February is the month of love. Valentine’s Day marks the middle of the month, bringing social pressures of gifting flowers, chocolates, and meaningful gifts. In turn, another broader social pressure is also present – being in love. Don’t get us wrong, we love love! With one condition. That it is healthy, consensual love.

What does a healthy, consensual love look like? Let us lay out a few key points to a healthy relationship, followed by a few steps forward if your relationship doesn’t live up to your standards.

Communication

Communication is an essential part of all relationships, romantic or not. Clear communication strengthens trust and eliminates doubts. Strong communication involves more than just talking to each other. Partners who are strong communicators allow space for both parties to talk, be listened to intently, and find common ground. Often, talking is easier than listening. In fact, active listening is a skill that many adults have not finely tuned. If this is not your strong suite, there are plenty of techniques to practice.

Respect

Couples don’t have to agree on everything to be healthy, but they do have to be respectful of the other’s thoughts, feelings, and viewpoints. Respecting your partner comes in many forms and will be unique to your relationship. Recognizing and appreciating each other’s differences, communicating well, and showing your genuine care for the other person are great places to start.

Security

When you and your partner trust each other, you will share information that you might not tell someone else. If your partner is your go-to person to talk about life’s ups and downs with, you will be vulnerable with each other from time to time. This vulnerability allows trust to be built. What a wonderful thing to have – trust and security in another person! However, if one person is unwilling to be open or tends to play with power dynamics by withholding their vulnerable side, this is an unhealthy atmosphere.

At this point, we hope that you have concluded your relationship is happy and healthy. If however, your relationship isn’t thriving, you do have options.

Let’s Talk

Does your relationship feel almost perfect but falls short sometimes? Talk to your partner! Placing blame isn’t going to be effective but bringing up parts of your relationship you would like to work on can be all you need to start moving forward. Be clear with your message and your intention. Be open to your partner’s response and work together to make each other happy.

Walk Away

Knowing when to talk away from a relationship that is not bringing you love and happiness is no easy task. This often involves disrupting the comfortable pattern you have established with your partner, but if the effort you are putting into the relationship is more than the happiness you are receiving, it may be time to part ways.

You Have Power

Finally, you are never helpless. Your choices may feel limited, but you are not stuck. If you feel that you need to move on from your current relationship, you can. If you feel unsafe in any way, people will help you. Turn to your friends and loved ones for support, and there will always be a professional a phone call away. Hotlines are available 24/7 to talk to someone if you are concerned for your safety or wellbeing. http://www.thehotline.org/