Need to talk? Call 1800 882 436.
It's a free call with a maternal child health nurse. *call charges may apply from your mobile

Is it an emergency? Dial 000
If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately.

beginning of content

Having difficult conversations with your partner

4-minute read

Relationships can be challenging. Sometimes you and your partner might not see eye-to-eye. 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.

Devote 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, it can be good to make sure they’re not around. It will be easier to talk without distractions.

Be prepared to be patient, as the talk might take a while. Be honest about how you feel. Listen to what your partner says, and think about it. Accepting your partner’s differences can help you be more patient and understanding. And remember – there’s a chance you might be wrong.

Focus on the problem

It’s important to let your partner know how you feel, but keep focused on the main problem you want to talk about. 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 ‘put downs’.

If you can be flexible to your partner's needs, they are more likely to be flexible with you. Working out what is the most important and least important thing to you can help you negotiate. If things are heating up too much, ask for a time-out. Come back to the issue when you’re both feeling calmer.

Respect your differences

You and your partner are bound to have different views on some things. Your upbringing will play a part in how you feel and 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 and it can help to aim for decisions that will work for both of you.

Becoming a parent can sometimes make you feel as though you're losing your identity and sense of self. Taking time for yourself and your partner is important for your relationship and for your health.

What Were We Thinking has online worksheets that help you see the different beliefs you and your partner might have, and how these could influence your relationship.

Be an active listener

Active listening is about really hearing and understanding what the other person is trying to say. Repeating back to your partner what they have said 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.

If you have kids, it’s good for them to see their parents managing conflicts well, and learning to negotiate and solve problems. But children often overhear parents fighting, and this can negatively affect their health and happiness. Keep your children well away from any conflict, and remember that children should never have to take sides.

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.

Know your support

Support from friends and family, such as grandparents, can help you work through issues. It can also help to refer to information about having difficult conversations with your in-laws or child's grandparents.

Other services that can help you are:

Talking about problems like this can also bring up issues from your own childhood or past trauma. Talk to your doctor, or contact Lifeline or Beyond Blue for more support.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: May 2020


Back To Top

Need more information?

Healthy relationships: parents & partners | Raising Children Network

Relationships can change when partners become parents. Nurture healthy relationships by communicating, managing conflict and making time for each other.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Normal differences and warning signs of a relationship breakdown — Relationships Australia

Why do relationships get into difficulties?

Read more on Relationships Australia website

Relationship breakdown and divorce

A relationship breakdown and divorce can be a distressing time for everyone involved. Here are some coping strategies to help you and your child through it.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Managing conflict when you become parents - Partners to Parents

Most couples experience an increase inarguments during pregnancy and following childbirth. Managing conflict well will benefit your whole family.

Read more on Partners to Parents website

Relationship with your partner

Becoming a new parent is a big transition for all couples, some change in your relationship is normal.

Read more on Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA) website

Domestic and family violence - controlling and violent relationships — Relationships Australia

Some relationships involve behaviour that is damaging to the other partner and, in some cases, may be criminal. Healthy relationships are based on equality and respect between partners.

Read more on Relationships Australia website

Men, relationships & mid-pregnancy | Raising Children Network

The middle months of pregnancy can be a great time for men to strengthen relationships with their partners. This Dads Guide to Pregnancy explains how.

Read more on raisingchildren.net.au website

Pregnancy - Pregnancy Topics - Your relationship with your partner during pregnancy

 A baby will bring about some major changes in every couple's relationship - well before the baby is even born! For some couples, these changes happen very easily, other couples may need to make more of a conscious adjustment to these changes  Many couples also find that pregnancy and parenting mean they need to make changes in their physical relationship

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Are children affecting your couple relationship? — Relationships Australia

Many couples experience conflict related to child rearing.

Read more on Relationships Australia website

Supporting your partner during her pregnancy

You can help your partner in many ways during pregnancy and childbirth. Your support will benefit her, your relationship and ultimately your baby.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

Except as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, this publication or any part of it may not be reproduced, altered, adapted, stored and/or distributed in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Healthdirect Australia.