We look at why good communication with your partner is vital for new parents, and how to talk and listen effectively.
As a new parent with so many new things to think about and feel, talking it over couldn’t be more important (Relate, no date a). Yet with this new world comes that heady cocktail of hormones, stress and tiredness, which can make talking and listening distinctly challenging. If this is happening in your relationship, rest assured that you’re not alone. A whopping 90% of couples argue more after having their first child (Medina, 2014).
There’s every chance your mood is swinging from sheer joy to frantic despair, and from overwhelming pride to angry frustration. And that’s just when changing a nappy. All too often, these emotions spill over into interactions with your partner (Miller, 2005). Sometimes with not entirely healthy consequences.
A good quality relationship between you and your partner supports your physical and mental wellbeing (Figueiredo et al, 2008; Robles et al, 2014). You are also giving yourselves a better chance of raising a happier child, who is more likely to have positive relationships too (Reynolds et al, 2014).
Nobody’s perfect but reducing the amount you argue and upping those more constructive interactions means everyone’s a winner. You can read more about what new parents often argue about and how to deal with these hot topics more effectively in our article here.
Maybe you're so overwhelmed with parenting you feel you’ve forgotten how to have a conversation with your partner. It can be tough to get back in the habit. But after you’ve taken a step back and gained some perspective, it’s worth remembering these handy hints for talking and listening to each other (Relate, no date a; b):
Timing is everything
Turn the TV off and make sure neither of you needs to be somewhere else. It’s also good to choose a calm time – ideally not mid-argument (Relate, no date a; b).
Even if you don’t feel like it, it’s probably best to start things off on a positive note. Try not to be sarcastic or critical (Relate, no date a; b).
‘I’ not ‘you’
Sounds simple but it can make a real difference. Rather than ‘you never take an interest in them’, how about ‘sometimes, I could really do with some help with x’ (Relate, no date a; b).
Empathise and sympathise
Seeing things from your partner’s perspective is vital to resolving any disagreement – for both of you. If you’re respectful of your partner’s feelings, there’s more chance they will appreciate yours.
Arguments could be compared to onions in that what you're fighting about – the outer layer – might not turn out to be the most important thing (Relate, no date a). It’s understanding those inner layers that holds the key (Relate, no date a; b).
Keep an eye on yourself
Do you feel yourself getting angry and emotional? Maybe it’s best to press pause and start again when you’ve both calmed down (Relate, no date a; b).
Compromise, compromise, compromise
You’re not going to get anywhere by digging in your heels. A bit of give and take will go a long way (Relate, no date a; b).
Learn to be a good listener
Listening is a skill which takes time to learn, but it's worth it as feeling like you're being heard is so important in a relationship. Relate has some really useful tips for communicating with your partner.
Remember to listen
Communication is a two-way street, and it is important that you take time to listen to your partner and hear their opinion or feelings. We often think we are listening, but in reality, we are often thinking about what we will say when our partner stops talking.
It’s difficult sometimes but try to commit to really listening to what your partner is saying, don’t interrupt, don’t get defensive, just hear what they have to say. By doing this, you will understand your partner better and they might start to listen to you better too (Scott, 2020).
Here are some top tips for really listening to what your partner is saying:
- Choose a quiet space where there isn’t too much background noise.
- Face your partner when they are talking and maintain eye contact (unless that is something you or your partner struggle with).
- If your partner becomes upset, try to move closer to them and, if appropriate, hold their hand or offer them a hug.
- Look for the meaning behind what your partner is saying by asking open questions, such as ‘how did that make you feel?’ if you think there is more to what your partner is saying.
- Listen calmly without giving in to your emotions. By listening to your partner without interrupting with your views, you will build and maintain their trust.
- Show you're listening by summerising what they have said. You don’t have to agree with your partner, you're just making it clear that you have understood their point.(Relate, no date c)
If you follow these tips, there’s every chance you can start to communicate better and stop giving each other the silent treatment or arguing. It may take a while as old habits can die hard. Yet with a little patience and perseverance, you can really change things for the better (Relate, no date a).
This page was last reviewed in February 2022.
Our support line offers practical and emotional support with feeding your baby and general enquiries for parents, members and volunteers: 0300 330 0700. We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about birth, labour and life with a new baby.
Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby. To find out when an NCT Nearly New Sale is happening near you, search here.
You might find attending one of our NCT New Baby courses helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.
Take a look at our articles on arguing, teamwork, and how your relationship changes when you become a parent. You could also see our articles about mums' perspectives and dads' perspectives on their relationships after having a baby, and how mums and dads can bond with their baby.
This article from Relate looks at the reasons couples argue after having a baby. One plus one also has lots of useful articles with information on changing relationships. For further help with making your relationship better, take a look here.
Figueiredo B, Field T, Diego M, Hernandez-Reif M, Deeds O, Ascencio A. (2008). Partner relationships during the transition to parenthood. J Reprod Infant Psychol. 26(2):99-107. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/247514013_Partner_relationship… 7th March 2022].
Medina J. (2014) Brain rules for baby: How to raise a smart and happy child from zero to five. London: Pear Press.
Miller T. (2005) Making sense of motherhood: a narrative approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Relate. (no date a) I can't seem to stop arguing with my partner. What can we do? Available at: https://www.relate.org.uk/relationship-help/help-relationships/arguing-and-conflict/i-cant-seem-stop-arguing-my-partner-what-can-we-do [Accessed 7th March 2022].
Relate. (no date b) 5 communication tips to try with your partner. Available at: https://www.relate.org.uk/relationship-help/help-relationships/communic… [Accessed 7th March 2022].
Relate. (no date c) Why it's important to be a good listener. Available at: https://www.relate.org.uk/relationship-help/help-relationships/communic… [Accessed 7th March 2022].
Reynolds J, Houlston C, Coleman L. (2014) Understanding relationship quality. OnePlusOne. Available from: https://nanopdf.com/download/understanding-relationship-quality-5b2f483… [Accessed 7th March 2022].
Robles TF, Slatcher RB, Trombello JM, McGinn MM. (2014) Marital quality and health: a meta-analytic review. Psychol Bull. 140(1):140-187. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3872512/ [Accessed 7th March 2022].
Scott E. (2020) How to improve your relationships with effective communication skills. Available at: https://www.verywellmind.com/managing-conflict-in-relationships-communi… [Accessed 7th March 2022].