Are you struggling to fit date nights in? Then why not try micro dating?
According to a study commissioned by insurance company Legal and General, 67% of parent couples agree that date nights are really important for their relationship.
That certainly stands to reason. Childcare is hard work, and it’s easy for couples to get lost in an everyday routine of nappies, feeds and nursery runs at the expense of their own grown up relationship.
Date nights: easier said than done
The problem is, date nights (though occassionally perfect) are often easier said than done. For a start, and not to put too fine a point on it, you’re both knackered! Nearly half of the parents surveyed cited tiredness as a reason they found it hard to keep up with regular date nights, and who can blame them?
Then there’s cost, cited by 41% of respondents. Restaurants are expensive, and even a night in the local pub doesn’t come cheap these days. Many couples then have to factor in the cost of a babysitter. As it all adds up, many of us decide it’s much more sensible to just stay at home.
Finally, planning a date night to remember (assuming you don’t fall asleep in the middle of it) can be stressful, which is precisely the opposite of the point of a date night. Nearly 40% of the 1,000 parents surveyed said they struggled to come up with new ideas for date nights.
At this point the kind of relationship ‘expert’ who writes for glossy magazines would suggest something like a surprise weekend away, or a sexy night in a hotel! Which is just the sort of advice exhausted and penniless people need.
Nearly half of the parents surveyed cited tiredness as a reason they found it hard to keep up with regular date nights
Micro-dating: sharing everyday moments
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So is there an answer, or should we just accept that, until the kids are old enough to look after themselves, the times when we can nurture the relationship with our partner will be few and far between?
Legal & General say one answer might lie in the concept of micro-dating. Here’s how they explain it:
“The concept of micro-dating really comes down to recognising and appreciating those moments that already exist in your relationship, and looking for opportunities to create more little moments like them.”
From that description, it seems like micro-dating is part of the movement towards living in the moment, or mindfulness. Don’t yearn for what you don’t have, but make the most of what you do.
“For example, when you wake up in the morning, do you both tumble out of bed on opposite sides and blearily wander off to sort the children’s breakfasts and packed lunches? Why not just take a few seconds for a quick cuddle before you get out of bed? It’s that simple.”
This seems eminently sensible. Taking a moment out of your busy day to show your appreciation for each other sounds like a good way to remember that you are friends, lovers and confidantes, as well as parents. It is, as the researchers say, “not just acting on auto-pilot, but instead looking for chances to reframe shared moments.”
The idea is that, once you start noting these moments and acting on them, you’ll realise that there are lots of them in an average day. Then you can take it up a notch, arranging a call at lunchtime at work, or grabbing a coffee together when the baby is asleep. Don’t waste these occasions staring at phones. Use them to talk, joke, confide.
None of this is difficult or expensive. Some of it you may be doing already. But the idea is that if you micro-date consciously and regularly, the whole adds up to more than the sum of its parts.
To get you started, here are some more micro-dating ideas from the research:
- Tapping into your shared history is a good way to stir happy memories. Were you both once gamers? Then take an hour one evening, when the children are asleep, to have a game of Super Mario. For full authenticity, you’ll have to sit on cushions in front of the telly. Or a cushion together.
- If video games weren’t your thing, perhaps a game of cards, or even trying to finish a crossword together.
- Both working? Then synchronise your lunchtimes and video call each other for a quick catch-up.
- If you don’t have the time to go out for a meal for two, cook dinner at home together – alternate cooking up one of your and your partner’s favourite meals each week
- Work out a 5-minute exercise routine you can do together at the end of each day. Perhaps you could add in a shoulder massage, too.
- You don’t even have to escape your children altogether. Take them to a soft play centre, and while they’re busy wearing themselves out, you can catch up over coffee and cake. Or take them along to a swimming or activity class at the weekend, so you can spend some quality time as a couple while your little ones are enjoying themselves, too.