How much time should you spend together when dating?

Consult with Krystal Okay, I’ll bite here – my primary question is how much time should you spend together when dating? Here’s the deal, I…


Consult with Krystal

Okay, I’ll bite here – my primary question is how much time should you spend together when dating?

Here’s the deal, I am in my late 30s and work in security anywhere from 8 to 16 hours a day or night. This means my lifestyle is very much a get in where you fit in thing, which means that dating is virtually non-existent for me! I am not picky at all and would be grateful and appreciative of any help!

-Looking for love on a limited schedule

How much time you should spend together when dating

Thanks for writing in! From the beginning, I want to acknowledge there is no definitive, one-size-fits-all, answer to how much time a couple should spend together when dating. However, there is date we can draw upon.

Research has been conducted on how long it takes to build a friendship. And friendship is the basis for any healthy romantic relationship – there’s even something called the marital friendship that’s rarely discussed. This is the friendship between spouses which needs to be cultivated for long-term marriage success and life satisfaction.

It takes time to build any relationship

Ok, back to the research on friendship – researchers have found that it takes 50 hours to build a casual friendship. On the other hand, if you want a more meaningful, close friendship, you must invest at least 200 hours.

Given how time-consuming to build a friendship may be part of the reason it’s so hard to make friends as an adult!

Related: I have no friends anymore

Getting clear on your priorities

It is clear you have a limited schedule. Working 8-16 hours a day or night is a lot! It makes sense to me that this doesn’t leave a lot of time for anything in your life let alone dating.

Considering how many hours it takes to build a relationship, right now, do you honestly have time to build a relationship? You may want to dig deep for a moment. Sometimes, we feel compelled to date because we think we should but it’s not right for us at the time. Or, sometimes, we want a partnership, but our lifestyle doesn’t support it.

If you don’t have the time, what is your intention of dating? Is it for casual companionship? More of a sexual relationship? Whatever your intention, no judgment, it’s just helpful to be clear about this.

Related: Is casual sex healthy?

Attracting the right person for you

When you are clear about your needs, and intentions, you can attract the right person for you at this time. This is especially true since there are different dating apps for different needs!

If you want a relationship but have limited time, are you working towards a personal goal by working this much? If so, this is a great thing to communicate early on. For example, if you have the intention to be debt free within 3 years, this is valuable for someone to know early on.

They will know that while it’s not ideal to have limited time with you, this lifestyle is a means to an end for now.

Finding a partner with limited time

If this is your ongoing lifestyle, with no end in sight, this is also important to communicate. There are potential partners who won’t find this to be an issue. However, to find the right person for you, it’s helpful to be clear early on about your lifestyle.

You have an open mind about potential partners I hear so one viable option may be to look for dating partners who also have limited time. For example, single parents often have limited time for dates given the demands of parenting and the troubles with finding a babysitter. Therefore, some single parents may be more understanding of your schedule.

There’s even a new dating app, called Stir, exclusively for single parents and potential matches. The matches don’t need to have children; they simply need to be understanding of the demands of single parents’ lives.

Identifying your needs and wants

You say you’re not picky at all when it comes to dating.  I believe you are conveying you are open-minded; however, to find the right person for you it’s necessary to be picky to some degree.

Let me explain, there are things each person absolutely needs in a relationship to feel safe and respected. These are usually qualities like trustworthiness, loyalty, or kindness.

There are things we would prefer in a partner such as a certain hair color, or if they’re funny, but to us, they aren’t deal breakers.

To date effectively, it’s necessary to identify your non-negotiable needs. These are 3-6 qualities you need in a potential partner to feel safe and respected.

I’ve created a helpful worksheet to help you identify your non-negotiable needs which I encourage you to check out.

Being somewhat picky

You say your lifestyle is “very much a get in where you fit in thing” which makes me curious. What does this mean to you?

This sort of attitude, alongside saying you’re not “picky at all” may honestly seem like kind of an issue to some potential partners. I don’t know of anyone who wants to be told by their dating partner, “Well, I like you because you fit in where I could get you in.”

Healthy people want to find a partner that truly sees them for their unique self – this is true intimacy.

Again though, if you are not looking for a serious relationship, absolutely no problem – it’s just necessary to communicate this early on to attract the right person for you without unnecessary emotional drama.

Related: Am I too picky?

Taking time for you

With how busy you are and your lifestyle being “a get in where you fit in thing,” I am also curious about the time you have for your most important relationship – the one with yourself.

As a relationship therapist, while I love supporting people in their quest for love, I know that self-care is even more important. Your relationship with yourself is the foundation for all other relationships in your life.

Related: How self-love affects relationships

When you are working this much it makes me wonder about the quality of your sleep primarily. This is an essential basic need to function well as you know. Furthermore, a study at UC Berkeley showed poor sleep actually hurts relationships! This is concerning, of course, if you are trying to build a relationship.

If you notice that your self-care is lacking – no problem, it’s understandable. Yet I want to support you in creating a sustainable self-care plan. To start, you need to only invest 5-10 minutes a day in your self-care!

For my complete guidance on the sustainable self-care plan I teach my clients, please check out my article: How to take care of yourself – 6 simple self-care strategies.

Finding what you’re looking for is possible

Thanks again for writing in!

My hope is that this information provides you clarity, and guidance, to find the right person for you currently whatever your needs and dating intentions.

While, of course, dating still takes effort and time when you are clear with yourself and others about what you are looking for it’s so much less stressful and draining!

Please let me know if you have any follow-up questions or how this information lands for you!

About The Author

Krystal Mazzola Wood, LMFT is a practicing relationship therapist with over a decade of experience. Currently, Krystal sees clients at her private practice, The Healthy Relationship Foundation. She has dedicated her entire career to empowering people to heal from unhealthy relationship processes. She does this by teaching the skills and tools necessary to have a life filled with healthy and loving relationships.

This passion led her to write her best-selling books and create courses. Her books, The Codependency Recovery Plan: A 5-Step Guide to Understand, Accept, and Break Free from the Codependent Cycle and The Codependency Workbook: Simple Practices for Developing and Maintaining Your Independence have helped many people heal.

Her third book, Therapy Within Reach: Setting Boundaries, will be released September, 2023.

If you have any personal dating or relationship questions, Krystal is happy to provide advice using her expertise and compassion. If you feel comfortable, feel free to leave any questions in the comments of this post. Otherwise, you may send an email to or DM her on Instagram. Your name and any other identifying information will always be kept confidential.

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