They order a salad, and then proceed to sneak your chips – even using your mayo to dip them in.
‘Why don’t you order some as a side if you like them so much?’ you suggest, trying not to lose that adoring, glowing grimace. This is your 18-month-anniversary after all.
They insist they’re good with just the salad – they aren’t really that hungry – and you chew your rage down with the now depleted pile of overpriced triple-cooked fries.
From Channel 4’s First Dates to your local Frankie & Benny’s, the food thieving date divides opinion more than any political party.
Some people think it’s cute, whereas others find it just plain weird. Obviously, there are differentiating factors, eg the length of the relationship, the vibe of the night, the amount and type of food etc etc.
We each have our own boundaries when it comes to the perimeter of our plate – for the record, mine may as well be circled with barbed wire.
However, as annoying as this dating faux pas can be, this may be a sign of genuine affection, and can be a crucial part of the bonding process.
According to a study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society, Biological Sciences, food sharing releases oxytocin hormone levels, facilitating bonding and cooperation between non-related individuals.
Oxytocin is the hormone most commonly associated with the bonding process between mother and infant. However, it can also apply to other types of bonds, such as close friendships and romantic relationships.
The research team examined a group of chimpanzees and noted how oxytocin hormone levels rose after sharing food for both the giver and the receiver, which is of course quite an adorable image.
It is believed both chimps felt a strong sense of reward from this sharing-caring interaction, which really begs the question: are monkeys more pleasant and patient on dates than we human beings are?
According to the study, other mammals apart from humans – such as chimpanzees, baboons and feral horses – benefit from the idea that sharing’s caring:
Recent studies show that, in addition to humans, other social mammals form cooperative relationships between unrelated adults, which can last over months or years.
Crucially, there is evidence that individuals who maintain such cooperative relationships have more offspring than those who do not.
Long-lasting cooperative relationships have also been referred to as strong social bonds, which are characterized by high rates of cooperative behaviours, such as grooming and food sharing.
This study further asserts how food sharing may ‘act as a trigger and predictor of cooperative relationships’:
This link between food sharing and oxytocin found in chimpanzees may also be relevant for humans, where pro-social behaviour has often been linked to food sharing and provisioning.
In the end, the word ‘companion’, (Lat.: com [=with], panis [=bread]) may be more literal than previously thought.
So next time your significant other wants the last slice of pizza – the really big cheesy one you were deliberately saving until last – maybe just let them have it and soak up those sweet oxytocin vibes and affection.
Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.