We don’t run a relationship advice column at the East Tennessean. Relationship columns are unnecessary. Often the advice-giver over-reaches, makes assumptions about a situation, and meddles too much. No one knows more about your relationships than you, but, from time to time, everyone should run a relationship check-up and perform any required maintenance (or terminate an unhealthy relationship). For Valentine’s Day, let’s take a look at how to do that.

But first, Valentine’s Day is often accompanied by mixed emotions. Whatever you’re feeling right now, let this be a reminder to take care of yourself. You are important and loved and special, and loving yourself should be your top priority. If you’re struggling, there are people and resources that can help. Check out the ETSU Counseling Center and groups like To Write Love on Her Arms.

Whether you’ve made elaborate plans with your partner this Valentine’s Day or you’ve both decided you’d rather enjoy a quiet night in, take a few minutes and ask yourself the questions compiled by Capital Choice Counseling to make sure your relationship is headed in the right direction.

You can check their website for the full list; here’s a selection:

  • When my partner and I fight, are we able to repair our relationship in such a way that feels satisfying for both of us, even if the area of conflict is not resolved?
  • How safe do we feel when having more vulnerable conversations? Are we having vulnerable conversations?
  • Do we have a shared dream, or vision for our relationship? When was the last time we talked about this?
  • Do I feel that my partner responds to me when I am stressed or upset, and in need of comfort?
  • Do I feel like I can depend on my partner to be there?
  • Do I feel that on the whole we have more positive interactions then negative?

How you answer these questions and what to do with the answers is your decision. You know more about your situation than anyone else. But there are a few more things you might want to keep in mind.

It’s important to remember that all couples fight. And fighting isn’t just an unavoidable hazard in a relationship, it’s an important part of building a stronger bond.

As mathematician Hannah Fry explains in her TED Talk on math and love, “The best couples, or the most successful couples, are the ones with a really low negativity threshold. These are the couples that don’t let anything go unnoticed and allow each other some room to complain… that don’t let trivial things end up being a really big deal.”

The math confirms that open lines of communication are a crucial component of a healthy relationship. To many people, this might be a no-brainer. You have something to say, and you voice your opinion to your partner in a way that shows that you respect them and yourself.

But if this is difficult, there are tools to help you. Of course, couple’s or relationship counseling is available if you feel it would be most beneficial. If you think that’s a little extreme but still want to establish boundaries, express your desires, or learn more about your partner, you can try making a want/will/won’t list.

As explained by sexologist Dr. Lindsey Doe in her YouTube video titled “How to Get the Sex You Want,” a want/will/won’t list can be used for almost anything. Her video, of course, focuses on the chart’s usefulness in your sex life, but it is a versatile tool. Use it to decide who is going to do which house chores, or if you’re going to have to alternate who cleans the dishes. Talking through any situations or decisions is always better than letting something boil until it erupts.

Whatever the day means to you (or doesn’t), have a happy February 14, and use these tools not only today but any day to take care of yourself and your relationships.