Sharing a home with a partner, even if it's just a few nights a week, can be so fun, but it also comes with its own challenges. Who uses what toothpaste? Who eats what peanut butter? Who ate my peanut butter — I'm actually mad about this, OK? If you live with your partner or spend a ton of time at each other's apartments, you may keep food there, and you may notice it occasionally goes missing. If you're in this situation, you might want to know: Should couples label their food in the fridge? To get the answer for you, I consulted an expert.
It's important to first understand why you or your partner might even want to label food. "Couples label their own foods in their shared refrigerator for any number of reasons," Relationship and etiquette expert April Masini tells Elite Daily. "For instance, a food may contain an element that one partner is allergic to, so partners may want to label those foods so no one has an allergic reaction by accidentally eating something that isn’t good for them. Or someone may be saving a food for a special occasion — like a party, a lunch with guests, or some other event — and they want to make sure their partner doesn’t eat it before that event."
If you or your partner have a particular reason for labeling food or if it's a preference of either of yours, then consider having a conversation about it. It might be helpful to your partner to understand why the food should be labeled, so neither of you feels like you're being kept in the dark. After all, it's your food and your fridge, so the two of you can make your own decisions about it.
It's also totally OK to only label some foods. Maybe the two of you share food in general, but if you need a particular ingredient or dish for a certain occasion, you can choose to label it in your fridge. "Typically, couples come to this labeling food behavior because they went to the refrigerator to get a particular food and it was gone," Masini says. "This could be a cold beer at the end of a long, hot day, or a key ingredient for a recipe that they are currently making."
If there's a food you need or want for a particular reason, it can be helpful to label it in the fridge or to let your partner know that you need that food. Additionally, one of you may have bought a particularly expensive item that they'd like for themselves, and that's totally normal, too — you don't have to share everything. You and your partner can decide which foods you'd like to label and which you'd like to share.
If you'd like your partner to label food, there are a few ways to work this into the conversation. Masini offers some suggestions for how to broach the subject. "Try: 'Do you mind if I label a few things in the fridge that I want to make sure I have when I need them?' or 'I labeled a few things in the fridge so I’d know they’re there when I want them — do you want me to label any for you?'" This way, you're letting your partner know about the labeling so that they're not taken aback, and you're offering them the option to label their own food. Open communication about food can be extremely helpful in making sure both you and your partner feel comfortable with your refrigerator situation.
Sometimes, however, the desire to label food might point to a larger underlying issue that you and your partner should try to communicate about. While there's absolutely nothing wrong with labeling food, it could mean one of you is having anxiety about something else. "If one or both of you have control issues, labeling food may be more about controlling the environment and controlling each other's behaviors than it is about making sure your special food is there when you want it," Masini says. "In this case, labeling food is not going to solve the bigger problem at hand. It’s just going to become a symptom of something unhealthy going on in the relationship."
If you feel like the desire to label food is more about an underlying control issue, speak openly with your partner about how either of you can feel more comfortable in your home. There might not be any underlying issue at all — it could truly be that you want the blueberries when you get home at night, and that's completely understandable. But being aware of your partner's needs and communicating openly with them can help the two of you work out any roadblocks in the relationship.
It's totally OK to have concerns about food in a shared home (or a home both of you visit often but only one lives in). Food is critical to our health and well-being, and you have a right to feel comfortable with the food situation in your apartment. Labeling food is absolutely fine, as long as you and your partner speak openly about your food needs. And above all, enjoy the Ben & Jerry's that you labeled for yourself — you deserve it!