Couple Goals at the IHOP

The internet (and probably your mother) can provide you with any number of suggestions to include in your list of couple goals. These range anywhere from putting each other first to knowing each other’s love language to traveling together without killing one another. Some suggest only speaking positively about each other (good luck with that) and talking about your relationship often (yikes!). In the age of Instagram and “perfect” relationships on constant display, finding that groove with your significant other can sometimes seem, well, less than perfect. After my recent trip to the local IHOP, I have a fresh take on my couple goal.

I went to IHOP because they have a new dish, Caramel Apple a la Mode Pancakes. This is exactly what it sounds like, and trust me, it is delicious! But while there, a middle-aged couple was seated next to my table. They both seemed perfectly happy with no argument in sight, and they were both on their phones (gasp!).

I know this image makes some people cringe. People spend too much time on their phones these days. Kids are becoming zombies to the screen, and people aren’t talking to each other anymore. There are games or dinner protocols to try and curb the trend of mealtime phone use. Some groups all put their phones face down on the table, and the first one to look has to buy everyone dinner (talk about having rich friends). Other people won’t allow phones at the table at all. All of that sounds great for most people, but this couple had it figured out.

They looked up to order and then went back to being on their respective phones and didn’t put them down until their dinner came. They sat next to each other rather than across from each other; losing that bit of real estate allowed them to reach out often to touch hands or lean over to place a head on a shoulder. Sometimes they would nudge the other and then share their phone to watch a quick video or read a meme and laugh together. It was adorable, really. And what I strive for in a relationship. No chit-chat. No small talk. Just enjoying each other’s company while perusing memes, scientific journals, craigslist, or whatever. Sounds absolutely pleasant, doesn’t it?

I’m sure we’ve all had that experience of being around an arguing couple. The tension so thick in the room it feels smothering. The animosity between the couple so heavy it weighs down the conversation around them. Snarky comments and disdain sucking the air out of the room. Fun times, right?

What about the couple that’s all goo-goo for each other? The over-the-top Instagram-ready interactions are hard to take seriously. Pet names, baby talk, and constant touches that border on inappropriate in the company of others. I’ve always found there to be a certain inauthenticity to those couples.

Sure, there are many different types of couples, or even the same kinds of couples, but in different moments. We are human and subject to the chaotic fluctuations of emotions when sharing the intimate aspects of life with someone. But seeing this couple at IHOP has offered me new inspiration in what it can look like to couple up with someone.

You may be one of those people that thinks phone use at the table is inappropriate, that it stifles conversation and erodes the foundations of intimacy. But conversations are overrated, and intimacy is displayed in many ways. Give me a partner who loves caramel apple pancakes with a thread of funny memes on the side and the occasional touch of affection. That’s my new couple’s goal.