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Talking to your partner

Man chatting to woman

Some advice on talking about HIV with your partner.

  1. Expressing yourself
  2. Tips on listening
  3. When opposites attract

Expressing yourself

Want to get something off your chest with your partner? Instead of attacking or withdrawing, when you talk to them, fill in the gaps to this three-part formula:

'When you'

Say what it is they do that you don’t like. Be direct - but not accusing. Avoid just saying 'you do this', 'you make me feel this.' That makes them feel attacked; chances are they will become defensive (by attacking back or withdrawing). So part two is important.

'I feel'

Tell them the effect of what they do. Use 'I' statements e.g. 'I feel hurt/angry/frustrated etc. when you do this.' Keep the focus on how you feel, not what you may be thinking about them. This explains to them why their actions bother you, hopefully without them feeling personally attacked.

'So I’d like'

Be constructive. Bringing a problem out in the open is good. Saying what you’d like to happen instead is better.

For example: 'When you talk about how you fancy other people, I feel insecure and angry, so I’d like you to try and not tell me who you fancy.'

Tips on listening

Tips on listening:

  • We listen best with our mouths shut!
  • We listen with our faces, not just ears – look them in the eye. It’s hard to really listen if you’re doing other things.
  • Interrupting is a sign you’re not listening.
  • Asking questions will help you to understand their point and makes them feel like you’re hearing them.
  • Insults and changing the subject are ways of avoiding what they’re saying.
  • Matching their complaint with one of your own isn’t helpful.
  • Try not to dismiss what they say by using phrases like 'that’s stupid', 'you must be mad', 'yes, but' etc.
  • After saying how you feel ask them how they feel and what they would like.
  • It’s a good idea to talk when you won’t be disturbed, you’re both relaxed and in a good mood. 

When opposites attract

Couples often have different ways of dealing with life - this can be part of the attraction – and part of the problem.

In a relationship there's often:

  • The worrier and the one who thinks there’s no need to worry (or show they're worried). 
  • The talker, who likes discussing the relationship, feelings, and the future and the one who doesn’t like talking. 
  • The sociable one and the one who likes time on their own.

Maybe you recognise yourself and your partner in this or can think of other ways in which you both are different. One of the secrets of a happy relationship is learning how to deal with these differences - especially if being in love makes you want to be the same, not different. The trick is to find a balance both of you can live with and to share any stress. Later you’ll see examples of how different ways of handling things can cause problems - and how to get over this. 

 

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