If you’ve been married for any length of time, you’ve probably heard someone recommend dating your spouse, and I totally agree! There is so much value in dating your spouse and it’s definitely an important practice for a healthy marriage. But what happens when busy schedules, lack of childcare, or tight budgets make dating feel impossible?
A New Way of Dating
Let’s be honest… If you have kids, there is a really good chance that dating your spouse (especially in the middle of a pandemic) feels impossible! Even if you don’t have kids, there’s so much going on right now that dating can feel crazy hard!
But what if there were an easier way to date your spouse, even if time and childcare are an issue?
There is! It’s called micro-dating.
The #1 Predictor of Marital Success
Leading relationship expert, John Gottman, looks at marriage from a relational and scientific perspective. He has studied married couples for over 30 years and found that the #1 predictor for long-term marital success and happiness is this: The quality of a couple’s friendship.
Just like any great friendship, marriage takes nurturing.
It’s so easy for us as a married couple to resort to being business partners instead of best friends. Michael and I have been there! The more we slip into that business partner mode, the more easily we begin to feel emotionally disconnected.
Business partner mode is when the majority of your interactions and communication as a couple start to become centered around the business of life. Things like who’s getting the groceries, who’s making dinner, who’s mowing the lawn, who’s taking care of the kids… all of the business of running our schedules and family.
It’s important to talk through those things and be on the same team, but if all of your interaction is focused on that, then you’re missing out on that deeper friendship and can become disconnected from each other.
We need our spouse more than anyone else! When you go through hard times in life you want to come out with a stronger marriage, not a disconnected one. And dating is a great way to nurture your marriage and build that strong foundation of friendship that is so important.
When Dating Your Spouse Feels Impossible
My husband and I used to go on dates regularly.
Notice I said “used to.”
We used to check out local coffee shops, explore art museums…we even traveled the world together!
And then this magical, wonderful thing happened to us; we became parents. Totally love it, totally worthwhile. Also, it changed everything.
All of a sudden, going out for a date felt like this huge, impossible feat!
We still wanted to date each other, and we had always talked about making dating a priority once we had kids. Yet, after our daughter was born, going out on a date became an ordeal.
Now, we needed to find a babysitter that we trusted, then we had to find a time that their schedule would work with ours! If you’re breastfeeding then you have to pump and make sure your baby will take a bottle!
Going on a date was just not so simple anymore.
Our first date after our oldest was born was a movie. She was six weeks old and breastfeeding, but she wouldn’t take a bottle. After an almost three hour long movie, we ran to the car and sped home like something out of Speed with Keanu Reeves.
This was the reality of dating now that we had kids.
I’ve heard people say that, “If your marriage is struggling, all you need is a weekly date night.” Now, I agree that dating your spouse can strengthen your marriage. BUT if your marriage is struggling, a weekly date night probably isn’t going to save your marriage.
If your marriage is struggling and you’re juggling everything going on in your life and family, even trying to think about a weekly date night can be overwhelming.
The truth is, your marriage needs nurturing on a daily basis, not just one night a week. Date nights are awesome! But they aren’t the end-all-be-all. It’s important to date your spouse on a daily basis.
Wait a second, you’re telling me I don’t have time for a weekly date night, but you want me to date my spouse every day?
Uh, yeah. But I have a solution for you, so hang on.
When you have young kids (and limited or no childcare options), or when dates are date-nights-when-they-can-happen (or not), that’s where micro-dating comes in!
My friend Steve Pare, who runs SpouseDates.com, introduced me to this concept. It’s really helped change the way I look at dating! (Check out his website for more awesome micro-date ideas!)
What is a micro-date?
A micro-date is an intentional act of connecting with your spouse in a loving way. It’s not limited by time and it can consist of just about anything that helps you connect! That’s the beauty of a micro-date.
There are two types of micro-dates:
- Something that you and your spouse do together.
- Something you do for your spouse as an act of love.
Micro-dating your spouse is all about thinking outside the box. Instead of just ditching date night altogether, break it down into smaller pieces and recognize that the value of dating is not just dinner and a movie outside of the house.
What Does Micro-Dating Look Like?
My husband and I have started having coffee on the porch together. Every morning, we schedule 20 minutes of sitting on the porch, drinking coffee. It has been so good for our marriage!
I know what you’re thinking – my kids won’t even let me have 20 minutes! I get it, our kids are the same way. The first week of doing coffee on the porch, our kids sat on our laps and we were interrupted about 147 times.
But, because we recognize the value of intentional connection, we were determined to make it work!
So we started getting creative! Sometimes we fill the water table and let our kids play on the other side of the porch while we talk. Sometimes we set them up inside with a craft before we go chat. And sometimes we give them a snack and turn on a show, whatever it takes.
Do we still get interrupted sometimes? Sure, it happens. But our kids are getting used to seeing Mom & Dad do this every morning because we love each other.
Even though you can’t always prevent interruptions, it’s been so good for our marriage to have that time set aside each morning for each other. It helps us start the day off on the right foot and really stay connected.
One of the rules we set for ourselves is that we can’t just talk about life business so we don’t get sucked into business partner mode. We try to focus on things that light us up instead. This can be something we’re learning, something we’re thinking about, or something we’re dreaming about for the future.
We might grab a connecting question from our list of 25 Conversation Starters to help us go deeper with each other to build that foundation of friendship.
Whether you take 20 minutes for coffee in the morning or snag a few minutes over lunch or wait until the kids are in bed, setting aside some time every day to connect is a powerful practice that will transform your marriage.
The point of a micro-date is that it doesn’t have to be long, and it doesn’t have to happen at a specific time. It’s just the two of you, together, experiencing each other and the world together.
5 Simple Micro-Date Ideas
- Watch an episode of a show together after the kids go to bed.
- Watch the sunset together! If you’re up early, watch the sunrise.
- Make dinner together, turn on some music, and slow dance in the kitchen. Talk about your day as you cook.
- Snuggle on the couch for a bit, even as your kids run around and play.
- Hop in the shower together. (Just lock the door so you don’t ruin your kids’ lives or anything.)
Micro-Dates as an Act of Love
What I love about micro-dating is that you can do it FOR your spouse and not just WITH them. A micro-date is any intentional act of love that encourages connection in your relationship.
Think in terms of your spouse’s love language. I highly recommend reading The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman, or even just taking the quiz here to see what you and your spouse’s top love languages are.
If you want your micro-dates to really make a difference, then make sure you are loving your spouse in their language.
Micro-Dates Ideas Based on Love Languages
- Words of Affirmation
- Write post-it notes and leave them around the house for your spouse to find. Jot down a love note and leave it on the fridge or bathroom mirror or on their laptop.
- Send them a text with 5 things you love about them
- Pull them aside at some point during the day, look them in the eyes, and say thank you for something they do and who they are.
- Physical Touch
- Give them a 6-second kiss. A peck on the cheek is great, but if you surprise your spouse with a 6-second kiss, it’ll be like hellooo there!
- Give them a shoulder massage.
- Hold their hand as you walk somewhere or while sitting in the car together. Even sitting on the couch!
- Play footsie under the dinner table while your kids throw their mac and cheese.
- Invite your spouse to play Twister with you! Make it interesting if you want.
- Quality Time
- Ask your spouse an open-ended question. This is a question that requires more than a yes or no answer…something that will help you go deeper. A favorite of mine is to ask: If we could go on an all-expenses-paid vacation, where would we go and what we do? Talk about that for a few minutes and dream together!
- Bring your spouse a cup of coffee or tea and sit down with them for a few minutes, look them in the eyes, and chat.
- Acts of Service
- Do a quick chore that they normally do. It only takes a few minutes but you know it will mean a lot to them.
- Make them a snack! If you know they haven’t eaten in a while, whip up their favorite snack and bring it to them.
- Make a phone call that they’ve been dreading (uh, this is true love to me. I HATE phone calls.)
- Grab their favorite drink from Starbucks on the way home and surprise them with it.
- Pick a wildflower for them or have flowers delivered.
- Think outside the box for this. Are you good at drawing? Draw them a picture! Print something that will make them laugh or make their day and leave it for them to find.
- Order something that you know they would love and have it delivered.
- DoorDash them a cup of coffee or lunch as a surprise.
Dating your spouse is not about scheduling a babysitter and going to dinner and a movie. A date night out is valuable and I definitely recommend making time to have those when you can.
But whatever is keeping you from going on those dates, whether it’s a tight budget or social distancing, not having time or childcare, start to think outside the box.
Reimagine dating in a new, fresh way. Micro-dates give you that sense of intentionality and nurturing your marriage. They help build that strong foundation of friendship outside of just a traditional date night.
Like this post? You may also enjoy…