A common prescription for couples feeling disconnected, irritable, or lonely in the midst of busy lives is to make more time for their relationship by scheduling “date nights.” This regularly scheduled time, whether once a week or once a month, can create a container to recapture some of the spontaneity, intimacy, thrill, and romance of an earlier phase in a couple’s history when attention converged far more frequently on one another.
Over time, as the juggling act of a couple’s life together begins to include more responsibilities, ambitions, tasks, and projects, the original commitment to spend quality time together can get sidelined into a more fragmented, multitasking modus operandi. You talk to your boss on your wireless headset, rock the baby to sleep with one foot, and scribble grocery items on a notepad as your partner blows you a kiss from the doorway before leaving for work.
Some couples are able to set and maintain date nights and reap the benefits of feeling more connected. For other couples, date nights create more stress than they’re worth. Maybe there’s a big project at the office, child-related pressures, or a bathroom or kitchen renovation that makes scheduling and planning time together feel temporarily unfeasible. Maybe one partner travels a lot as part of their job or is dedicating all their excess personal time to caretaking an ailing family member. Date nights require time, energy, and, often, financial resources. What happens when you desperately need quality time with your partner but full-on dates nights are out of the question?
There’s another option: micro dates. Motivated couples can try these on for size beginning right now at no extra expense and with minimal effort. Micro dates are less about creating something that isn’t there and more about deepening and appreciating what is. Rather than adding to your relational to-do list, you make a commitment with your partner to cultivate gratitude; open yourself to greater presence; and creatively celebrate the time you already do spend together. The micro date approach asks you focus on changing how you experience and frame your time with your partner from a task or chore focus to one that emphasizes moments of routine-defying, shared pleasure.
For example, as you start your day, you can make a micro date out of a few extra moments in bed together. You can cuddle up, be affectionate, and find something to genuinely appreciate about this normally overlooked or rushed-through transition into your separate agendas: the warmth of blankets, the sound of rain or distant traffic, sharing a half-remembered dream, a long, heartfelt hug. In a grocery store, you can turn the task of buying eggs and milk into a micro date by taking your partner’s hand as you walk down the dairy aisle. You can make a conscious effort during your 10-minute stop at a coffee shop to leave your iPhone in your pocket. Rather than operating on automatic pilot and answering an email or a text while waiting in line, create a micro date! If music is playing, take your partner by the waist and try a few dance steps. Tell a joke. Make a flower out of a napkin. Lean over or stand on your toes and whisper a few lines from a love poem into their ear. Or just look at them with appreciation and take in the details of what they’re wearing, how they’re standing, or the expression on their face, and love them exactly as they are in this moment.
Approaching your couples time as an opportunity, no matter how briefly you’re together or what practical, seemingly “unromantic” task you’re accomplishing, can help you remember what’s truly important in the midst of stressful events or periods of heightened responsibility.
Micro dates may be a more doable step for couples who are busy but want to sustain their connection in spite of everything else that’s going on in their lives. They can be created in virtually any situation. The only prerequisite for a micro date is that you and your partner be willing to make the most of your time together as you engage in an internal shift of perspective from one in which your relationship is taken for granted to one in which it is a priority.
Approaching your couples time as an opportunity, no matter how briefly you’re together or what practical, seemingly “unromantic” task you’re accomplishing, can help you remember what’s truly important in the midst of stressful events or periods of heightened responsibility. Whether you’re at a gas station, driving your partner to the subway station, or walking to the post office, creating a micro date out of the here-and-now allows you to savor the unique sweetness of your relationship without adding another task to an already bogged-down to-do list.
Whatever situations you choose to turn into micro dates, they are about slowing down through savoring the moment and allowing yourselves to be grateful for the time you share. Here are 10 ways to turn ordinary routines into micro dates (having a sense of humor may help):
- Meet during your lunch hour, either in person (if you work close to one another) or via FaceTime or videoconferencing.
- Pick a household task you typically do alone (folding clothes, cleaning the kitchen, taking out the trash, etc.) and do it together at the end of your day while sharing feelings or experiences.
- Give each other a 1-minute back rub or foot rub prior to parting ways or leaving the room you’re in.
- Cook dinner together wearing silly outfits or each other’s work clothes or pajamas while “trading places” and impersonating each other for a few minutes (be sure to be kind in your humor if you do this one—no mocking!).
- Meet your partner at the bus stop/subway stop with a treat (tea, coffee, chocolate, bottle of water, etc.) and finish the final lap of their commute together.
- Play a game of cards or a silly party game like “wrap the mummy” with toilet paper.
- Sing a song together on a drive somewhere or just wiggle around to the beat while you’re listening.
- Do a 5-minute sketch of each other while you say what you love about your partner’s face.
- Exercise or stretch together rather than separately, acting as each other’s “tough love” trainer.
- Do some small part of your partner’s grooming for them one morning (comb your partner’s hair, help brush their teeth, etc.).
What ideas for short-and-sweet micro dates can you come up with?
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