A few years into our marriage my husband Jeremy and I started to drift apart. We both traveled a lot for work. Our jobs were demanding. Even the regular, daily pressures of adulthood were keeping us from investing time into our relationship, and we never sat together at the family table.
There was grocery shopping and paying bills and the car breaking down, again. There were obligations like potlucks and meeting the new boss and volunteering at our church. By the end of the day, we had both so fully poured ourselves out to the world that we had nothing left to give each other.
Sometimes the people we love the most get the least of us.
We spent too many months to count in front of the television during mealtime. We’d shovel take-out down our mouths and then turn to our phones. One evening as we were doing dishes, Jeremy handed me a plate and I blurted out, “It feels like we’re roommates.”
We had become amazing housemates and horrible lovers. We cautiously tried to evaluate if we were breaking or if we were already broken. There were so many things we could have turned to for help but we decided to start with something unexpected, something that almost felt silly. We thought we’d start at the table.
For 30 days, we decided to show up at our dining room family table at mealtime. We’d turn off the television and turn off our phones. We’d turn toward each other. It did not cost us anything to show up to our everyday dining room table but it saved us everything. It saved our marriage.
Benefits of Bringing Family Back to the Table
I could share story after story of what taking those small steps to the dining room table did for our marriage. It was life-giving and revolutionary and unexpected. But you do not have to take my word for it. Study after study concludes that one of the most transformative and healthy things a family can do is to show up consistently together to their table for mealtime. In fact, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found that kids and teens who share family dinners three or more times per week:
- perform better academically
- are less likely to engage in risky behaviors (like drugs, alcohol and sexual activity)
- have better relationships with their parents
It sounds almost too good to be true! But, isn’t it worth at least trying? And I get it – I really do! At the end of the day, it is hard to muster up the energy for mealtime. We’re busy and stretched too thin. But I want this for you!
How to Bring Your Family Back to The Table
So here are my top three tips for getting back to the family table more consistently. It might just change your life:
Put it on Your Calendar. Create Buy-In.
I know too well how easy it is to talk about the importance of coming to the table but not putting it into practice. Be sure to put it on your calendar. Sit down with your family at the beginning of the week and pick out at least two-three days that week you can all come to the table for mealtime. Make sure the people in your home understand why you want to start bringing the family back to the table so they are also invested!
Nothing Fancy. We’re Here for People, Not Instagram Worthy Food.
Remember why you are showing up to the family table. It can be easy to get stressed out over making an elaborate meal or trying to have the most delicious recipes perfected. But the importance of the table is more about who is at the table – not what is at the table. So, take a deep breath. Make a quick meal (or even takeout!) and remember that loving your people is the most important thing happening at your table.
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Become an Expert Question-Asker
The first few nights Jeremy and I showed up to the table it was awkward. We were so tired that we didn’t really know how to engage with each other. We asked the same dull questions like, “How was your day?” and, “What does tomorrow look like for you?” So, we decided to get help! There are so many amazing question starter games out there. We keep Table Topics and a Q&A book on our table so we remember to get curious about each other and not just dial it in with the halfhearted conversation. We started learning the art of asking good questions.
For Jeremy and me, our initial 30-day challenge to show up to the table transformed how we loved each other.
- We started talking to each other with more patience and grace.
- We became more interested in one other and more curious.
- We rediscovered the joy in our union.
- We remembered why we chose each other.
- We laughed together more.
This challenge of coming to the table has turned into a lifelong practice. It’s been three years and it is still one of the most healing and life-giving things we can do for our relationship and our relationships with friends and neighbors. In a world filled with divisiveness, pain, and too many to-dos, the table can be a safe place. A healing place. A place for us to love well and be loved.
It seems simple but sometimes the simplest thing that costs us the least amount of money is the thing that just might change everything. You can do this! If you want more grab my book Come and Eat: A Celebration of Love and Grace Around the Everyday Table. Its sole purpose is helping you find, or continue, your own journey to the table. And because I so desire this for you I included 21 weeknight meal recipes as well as questions for the table and tips and tricks at the end of each chapter. I did all the heavy lifting so you can focus on what’s the most important.
Purchase Come and Eat today and let’s start our journey to bring the family back to the table! It’s a wonderful tool to have in your back pocket.