Dating—in person, online or blind—is prized in our culture, and most of us think of dating to be an important part of any meaningful, romantic relationship. Whether casual or glamorous, expensive or on a budget, we intuitively know that dating is a central way to get to know someone, win his or her heart and build a romance.

So why wouldn’t dating continue to be important after marriage?

Marriage is meant to be an earthly picture of Christ and the Church, a relationship that points to the love and affection between Jesus and His people. But if a husband and wife hardly spend time together, it’s difficult for that love and affection to grow.

Dating your spouse doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult, but to maintain—and grow—a healthy marriage, consistently dating your partner is important to do.

Here are some of the reasons we all need to continue to date our spouses after we say our vows at the altar:

Time Is a Valuable Gift

Making time to date one another in a season of life that is very busy (and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon) is a powerful gift you can offer your spouse. Time is a precious commodity to any of us, and when we willingly spend that time with one another, we are saying “You are worth my time.” And because our lives are made up of just that—time—we are saying, in essence, “You are worth my life.”

We Invest in What We Value

If you’re like me and you’re not rolling in money, the components of getting a date with your spouse can seem too costly sometimes—paying for a date (and a sitter, if you have kids) can start to add up.

Yet, we invest in what we value: we do this all of the time with our food choices, our clothing purchases, our donations. It doesn’t mean we have to spend loads of money to date, but we do have to invest in growing our marriages as a couple—and it will cost us money, as many things of value often do.

When We Short-Change Our Spouses, We Short-Change the Family

Even if the family is just the two of you right now, if you ignore the need that your spouse has for intentional, invested time together, you’re hurting the family dynamics. The cracks may not start to show for a while, but the foundation of intimacy and friendship will weaken if you’re not building in to your relationship as husband and wife.

Once we have kids, I think it’s just as important—if not more so—to keep dating one another. As a mom, I want my daughter to have everything she needs (and more). But more than many other things, children want to know that their parents are in love and that they enjoy one another. this brings peace and stability to a home.

Having a consistent date night won’t guarantee a healthy marriage, but it provides intentional space to grow together as a couple.

Here are a few ways to make the time meaningful:

Intentional Connection

Date night won’t add much to a relationship if there is no real connection during the time together. While watching a TV show together can be fun, it’s also important to create space to talk in order to continue to learn about each other. My husband, Michael, and I have even purchased books to help jumpstart these conversations—and we keep learning new things about each other in the process.

Keep It Simple and Consistent

Michael and I have a standing date night every week, and so we always know that Tuesday nights are our nights—that means no other meetings, no unnecessary cancellations. But in order to have a consistent date night, we have to keep things simple. Because sometimes, the thought of planning a date night—on top of everything else—can seem like a burden.

So, most of the time, we grab coffee at our favorite café or dinner at one of our regular spots. It’s not the place and the surroundings that matter; it’s the time you get with one another. If you’re stuck in a routine and you need to break out of it, look at the options at your local library or community college—many offer one-night classes where you can learn a new skill, such as a cooking class or an art class.

Sometimes, Go Fancy

The caveat to keeping things simple is that there are times when a fancy night out or adventurous date is exactly what you both need. New experiences together are fun, and they create opportunities to bond together in a different way. So, dress to the nines see a show together in the city. Take a short train ride to the next town over. Head to your local climbing wall and spend an hour with an instructor, learning how to climb. Sign up for a salsa dancing class or a country-line dancing class.

With a little creativity, date nights can be great chances to see your spouse in a new light.

Either Way, Make It Happen

Regardless of what you do, actually having a date together is the key. If Michael and I only had a date night on the weeks it was convenient, we would never get one. But we are committed to investing in our marriage in this way, and so we make it work, even if it’s a shared dessert at home after our daughter goes to sleep or a walk at the park with her in a stroller while we talk.

A version of this article originally appeared on annswindell.com.

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