Valentine's Day is fast approaching.
Retail stores are decorated in red and pink, reminding us that it's time to start planning the next gift-giving holiday.
Pulses race, prices for chocolate and flowers skyrocket and we begin to wonder what amazing things we should plan for the upcoming holiday of love.
Before you go all out for your object of affection, there are a few things to consider when it comes to your relationship.
There are many different ways to love. There are also many things that exist in this life that are disguised as love.
Everyone experiences it a little differently, but I believe there are universal truths that exist when it comes to the kind of love that is true and healthy.
You should ask yourself these five questions to see if the love you share makes the cut:
1. Is our love emotionally responsible?
It's important to take responsibility for your emotions.
Understanding what you're feeling and why you're feeling that way is the first step to recognizing real, true love.
Emotions can be fleeting.
We may experience something in a moment that makes us feel like we're in love, when really, we are being controlled by influences around us.
Other people aren't responsible for how we experience things, although they can trigger certain responses from us.
Our emotions are dependent upon on how we internalize those experiences ourselves.
You are responsible for the way you react to things.
Do you or your significant other always play the victim in a fight?
Does he or she experience happiness only when you're giving attention?
Do you get angry when your loved one doesn't meet your expectations?
Taking ownership of our emotions and recognizing why we react with anger, sadness, happiness or joy is all part of an emotionally mature love.
It means recognizing why you may be experiencing negative or positive emotions. Realize it may have more to do with your internal state than what is happening around you.
It means understanding the difference between a healthy love and using someone else to feel better about ourselves.
It means differentiating between someone we want to grow our lives with and someone who keeps us company because we don't like the idea of being alone.
2. Are we compassionate and empathetic with each other?
Love means being able to put yourself in someone else's shoes and see things from his or her perspective.
It means thinking about how your words or actions will affect that person.
It also means experiencing emotions right along with that person.
When you're in love, you hurt when the other person hurts, and you experience joy for his or her triumphs without jealousy.
Love also means having someone who is empathetic and compassionate to your feelings as well.
True love is about genuinely caring for each other's well-being.
It's not one-sided. It's a partnership based on compassion for one another.
It's collaborating to bring out the best in each other.
3. Is our love painful?
I think there are many people who are in relationships but don't experience true, healthy love.
Love isn't painful.
Love doesn't involve jealousy, possessiveness or constant fighting over every little thing.
Love doesn't set conditions or expectations, and it doesn't disappear if those conditions aren't met.
Love doesn't involve fear, and it isn't based on responding to insecurities.
Love is accepting and appreciating differences.
It means working together to better your relationship. It does not mean trying to change one another.
Love is forgiveness, too.
Holding onto grudges or holding things against one another will only drive you apart.
4. Did I have to sacrifice what I love for this relationship?
The best kind of love doesn't ask us to sacrifice the things in our life we love, including our interests, our friends or our family.
It allows for a healthy balance in your life so you don't get lost in the person you love.
Sometimes, we get so lost in someone else that we lose sight of who we are without that person.
If someone is asking you to give up things or people in your life, it's not true love.
If you're willing to do these things, you need to ask yourself if what you're feeling is healthy.
Everyone gets a little lost at the start of a relationship when things are new, exciting and fun.
But it's necessary to return to the things and people who are important to you.
If you don't, you may wake up one day and realize you can't leave the relationship you're in because you no longer have anything else in your life.
If the person you love is asking you to give up anything that doesn't revolve around him or her, you should question the motives.
You don't want to feel trapped in a relationship down the road that no longer brings you happiness, simply because you feel like you don't have any other option.
5. Is our love honest and consistent?
Every relationship -- no matter who it's with -- is going to have its ups and downs.
There will be disappointments and arguments, but truly loving relationships remain consistent.
That means the love you possess and share remains, even when things aren't going according to plan.
If you have an argument, you can be angry. But you can still have love in your heart for the person.
The love doesn't go away just because the person let you down or isn't doing what you want in the moment.
Real love is supportive, not something that makes your life more challenging.
It doesn't disappear when times get tough, and it doesn't diminish because of silly arguments.
It doesn't turn into something mean or hurtful, and it doesn't attack your character or self-esteem.
Real love is also honest.
You can be true to yourself without having to hide anything. You will still receive love in return.
It's a safe space where you can be vulnerable and let your walls down without having to worry about it being used against you.
It is being able to fully trust the person you are with, and having that person fully trust you.
It's trusting your partner with your heart and knowing that he or she has your best interests in mind.
It's honesty, even when you know the truth may not be what your significant other wants to hear. However, you have the respect for him or her to tell the truth anyway.
True love isn't manipulative. It isn't used to make yourself feel better at the expense of someone else's feelings.
It is possible to experience true, healthy love for someone who can't offer you the same in return.
Feelings aren't always mutual.
Valentine's Day is a holiday that celebrates the love in your relationships.
It can also be a good time to evaluate the relationship in your life.
You may be in love with someone who can't love you the way you deserve.
You may love someone who doesn't put your feelings first, or who completely disregards your feelings altogether.
You may love someone who requires you to change who you are just to be with him or her.
Just because you love someone, that doesn't mean you should stay in a relationship with him or her.
No one wants to be alone on Valentine's Day, but it's important to have true, healthy love for yourself, too.
Know when to walk away.
Sometimes, the truest form of love is letting go. This is not just for the other person, but for yourself as well.