I've noticed a trend among couples who go out to eat together, and I think it would make a good sociological experiment for someone who wants to analyze it...
When my wife and I go out to eat at a restaurant by ourselves (i.e. no kids) we always sit at opposite sides of the table from each other. Whether we're in a booth or at four-top with four chairs (or more), we sit on either side so we can look at each other while we talk.
I notice couples that often sit side-by-side, leaving the entire other side of the table empty. This seems to me that it could be especially cramped at times, particular in a booth where there's not a lot of elbow room or leg room.
I'm wondering why this is, and here's my theory:
Almost in every situation, the male will sit close to the female with an arm around the back of her chair (or touching her shoulders) and will be half-turned to face her. The female sits straight forward and looks ahead. To me this signals that the male, either in actuality or in reality, feels the need to assume a dominance or protectiveness over the female. By putting his arm behind her, he automatically presumes "ownership" or dominance of the relationship and while he can look straight at her, she would have to turn her head completely to the side to speak right at him. This forces her to do extra work, and sometimes with discomfort, to directly participate in a two-way conversation.
This is probably more common in the South, and even there more common in the rural areas as males tend to be the dominate partner in relationships. My wife and I consider ourselves equal partners in our family, and therefore occupy equal spots around a table and are able to maintain eye contact whenever we like.
For some men it's important - almost vital - to maintain a dominance in public. They may think it's being protective, but I believe it has more to do with ego than charity.
What do you think? Have you noticed this phenomenon before?