In modern dating, it’s difficult to take anything at face value. Every flirty text, every pet name, every venue choice seems to carry its own implications and underlying meaning (or so we often think). We’ve grown prone to asking ourselves questions like, “if she wants to see a horror movie, does that mean she wants to scare me or get close to me?” and “he wants to cook me dinner, what does it mean?”
In an age where traditional dating norms feel less certain than ever, when a date offers to cook for you, it can feel a bit like they are offering to climb your very long hair in order to save you from a tower. I honestly don't know what it means when your date cooks for you, but it seems like a very kind gesture.
My experience with men cooking for me is as follows: I've never been cooked for or had someone to offer to cook for me prior to a third date. This makes sense, because cooking requires entering your date's apartment, and entering a date's apartment on the first date is a bit scary because of murder and assault and the like. (Safety first!) Most of these men have seemed genuinely interested in me, but not all of them were complete perfect specimens who wanted to date me forever.
In my humble and skeptical opinion, if someone cooks for you, yes, they probably like you, but they also may just want to get laid. Although, maybe I shouldn’t be so cynical. If a guy offers to cook you dinner, “it could just mean they like to cook,” says Nina Rubin, a life coach and psychotherapist.
In some cases and for some individuals, cooking for a date could be as simple as finding a recipe you think they’d like and wanting to try it out. Other times, if and when a guy cooks for you, or a girl invites you over for dinner, they could be trying to get into your pants by way of your stomach.
So, what does it really mean if someone offers to cook for you? Especially if you’ve not been seeing that someone for very long? Here are five possibilities.
Your Date Enjoys Cooking
"It often reflects a romantic interest, but some men [and women] definitely will cook dinner for friends with no ulterior motive,” says one Redditor. “In my case, I like to cook, and while that often involves dinner parties, sometimes you don't want a giant horde of people, so I'll invite a friend over."Is it fair to assume someone is romantically interested in you if they’re whipping up a gourmet meal? Absolutely. But if they’ve not shown other signs of interest or affection, there’s also a chance this dinner invite is purely platonic.
“It could just be a nice gesture,” says Rubin.
They Want You To Come Over
“If it’s someone I’m dating, I want a good excuse to get [them] over to my place for the first time,” one fellow shared. “If it’s just a friend, then [it means] nothing really, just want to share a nice meal.”
In other words, if you’re getting a romantic vibe from someone, and they offer to cook for you, it’s probably fair to assume that this invitation is coming with some strings attached. As another Redditor so lyrically put it — “we’re gonna feed you, then we’re gonna breed you.” (Oh my!) “It can be used as a ploy to get you in their home and be comfortable,” says licensed marriage and family therapist Nicole Richardson. “But if things are going well, that may be just what you want.”If, however, you’re not quite comfortable going over to a date’s place, don’t feel pressured to do so just because they’ve offered to make you a meal. “Maybe suggest going for a picnic instead,” says Rubin.
They Want To Take Care Of You
For some, cooking is a form of care — it’s a way to let a person know you’re not only interested in them, but willing to spend time preparing something you think they’ll enjoy.“My fiancée likes when I make meals for her, or when we cook together,” one guy shared. “So does my mom when she comes to visit. Sometimes, I bring food to work to share with all my coworkers… Typically, [cooking for someone] is a few steps above asking if they want to get coffee. I wouldn't do it unless you've been on a few official dates or you are sharing the food with multiple people."If someone offers to cook for you on date one, for instance, it could be a red flag. But after they’ve gotten to know you a bit, they likely feel a connection or kinship with you.
“I think cooking for someone is a way of caretaking and putting someone at ease,” says Richardson.
They’re Playing To Their Strengths
In dating, as in life, we’re all just trying to highlight our strengths, aren’t we? Maybe a person wants to cook for you for exactly that reason — not because they’re trying to get you into bed or care for you like a close pal, but because they’re trying to woo you and win you over. As one woman told Elite Daily, “I once dated a guy who told me, ‘Look, I’m realistic. I’m not the best looking guy or the richest guy. So I play to my two strengths: I’m a damn good cook and I always go down on girls.’ And to be fair, he made octopus tacos for me one night that were literally the best thing I’ve ever eaten in my entire life.”
They Don’t Like Eating Out
“[Cooking for you] could mean a plethora of things, so I'll list a few that come to mind,” offered this Redditor. “[He] doesn't enjoy eating out. [He] doesn't like spending a lot of money on food he can make himself. [He] wants to show you he can take care of you (very situational). [He] likes his food a very specific way (also situational).” Anecdotally, a friend of mine often offers to make dinner for her dates — not because she wants to lure them into her home, but because she doesn’t love the dining options in her city.
“My city is mostly bad chain restaurants or very swanky, expensive places,” she says. “I don’t cook for just anyone, but if I like a person, I’d much rather make dinner at my place than split crappy appetizers at a T.G.I. Friday’s.”
My takeaway from all of this? If someone cooks for you, then hey, they cook for you. Simply say "thank you," offer to help with dishes, and try not to overanalyze what it all means. Bon appétit.
Nina Rubin, life coach and psychotherapist
Nicole Richardson, licensed marriage and family therapist
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