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If your old high school boyfriend calls out of the blue and asks you if you're free for lunch, tell him to make it coffee. Otherwise, your current romantic partner may get jealous, even if you've told him time and time again that the ex was a jerk.
That's the finding of an intriguing new study from the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University, called "It's Not Just Lunch: Extra-Pair Commensality Can Trigger Sexual Jealousy." (Just so you know, "extra-pair commensality" is science speak for eating with someone who isn't your partner.)
There's something about sharing a meal that, at least to your significant other, can make the most innocent meeting morph into the eating scene from "Tom Jones," says one of the researchers, Brian Wansink, the John S. Dyson professor of marketing and well-known researcher in the field of food psychology and behavior. To a lover, lunch is never just lunch.
Wansink and fellow researchers asked a group of college students to rate their jealousy in response to several hypothetical scenarios, including their romantic partner emailing, calling, having coffee or sharing a meal with a former lover. Hands down, the meal elicited the most jealousy in both men and women.
Clearly, says Wansink, we consider sharing food far more than just, well, sharing food. "It seems that the more calories one consumes with the other person the more significant, satisfying, deep or rewarding an experience your partner perceives it to be." In other words, if there's a meal involved, it looks like a date. No wonder, your current amour will suspect there's also hanky-panky on the menu.
Wansink's advice when a romantic blast from the past shows up? "Make it an early coffee and make it quick. And don't dress up," he says.
The One Thing That Can Make Your Partner Jealous