facebook

7 Ways To Grow A Stronger, Happier Relationship By Cooking Together (Plus: 4 Easy, Delicious Sheet Pan Recipes!)

happy relationships
Love, Self

Stoke the oven together for simple and healthy meals, and spice up your love life at the same time.

Chores can be a bore, but couples that collaborate can really spice things up.

Working together around the house can improve communication, decrease negative feelings, and even heat up your sex life as this report, published in the journal Gender & Society, suggests.

Focus On Cooking Together

Cooking is a great way to build your partnership and this post features 4 easy recipes for sheet pan dinners (just scroll down!) that will make you feel like master chefs! But let's first look at how cooking together can enhance your sense of connection with each other.


Flex Your Negotiating Muscles

Cooking together creates an opportunity to improve your negotiating skills and great negotiators make great lovers. Negotiating is a key to successful couple cooking because you'll be doing a lot of joint decision-making, which leads to a healthy relationship and a healthy marriage.

What will you cook? Which ingredients will you use? How will you divide the labor?

Here's a simple system that my wife and I have used many times (and not just with cooking) with great success:

  1. Commit to negotiating with a light heart. You're cutting vegetables, not a deal on Wall Street. Remind each other that it's important to keep the mood light and cheerful. Here are some tips on how to do this.
  2. Keep the relationship as the higher value. Your relationship is more important than getting your way. If the both of you value "our" way over "my" way, you'll develop a strong sense of connection each time you make a decision together.
  3. Be clear about what you are deciding. So many couple fights happen because there's not enough clarity about the discussion topic. If you're cooking a meal together from start to finish, be clear about what start/finish means to you and to your partner. Does it include getting the kitchen ready? Shopping for food? Preparing the ingredients? Cleaning up?
  4. Brainstorm without judgment. When you start sharing ideas about what to cook, when to cook, division of labor, and other things, agree to let the ideas fly freely for a bit. Each of you can encourage the other to openly say whatever it is that comes to mind without fear of judgment. Save your comments about your partner's ideas for the next step.
  5. Make your decisions. Get a sense of which ideas you both like by ranking them and then choosing one that receives a high ranking from both of you. Don't force your idea on your partner, and don't settle for his just to keep the peace. It's important for both of you to like the final choice... that's what creates mutual good feelings.
  6. Stick to the plan. It is not uncommon for one of you to slip back into old habits even though you agreed on something in the negotiating part of the process. Help each other stick to the plan. Give each other permission to gently point out blunders. Planning for how to deal with slip-ups makes it easier to address them when they occur.
  7. Enjoy the process. Your sense of humor is a great strength in your relationship. Use it wisely. Create joy in the process by using the style of humor that your partner appreciates and avoid the styles that are a known turn-off.

Physical Attractiveness

Eating food that you prepare at home is healthier than eating the same food that was prepared in a factory or even in many restaurants that tend to jack up the refined sugars, salts, and saturated fats. The two of you have a better chance of staying fit if you team up on the home-cooking front.

Combined with an overall fitness plan, cooking at home will contribute to your physical attractiveness. Having a healthy and fit partner is actually very important to a lot of people. It makes sense — human beings are visual creatures.

This is very true at the beginning of a relationship, but, as time goes on, it seems to remain truer for men than for women, as a study from the National Institutes of Health shows.

When I coach couples and ask what first attracted them to each other, a significant majority will identify physical appearance as their first attraction.

When I coach couples who have been together for decades, a key issue that frequently surfaces is health and fitness. They'll say things like, "I love it when he takes care of himself physically. It shows me that he wants to present his best self and that he wants to be with me for many more years."

Some may think this is trivial, but my clients disagree. In obvious and subtle ways, eating right can make you hot.

Increased Happiness

Nutritional eating can increase happiness. This study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, concludes that a sense of well-being and happiness increases with each serving of fruits and vegetables that a person consumes.

Face it, you aren't going to feel good about yourself when you shovel garbage into your body, and those negative feelings spill over into your relationship.

Your body craves good food and will reward you for it — and not just in the long term. Eating well will give you an immediate boost in self-confidence and that boost will create positive energy with your partner. If you're both getting that boost, that's even better! Happy couples are healthy couples and healthy couples are happy couples.

Don’t get me wrong, a serving of broccoli is not going to fix your relationship crisis, but it will do more than that double cheese and sausage pizza with a side of ice cream and hot fudge washed down with 64 ounces of carbonated sugar water.

Think of this nutrition focus as one more piece in the puzzle of your relationship dream.


RELATED: The Cooking Quiz That Tells You How Compatible You Are


Domestic Support

What is one of the most challenging parts of going to college for the first time? ROOMMATE! Living together is not easy. It's a partnership that requires hard work, but the benefits are amazing when you get it right. Many people report that their partner's attractiveness factor increases when they share responsibilities around the house.

The daily rhythm of cooking makes it one of those things that can chip away at a relationship when it's not done to your satisfaction. On the flip side, it is a key relationship builder when it is done in partnership.

As marriage expert, John Gottman, often suggests, 100 small successes are more powerful than 1 big one. Think of all the opportunities you have to cook together. That's a lot of opportunity for relationship-building!

Whether you're a beginner in the kitchen or a seasoned chef, these easy and quick sheet pan bakes are a great way to cook with your sweetheart. The first recipe is one my wife and I do regularly, and it's vegan! The rest are from Health Coach Abby Hanlon:

1. Roasted Root Vegetables Plus An Outsider Wrapped In Humus

Ingredients:

  • 1 beet
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 parsnip
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 handful of Brussel sprouts
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. pepper
  • ½ tsp. Smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp. dried thyme
  • Olive oil
  • Your favorite hummus
  • Spinach wraps or soft tortillas

Instructions:

  • Preheat the oven to 375 and prepare a large baking sheet.
  • Cut all vegetables into pieces that are about ½ in. cubes or whatever size you prefer. The Brussel sprouts can be halved.
  • Place all vegetables in a large mixing bowl. Add spices and drizzle olive oil over the vegetables, adding just enough to coat the vegetables. Toss thoroughly until the olive oil and the spices are evenly distributed among the vegetables.
  • Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 20-30 minutes. Check after 20 minutes to make sure the vegetables are crisping evenly. They’re done when they start to brown and crisp around the edges.
  • Spread hummus on the wraps and fill the wraps with the roasted vegetables.

2. Italian Lemon Veggies And Salmon

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound asparagus spears
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1 ½ pounds fresh salmon fillet
  • 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning, divided
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • The juice of 1 lemon

Instructions:

  • Preheat the oven to 375 and prepare a large baking sheet.
  • Wash the asparagus and trim off the tough ends. Chop into bite-sized pieces.  Cut the cauliflower into florets.
  • Place the vegetables on the baking sheet.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoons of the Italian seasoning.
  • Pour this mixture over the vegetables. Place the veggies in the oven to roast for 25 minutes.
  • While the veggies are roasting, sprinkle the rest of the seasoning on the salmon fillet.
  • Once the veggies are done, remove the pan from the oven and place the salmon fillet on top. Place back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes until the salmon is cooked according to your preference.

RELATED: 5 Simple Things Couples Can Do To Spice Up Their Relationship


3. Chicken, Butternut, Brussels Sprout, Pesto Bake

Ingredients:

  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved
  • ½ cup prepared pesto

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 425 and prepare a large baking sheet.
  • Place the cut squash and Brussels sprouts on the pan and drizzle with olive oil. Toss to coat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Arrange squash and sprouts in a single layer on the pan for even cooking.
  • Arrange the chicken thighs on top of the squash and sprouts.
  • Spread the pesto on top of the chicken thighs and coat evenly.
  • Place entire pan in the oven and bake for 40 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

4. Balsamic Pork, Sweet Potato, And Broccoli Bake

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ pounds bone-in pork chops
  • 1 pound sweet potatoes
  • 1 large head of broccoli
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • Red pepper flakes to taste

Instructions:

  • Preheat your oven to 425 and prepare a large baking sheet.
  • Chop the sweet potatoes into cubes and broccoli into florets. Set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, mix together the olive oil, vinegar, maple syrup, and seasonings.
  • Place the chopped sweet potatoes and broccoli on the sheet pan and drizzle with half of the prepared sauce. Toss to coat.
  • Place the Pork Chops on top of the prepared vegetables and brush with the remaining sauce.
  • Place the entire pan into the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes until the sweet potatoes are soft and the pork is cooked through.

RELATED: 4 Secrets to Success All Happy Married Couples Know


Jim Merhaut is a relationship and leadership coach and Founder of Coaching to Connect. His passion for 30 years has been to work with people who are creating life balance for themselves. Find him at Coaching to Connect.

Author
Expert