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How to stop bickering with your partner

Bickering, niggling ongoing arguments between a couple can really drag a relationship down and lead to general unhappiness for everyone concerned – the couple and any children who are often witness to it. Bickering can also impact extended family and friends if the couple are unable to contain the bickering in social contexts.

In both marriage counselling and relationship counselling, it is common for couples to present this as one of the main reasons they feel unhappy in their relationship.  This is because constant arguments or bickering ultimately leads to a lack of connection in the relationship.  And a lack of of connection leads to lack of intimacy.  Which is lonely.

Family and couples counsellors at our Sydney practice see three main reasons why couples end up bickering:

  • They are stressed, time poor and tired.
  • Bickering has become a habit.
  • There is not enough dedicated relationship time in their lives.

So what can you do to end to bickering, niggling and fighting – and connect with your partner again?

  1. If you are time poor and tired, look at getting some external help in the home.  You may also have to look at either changing your job or the hours you do in your job.
  2. If one or both of you are stressed – ask yourselves what is causing the most stress in your lives?  Have you reached out for support for this or are you trying to push through?  Sometimes speaking to a professional can help you identify what the stress is and how to resolve or at least reduce it.
  3. Sit down with your partner and a diary.  Work out a plan for dedicated time for you and your partner to do something enjoyable on your own.  If you have kids, you’ll need to schedule a babysitter, playdates etc. too.
  4. Setting up your day positively with your partner helps to reduce bickering.  Greet each other with a hug that is longer than five seconds every morning.  Kissing for longer than five seconds is even better.  It is easier to check yourself before bickering or niggling at your partner if you have just connected physically.
  5. Check yourself before you connect with your partner again later in the day.  Are you bringing your stress home?  Are you ready with a complaint?  Or are you going to greet your partner positively with a kiss and a hug and perhaps even a compliment?  Criticism invariably leads to bickering and most of the time means that the criticism itself is unproductive.  If you have a complaint to make, don’t throw it at your partner as soon as you or they walk in the door.
  6. Acknowledge what your partner does for the family or household.  Thank them for it.   A lot of bickering occurs when people don’t feel appreciated and each person thinks they do more than the other.
  7. Adjust the tone of voice you use with your partner.  And make sure you raise issues at the right time.  Don’t raise issues or complaints when you have been drinking alcohol, if either one of you is tired or hungry, or when there are kids wanting attention in the background.
  8. Are you connected sexually?  Bickering can feel a lot like a sibling interaction.  A sexual relationship will stop you from falling into a sibling or functional type relationship.
  9. Address underlying resentments.  Sometimes bickering is simply a symptom of resentment that has not really been expressed or worked through.  If this is you and your partner, seek professional help to get underlying issues sorted out.
  10. Just stop.  Many times couples are just in a bad habit around bickering and are not putting much if any effort into stopping.  Practise mindfulness to get yourself out of this habit.  This will require a fair amount of energy if you have become very good at the bickering cycle, and you both need to commit to it.  Again, if you fail at doing this, seek an experienced Couples Therapist to help you out with this.

The good news is, that unless there are underlying and unresolved resentments, it is really easy to resolve bickering between a couple. Sometimes just one or two sessions with an experienced relationship counsellor is enough to teach a couple how to communicate in a different way and work out external stresses that might be causing the bickering.

The reality is that anybody who lives in Sydney these days is fairly stressed keeping up with long work hours, travel to work and stress of children and activities.  Financial stress is a real thing for many couples living in is this glorious city.  And constant bickering is often a symptom of these external pressures.  If endless bickering is allowed to continue, it can undermine your relationship or marriage, and lead to more serious issues.  But a Couples Counsellor can really help you stop the dynamic and help you regain your connection.

About Jacqueline

Jacqueline has been in private practice for more than two decades, helping individuals, couples and families.  She has extensive experience in couple and family therapy and is considered a specialist in these areas.

In her clinical practice, she has helped people deal with complex trauma, affairs, complex mental health issues, eating disorders, adolescent behavioural problems (including self-harm and suicidal ideation), behavioural issues in young children which are impacting parents and families, relationship issues and post-separation work.

Jacqueline works with many different dynamics: couples, parents, families with young children, same-sex couples, foster/adopted families, families with teenagers and also adult families.  She is particularly interested in helping parents of children with behavioural issues, or with diagnosed conditions such as anxiety, ADHD, ASD and so on.

Although Jacqueline’s work is supportive and friendly, she will challenge her couples and families to make the necessary behavioural changes, to repair relationships and to move towards healthier communication styles in the future.

Jacqueline’s style is direct and fast paced and she is known for quickly getting to the heart of the matter.  Clients report that they feel safe and understood with Jacqueline.

Qualifications and Professional Membership

Jacqueline has a Masters in Couple and Family Therapy (UNSW). She has a Bachelor degree in Counselling and Human Change, and a Diploma in Psychotherapy and Counselling.

Jacqueline is a Clinical Supervisor for Counsellors and Therapists. She lectures in couple and family therapy at Masters and Post Graduate level, and is currently Head Lecturer for the Couple and Family Therapy course (Masters) at the Jansen Newman Institute.  She has been a Lecturer at the University of Western Sydney and Sydney University, and continues to guest lecture at other tertiary institutions.

Jacqueline is also the Director of the Couple and Family Training Centre where she runs regular professional development workshops and seminars for Therapists, Counsellors, Psychologists, Social Workers and Health Industry Workers who are looking to gain skills in this specialist area.

She is a Clinical Member of the Family Therapy Association of Australia and a Clinical Member of PACFA.

“Thank you for seeing me today. Your help with all our family issues and all your advice has been invaluable.
I don’t know how other families do it, without a Jacqueline in their lives.” – Anna (43) step-mum and mum to four children.

If you feel as though you could benefit from talking with a Therapist please contact  The Sydney Couple and Family Specialists on 02 8968 9397 or email

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