For many years, my weekly date with my husband has followed an exact formula. Once a month we go to a restaurant, and the other three weeks of the month we go for pizza. The babysitter always arrives on time, and we always end up leaving 15 minutes late. When we’re a block from our home, we always discover that we’ve forgotten something (usually a jacket or an umbrella), and my husband always has to jog back home to get it.

We always buy two almond-and-date milkshakesFor our pizza dates, we always walk on the left side of the street until we reach Malchei Yisrael Street. Once there, we always buy two almond-and-date milkshakes, followed by two pieces of pizza topped with tomato and onion. Then we walk a few more blocks and eat the pizza on the same bench, in the same beautiful park, underneath the same tree that we always do. Then we walk home, the exact same way we came.

Recently, though, we had a surprise. For the first time in many years, we went on a date that was completely different.

The evening started off as usual. The babysitter arrived at 7:30, and we were out of the door at 7:45. A block from our home, my husband realized that it was bit chilly, and he jogged back home to get a jacket. Then we walked down the hill to Malchei Yisrael Street, on the left side of the street, as always.

But when we went to the ATM, it turned out that our account was totally empty. I hadn’t eaten in hours. And there we were, penniless. My husband and I just stood there, staring at the flashing screen of the ATM and feeling miserable.

Then my husband said, “Wait a minute ... ,” and he plunged his hand deep into his pocket and brought up seven little silver shekels. Just under $2. That made me feel a little better. A very little bit.

We walked to the milkshake store, and my husband put five of his seven shekels on the counter. He then ordered the smallest possible size of almond-and-date milkshake, and asked the man behind the counter for an extra cup. Then my husband handed me half a milkshake, barely two inches high. I drank in silence, disappointed.

We walked a little further down the street, and when I smelled freshly baked dough and melted cheese, my stomach started begging loudly for food. I felt around in my purse for something to eat and found only a few cracker crumbs. This was going to be the longest date ever.

Then, suddenly, my husband stopped in his tracks and said, “Wait a minute ... .” He took out his wallet and pulled out a forgotten card with 10 little punch holes over 10 little pizzas, with the word “FREE” written over the 11th pizza.

At the pizza store, the young man behind the counter looked down at the card and then looked at us in disbelief. “We haven’t used these punch cards for almost a year! How do you still have one?” Within a few minutes, though, we were on the way to our favorite park, carrying our single piece of pizza topped with tomatoes and onion.

The only thing that really mattered to me, I realized, was that my husband was at my sideBefore long, my husband and I were sitting on our favorite park bench, sharing our single piece of pizza. We sat there for a whole hour, laughing about our 2-year-old’s newest antics and discussing an article my husband had just read, and debating whether we should finally buy a new set of chairs.

I was still pretty hungry, but I realized that I no longer minded. The sky was star-filled and clear, the night chilly but gorgeous. The only thing that really mattered to me, I realized, was that my husband was at my side.

Over the years, I have heard as many excuses for not going on a weekly date as there are couples. “My husband’s too busy.” “We don’t know any babysitters.” “Look, we just can’t afford it at the moment.”

There are so many excuses why we cannot possibly find time to spend with our husbands, but even more reasons why we must. Time set aside during the week to communicate with our spouses is the most important investment we can make in our marriages and families. It is a necessary prerequisite for a thriving marriage and for children who will grow up feeling loved, stable and protected.

Two hours a week with our husbands, to walk and laugh and share. Two hours with our husbands, uninterrupted by a ringing phone or a crying child or a neighbor knocking on the door.

It doesn’t matter one bit, the truth is, if the only thing you can afford to do is share a single piece of pizza on a park bench on a starry night. All that matters is that for two whole hours, it’s just the two of you. Alone. Together.

That night, when we were right around the corner from our home, my husband again said, “Wait a minute ... .” He ran down the street and disappeared into a store, and then ran back and presented me with a single red rose. In the past, on birthdays and anniversaries and holidays, my husband has certainly presented me with nicer presents.

But that flower, on that special night, meant more to me than any of those gifts combined. In fact, I am sure that two-shekel rose is a gift I will treasure forever.