Who doesn’t like being appreciated? Even the simplest gestures go a long way toward making the person you’re seeing feel great about dating you. Edie Raether, author of Winning! How Winners Think – What Champions Do, says: “A handmade card means much more than an expensive gift. Despite sounding like a cliché, it really is the thought that counts!” So instead of waiting for a reason to show our dates how much we appreciate them, why not be proactive about it?

With that in mind, are several fun, free ways to show your date some affection:

1. Take care of mundane tasks he or she hates to do. “My girlfriend never has time to pay bills or pick up the dry cleaning, so I always offer to handle those chores for her,” notes Dom Patterson of Newark, NJ.

2. Simply pay attention to your date, advocates Patti Henry, author of The Emotionally Unavailable Man: A Blueprint for Healing. “Those who listen get to have deeper, more meaningful connections,” Henry explains. “If you show a genuine interest, others will go to a deeper level of sharing their lives (and feelings) with you.”
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3. Stash a cute note somewhere for your date to discover at a later time. At your date’s place and getting ready to leave? Follow this tip from Dimitri Petrushka of Boston, MA: “I put a cute note on her pillow for her to find after I dropped her off for the night.”

4. Start your date’s workday off with a loving (and unexpected) message. Terri Orbuch, Detroit’s “Love Doctor” and author of Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship, suggests you “call your date’s voicemail at work and leave a wonderful message in the a.m. so when he or she gets in, that is the first thing your date hears.”

5. Go the old-fashioned route by penning a handwritten love note. “Write a love letter,” suggests Steve Peters of Issaquah, WA. “Tell your date not what you like about him or her, but how and why the things you like about your date make your life measurably better.”

6. Sincerely compliment your date on a less-obvious trait (i.e., not looks, clothing or restaurant choice). Victorya Michaels Rogers, author of Finding A Man Worth Keeping: Dating Secrets that Work, advises, “Flatter your date with genuine, specific flattery, not just superficial, generic words. Everyone is positively affected by genuine flattery and will keep coming back for more.”

7. Reach out... just because you feel like it. “It’s corny, but call or email when you think about your date during the day,” notes Nancy Tarczinski of Atlanta.

8. Let your date know you are looking forward to seeing him or her again. “I always check in after one of our dates — I let her know I’m looking forward to seeing her again,” says Dave Steuben of Queens, NY.

9. Create a book filled with happy memories of your time together. Jackie Woods, author of Soulmate or Cell Mate: A Guide to Healthy Relationships, suggests making a scrapbook of special shared times between the two of you.

10. Express gratitude for your date. “Every once in a while, I just look her deep in the eyes and tell her I’m glad I found her,” relates David Herrera of Austin, TX. “It seems to do the trick.”

11. Make a small sacrifice to make your date happy. “Every so often I go bowling with a date, even though I don’t really enjoy it,” notes Pamela Angelo of Sarasota, FL. “I get a kick out of seeing him have so much fun.”

12. Bake something special as a surprise treat for your sweetie. “Say it with baked goods,” says Karen Ellsworth of Columbia, SC. “I sent a gourmet pound cake to my man’s office. It not only showed him I cared, but his coworkers, too.”

13. Look your date in the eye and share your true feelings. Steve Peha, language expert and author of Be a Writer: Your Guide to the Writing Life, says that sometimes, the simplest and most direct approach is the most effective: “Express your appreciation face-to-face in a way the other person can’t discount. Give your date a compliment that focuses on you instead of on him or her. Say something like, ‘When I’m with you, I feel ___________.’ This way, he or she can’t demur or shake off the compliment.”

Using any of these tips will ensure that your date always feels honored, respected and valued. And who doesn’t love that?

Margot Carmichael Lester is a freelance writer in Carrboro, NC, whose work also appears in Go magazine and the Los Angeles Business Journal.