The Daily Habit that Shaped our Marriage and Family

My husband, Jim, and I got married in 1988 on a frozen, snowy January day in Indiana. After our wedding, I joined him at Eastern University (then Eastern College) in Philadelphia, PA, where he studied for an MBA and I studied for a degree in sociology. We lived in a tiny apartment on the third floor—the kind where you can’t stand up unless you’re in the center of the room.

I learned to cook by trial and error. Jim and I both remember the night of the brick-like meatloaf from the microwave. We didn’t have much money, and what we did have for groceries I made sure would stretch as far as I could make it last. I remember making sheet cakes to fill us up. Those nights, whether the food was a flop or I’d stumbled upon a new favorite, laid a foundation for the next 30 years.

Through newborn babies, work struggles, broken appliances, and the emotional roller coaster of having teenagers, dinners together gave us a space to regroup, a time to look forward to, a steady routine when life was tumultuous. Through birthdays, beautiful spring days, and exciting news, dinners together were sacred spaces of celebration and connection.

Direction, not intention, determines destination.
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So often we hear that people in a marriage seem to wake up one day and realize they share very little of their lives together. Maybe they’ve “drifted apart” or realized there wasn’t much connection there anymore. The truth is, our lives are busy. People change. Circumstances change.

When a couple begins their life together, they have the intention to stay connected, to be together—to stay married. But direction, not intention, determines destination. We can have all the right intentions, but if the intention doesn’t have a plan, the direction of life may pull us in separate ways. Jobs, kids, social activities, good things—they can start to slowly (or quickly) take away from the time we have with our spouses and families.

Setting the expectation of regular family dinners as a couple gives you a place to connect amid all the things vying for attention. Direction involves more than just good intention. For our family it involves going to the grocery, making time to cook, clearing the table, and establishing a set time (and the expectation) for dinner. Now family dinner is part of our life ritual, but Jim and I had to create those rituals together early in our marriage.

From the beginning, Jim and I prioritized having dinner together. When kids came along, we kept prioritizing that time. Now through the years, there have been nights when everyone was on different schedules. I had to learn to adapt my dinner plans to the many seasons life brought our way. Getting dinner on the table, even for just two people, involves some advanced planning. In my book, Eat At Home Tonight, I give dozens of recipes and strategies to help busy families of any size to make having dinners together feasible.

I’m glad we laid the foundation at the beginning of our marriage. Now, 30 years later, two of my children are grown and married. Both my daughter and her husband and my son and his wife continue the tradition of family dinners within their own marriages. Most weeks we get to spend Sunday afternoons after church with all eight of us, anchored by a meal shared at our kitchen table. Through the struggle of getting four kids around the table, we’ve forged strong bonds for a growing family. The family dinner table has become a place of peace for all of us to gather and share life with one another.

Photo Copyright: Photo by Soroush Karimi on Unsplash



TIFFANY KING has cooked more than 10,000 meals for her husband and four kids. Over the years, Tiffany has learned what works and what doesn’t for getting dinner on the table fast. Her recipes have been developed in a real kitchen for her busy family and tested by the millions of readers of her website, Eat at Home. She also shares recipes and demonstrates cooking techniques through weekly live videos on her popular Facebook page. When she’s not cooking, you can find her curled up with a good book.


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