaki and an aloe juice, and that at the sushi house I’ll have everything on the menu that features tempura, followed by the melty chocolatey fondant. Sure, you can bring me a menu if you want but I’ll only use it to point at the same things I select every single time we go there. There’s none of that ‘Can we just have a couple more minutes?’ malarkey with us; even if one of us pops to the loo, the other can order on their behalf. Our trip is as predictable as it is delicious.
They don’t tell you this when you get married. Sure, they talk to you about patience and tolerance and always being best friends, yadayadayada, but I don’t remember the bit when they said ‘And, as an added bonus, there will be a selection of restaurants that you’ll know so well that you can be there and back in less time than it takes to watch an edition of Match of the Day (though it will definitely feel a lot quicker).’
The great thing about going out with somebody you’ve been with for a long time is that you can admit that sometimes your hunger is so consuming that you won’t be able to speak until your dinner arrives. We can just agree to use our remaining energy to both glare at the kitchen until somebody brings us our food. We can have a proper conversation once we’ve stopped our stomachs from grumbling or over email or whatever. Right now, we’re here to eat.
But don’t take this as a complaint. This little ritual makes me just as happy as when we head further afield to try somewhere new. Speedy local eating is just an extra part of the marriage deal, like joint credit cards, anniversaries, and threats of divorce every time you ask for help changing the bed.
I used to look at couples who weren’t saying anything to each other over dinner with real pity. I assumed they were on the brink of a split, and were just sat there working out who would get the dog and who originally paid for the Lighthouse Family CD. But now I know differently. There’s a good chance they’re happier than they’ve ever been. They’re just ravenous and sat quietly waiting for his beer, her passion fruit mojito, and the crab sushi rolls that they both love almost as much as they love each other.