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Having difficult conversations with your partner

5-minute read

Key facts

  • It's okay to disagree with your partner about a particular issue, as long as you talk about it in a healthy way.
  • Pick a time when you are both calm and not distracted and focus on the specific issue that is bothering you.
  • Explain your point of view calmly and listen with an open mind to your partner's perspective.
  • Try to find a solution that works for both of you, and give it a trial period.
  • Don't fight with your partner in front of your child, and never make them take sides.

When you and your partner disagree

Relationships can be challenging. Sometimes you and your partner might disagree on a particular issue. This is okay if you handle it in a healthy way.

If you need to have a difficult conversation, you might not know where to start or what to say. Here are some useful ideas on how to talk with your partner and where to go for support and information.

Pick the right time, and be patient

If you need to have a difficult conversation with your partner, make sure you put time aside to chat. Pick a good time to talk — when you know you'll both be calm and can spend time thinking things through.

If you have kids, choose a time when they're not around. It will be easier to talk without distractions.

Be honest about how you feel. Listen to what your partner says, and think about it. Accepting your partner's point of view can help you be more patient and understanding. And remember — there's a chance you might be wrong.

If things are heating up too much, ask to take a break. Come back to the issue when you're both feeling calmer.

Focus on the main problem

It's important to keep focused on the main problem you want to talk about. Don't get distracted by other issues — or you might not resolve the problem you wanted to discuss.

If another problem comes up, make a different time to talk about it.

Use 'I' statements

Focus on how you would like things to be, not on what you feel your partner has done wrong. Using 'I' statements, such as 'I feel upset when…', can be easier for your partner than hearing criticism and blame.

Try to compromise

If you can be flexible with your partner, they are more likely to be flexible with you. Think about what's really important to you, and what you can let go of.

Work out where you can compromise and what solutions might work for you both.

Be fair

Focus on the present issue and don't bring up conflicts or mistakes from the past.

Avoid labelling or insulting your partner. Try to avoid absolute statements such as 'You always…' or 'You never…'

Respect your differences and work as a team

You and your partner are likely to have different views on some things. Your upbringing and experiences will play a part in your ideas about how relationships work and how to raise children.

You and your partner may have very different parenting styles. It's okay to disagree, but it's important to have a team approach to parenting. This will help your child feel happier and more secure.

Respect your differences and work together to make decisions that you both feel comfortable with.

Be an active listener

Active listening is about really hearing and understanding what your partner is trying to say. Repeating back to them what they have said in your own words, shows you've heard them.

It's easy to focus on what you want to say next and not listen closely to the other person. If you're worried you'll forget what you want to say, it can help to write it down for later.

Model a healthy approach to conflict

If you're a parent, it's important to model a healthy approach to conflict. It's good for children to see their parents managing conflicts, negotiating and solving problems respectfully.

However, if children see or hear their parents fighting, this can negatively affect their physical and mental health. Keep your child well away from any hostile conflict and remember that they should never have to take sides.

Trial a solution and be flexible

Once you've made an agreement, write it down and try to stick with it. It can help to agree to a trial period and then review it again.

Strengthen your relationship

Being in a long-term relationship or becoming a parent can sometimes make you feel as though you're losing your identity and sense of self. Making time for you and your partner to talk, relax or do something fun together is important for your relationship and for your health.

Resources and support

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Last reviewed: June 2022

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