Food choices in romantic relationships

I came across an article called “Happy wife, Happy Life: Food Choices in Romantic Relationships”, written by Jonathan Hasford, Blair Kidwell and Virginie Lopez-Kidwell in 2017. I think it is a very valuable resource to find out how romantic relationships impact consumer food choices in different genders and different romantic stages. Romantic partners engage in joint decisions every day. According to the Interdependence theory (Kelley and Thibaut 1978), individuals frequently get influences from romantic partners on decision making. However, little research has been done in the past on food choice between partners. The purpose of this article is to find connections among relationship motives, gender and influences in food choices. Regardless of relationship motives, the article focuses on relationship formation and relationship maintenance, in order to identify whether food decision making shift in different relationship stages. 

 

Background 

Based on prior literature and research, men in the relationship formation stage usually initiate romantic activities and facilitate relationships, such as choosing restaurants, in order to show their values to potential partners. In contrast, women usually cede influences and highlight their commonalities to facilitate relationships. Therefore, the article proposes that women are more influenced by men on food choices in the relationship formation stage. For example, a woman is more likely to choose unhealthy food when her partner selected unhealthy food. On the other hand, the article predicts that men are not likely to be influenced by romantic partners’ food choices. In the relationship maintenance stage, the article uses previous research to suggest that men act in a more agreeable nature to maintain relationships, facilitate sexual satisfaction and reduce potential conflicts. In addition, some research indicate that men are likely to rely on their wives’ expertise on food choosing. Hence, the article proposes that men may be influenced by women’s food choices in the relationship maintenance stage. 

 

Method 

The article uses four studies to analyze the connections among relationship stages, influence and food choice. Qualitative and quantitative research are both used in the article. Participants are asked to fill out surveys, read vignettes to complete writing tasks and rate of relationship motives. The article also uses manipulation checks to manipulate relationship motives and test if motives impact food choices. 

 

Key findings

According to the studies, women in the relationship formation stage make food choices influenced by their partners’ choices, when the men made the selection first. In the contrast, men are not influenced by women’s selections when women choose food first. The choices are shifted in the relationship maintenance stage. In this phase, men are more possible to follow their partners’ food choice, while women are not likely to be influenced by their husbands. The manipulation test also confirms the findings above in the two relationship stages. Then, the article keeps investigating if relational influence could also be a factor on food choices. It is found that when dining with a person with higher influence, people’s food choices will be significantly impacted. For example, if a person is dining with his/her boss, his/her food choice is influenced in both relationship formation and maintenance stages. Therefore, relational influence plays an essential role in people’s food choices. In addition to the research, the article reveals the shift of relationship influence changes across two relationship motives: men are more possible to be impacted by partners’ food choices while women’s influence keeps increasing in the maintenance stage.

 

Conclusions 

This article extends previous studies and analyzes how romantic relationships impact partners’ healthiness with formation motive and maintenance motive. I think this article reveals lots of valuable marketing myths on consumer psychology and marketing research. The conclusions are useful to understand how couples make food decision together and what factors influence their decisions. In a class, we discussed about the case of Ernest Dichter & Chrysler. Dichter saved Chrysler after he found out women are the main decision makers in families rather than men. Even though men may be the main customers of Chrysler, their car decisions were influenced by wives. Therefore, Dichter promoted Chrysler in women’s magazines and Chrysler’s sales increased. In addition, the article indicates how couples with two relationship motives act differently on the healthiness issue. This conclusion gives great insights in wellness, healthiness and food industries. For example, if a food company promoting its organic food to middle-age populations or families, the company should focus on women segmentation because women control food choices in families and men rely on wives to make good meal decision. In contrast, if the company targets on young populations, it should probably focus on men segmentation. It is because men usually initiate meal selection and impact food choices of women. 

 

Limitations 

The article excludes LGBT groups in order to analyze food choice making between opposite sex. Other motives also need, such as parenting motive. In addition, the article does not examine general decision making in other domains (e.g. financial decisions). Last but not least, food decisions in romantic relationships may vary across time, as well as eating habits. Therefore, more research is needed in the future.