Could micro-dating be the relationship saver time-poor parents need?

(Picture: Ella Byworth)

We’re all busy, exhausted, and stressed out.

When we do have a small window of spare time, we need to use it to recharge – although that pressure can make us feel guilty for doing nothing at all.

But where does that leave us when it comes to our relationships?

When our list of priorities puts self-care right below work, health, and caring for our family, romantic relationships can slip down further. When you’re a parent, making time for intimacy in a long-term relationship can be put off on loop, leading to sexless relationships and extra stress.

Micro-dating might be the answer.

Rather than being an extreme take on speed-dating, micro-dating refers to the art of wedging in tiny pockets of time to spend with your romantic partner. It’s a method aimed to maintain intimacy and romance for people who don’t have time for a full-on date night.

So couples might spend five minutes snuggling in bed before getting up and starting their day, share a phone call on their lunch break at work, or chat over coffee and cake while the kids are watching TV.

Micro-dating is all about recognising the love present in those moments and using them as opportunities for quality time… even if that time is minimal.

The idea is that those little snippets of time add up. It can be far easier to grab five minutes here or there than find a three hour chunk for a film and a meal out, so packing in those micro-dates works as a way to look after your relationship around packed schedules.

A survey by Legal & General found that 67% of parent couples agreed that date nights were really important for their relationship, but that many found it hard to keep up with regular dates, citing the cost, a lack of time, and tiredness. Micro-dating offers a solution, recognising the importance of intimate moments and balancing that with the strains of being an adult.

But is micro-dating enough to keep a relationship strong?

(Illustration: Ella Byworth for

Dr Becky Spelman, relationship expert at We-Vibe, tells that while micro-dating can be handy for busy couples and parents, it can’t be a longterm solution.

‘The concept of micro-dating can be a saviour during particular periods of a couple’s life,’ Becky explains. ‘For example, when there’s a new baby, it can be extremely difficult for the parents to find any time to spend together at all.

‘In this context, agreeing to micro-date when the baby is napping or at grandma’s can be a good way to ensure that they spend at least some quality time together.

‘A micro-date might be just half an hour of exchanging back-rubs, sharing a treat and a quiet moment in the kitchen, or just sitting together in the garden and really connecting.

‘The main point is to ensure that the couple is truly focused on one another, at least for a while.

‘In particular circumstances, this may even be a better approach in some ways than focusing on a weekly “date night”. When we’re tired, over-worked and run off our feet, the thought of having to get all dressed up and go out for a fancy meal can actually serve to add even more stress to an already tense situation. The same can go for any couple who find themselves in a finite period during which time is in extremely short supply because of work or other extenuating circumstances.’

Micro-dating can work in those limited periods of time when you’re both incredibly busy, but if you dismiss spending proper time together problems could emerge and go unremedied. After all, what issue can you discuss and resolve in the space of a five minute coffee micro-date?

(Picture: Ella Byworth for

And when it comes to intimacy, an hour spent laughing together might not always translate to a quick catch-up scheduled over a lunch break.

Becky tells us: ‘Micro-dating should never become a long-term answer to a couple’s need to spend quality time with one another.

‘All couples pass through periods in their lives when they are so busy that it’s very difficult to find time for a date. This could be when they have a new baby, when someone starts a new job or is temporarily struggling with a big project at work, during home renovations, or when a lot of time is devoted to helping an elderly parent, and so on.

‘To micro-date during these difficult times makes perfect sense, but if the couple persistently struggles to find time for one another, they don’t need to micro-date, they need to manage their time more effectively.

‘For a couple to thrive long-term, both parties need to ensure that they are able to set aside enough time during their normal week to devote their full attention to their partner and to focus exclusively on them. This doesn’t have to mean spending a lot of money, but it does call for a sustained investment of time and emotion that micro-dating does not provide.’

So go ahead and micro-date as a quick fix when you’re struggling to find time for your relationship – loving chats and moments of physical contact can be a lovely thing, even if they’re speedy.

But remember that when it comes to making things work long-term, it’s important to dedicate some real time and care to the person you love.

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