Skip to content

Bad table manners are recipe for soured romance: poll

More than one in four Canadians would consider breaking up with a partner over offensive eating habits, poor oral hygiene, survey finds.
A new poll identifies bad eating habits as a major romance-killer among Canadian couples.

One of the most controversial celebrations in North America is upon us.

While some Canadians gleefully celebrate Valentine’s Day, others despise it passionately. As has been the case with most holidays during the COVID-19 pandemic, our plans to make February 14 unforgettable will be different than in 2019 and before.

The process of falling in love has gone through tremendous changes over the past 25 years. Glitchy dating websites have given way to sophisticated apps where people can seek compatibility in a partner. Users can browse through detailed information about careers and family situations.

While there are sub-groups in some of these apps that allow Canadian adults to seek a partner based on specific compatibilities – such as politics, religion or sports – the world of food has quickly become a staple of online dating. A person’s diet can be one of the keys to long-term bliss, with some apps blocking users who consume certain things.

With the impending arrival of Valentine’s Day, Research Co. and Glacier Media wanted to look at some of the reasons that may make Canadians abandon a relationship, with an emphasis not on the hallmarks of a prosperous relationship – empathy, communication and values – but on what we eat.

There are some Canadians who draw the line on a possible partner based on the kind of food that they may prefer. In our survey, 9% of Canadians say they would break up with a person who has a different diet than theirs, and 3% admit to having left a relationship already because of this reason.

Canadians aged 18 to 34 are more likely to look at a different diet as a reason to decline a relationship with a person (16%) than their counterparts aged 35 to 54 (11%) and aged 55 and over (6%).

A similar situation ensues when the question focuses on eating animals. We found that 3% of Canadians have broken up with a person for this reason and 8% would ultimately take that course of action. More than one in five Canadians aged 18 to 34 (21%) would call off a relationship if their partner consumed animal products, compared to just 8% among those aged 35 to 54 and 4% among those aged 55 and over.

Also related to food, but indirectly connected to what we eat, there are two other issues that can affect the attractiveness of possible partners. One of them is table manners. Slurping, gulping and talking while food is being chewed can be quick ways to cast an otherwise attractive partner into oblivion. Across Canada, 27% of respondents tell us they would break up with a person who had poor manners at the table, while 6% admit to ending a relationship because of this fact – perhaps as a plate of chicken wings was being devoured.

Women are significantly more mindful of this aspect of a relationship, with almost a third (32%) saying they would not consider a partner who failed to observe proper manners at the table. The proportion is 10 points lower among men (22%).

There are some fascinating fluctuations on account of political allegiance. Conservative Party voters in 2021 are the ones who care the least about manners at the dinner table, with 22% saying they would break off a relationship with a person who was not up to their standard. The proportion is significantly higher among people who cast ballots for candidates representing the New Democratic Party (NDP) (27%) and the Liberal Party (34%) last year.

Lastly, we look at the fundamental aspect of oral hygiene. Almost three in 10 Canadians (28%) say they would break up with a person who had bad breath, and 6% remember a moment in their life when they stopped dating someone who made them uncomfortable up close.

The breath issue is significantly more crucial for Canadians aged 55 and over (31% would break up with a person for this reason) than for those aged 18 to 34 and 35 to 54 (24% each).

In case you are wondering which regions of the country are more tolerant of partners who forgo a toothbrush or a mint, Ontario is at the bottom of the list, with 24% of residents saying they would break up with a person who has bad breath. The proportion climbs in other regions: 27% in Atlantic Canada, 28% in Alberta, 29% in Quebec, 30% in British Columbia and 34% in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Our survey shows that Canadians are not extremely preoccupied with what their potential or current partner chooses to eat. However, when it comes to how they do it and what lingers behind after the meal is consumed, more than a quarter are ready to explore other options.

Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.

Results are based on an online study conducted from January 28 to January 30, 2022, among 1,000 adults in Canada. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region. The margin of error, which measures sample variability, is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.