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Disagreements in teen relationships

Topics in
this section

1 Disagreements between teens

2 The role of caregivers/trusted adults

1 Disagreements between teens

During adolescence, many teens will experience a romantic and intimate relationship for the first time. Being in a relationship with someone adds several positive elements to teens’ lives but may also lead them to have to manage disagreements/conflicts. In this section, we will tackle different ways to support and help them when it comes to the disagreements they have in their romantic relationships and in learning communication strategies.

Communication plays an important role in positive romantic relationships. Knowing that teenagers are developing their ability to listen to others and put themselves in their place (learning empathy), as well as to recognize and express their emotions and limits, they may need support to accomplish this.

As a trusted adult, you have the capacity to support your teen in resolving their disagreements and conflicts. Set an example for them of how to approach and manage conflicts between the two of you, but also those with the people around you, such as your friends, coworkers or life partners.

Les désaccords entre ados

In a relationship, it’s impossible to never have disagreements. Disagreements are even a part of positive relationships and simply mean that your opinions differ from your partner’s or that your needs are not being met. Disagreements can teach you to know yourself better, can be an opportunity to express your needs, and ultimately can even strengthen your relationship with your partner. This can present an opportunity to identify the themes of the most common disagreements as well as a chance to improve communication and develop a better connection with your partner. These are elements you can pass on to your teenager.

Some may think that disagreements signal a lack of love or an impending breakup, whereas, on the contrary, it is normal, healthy, and positive to have them: when they are resolved in a healthy way, they can be constructive.

communication entre partenaires

Communication between partners

How can you communicate well in the context of a romantic or intimate relationship? We may know that this is essential, nevertheless, it can sometimes be complicated to communicate effectively and in a healthy way. Before giving your teen communication tools, it can be helpful to ask them what it means to them to have healthy communication in a relationship. Often, teenagers know basic information, for example, the importance of using “I” statements, but there is a difference between knowing what to do and knowing how to do it.

Here are three concrete tips that facilitate communication in relationships, as well as in general, and that are easy to remember with the acronym FEMG.

Faits observables   Émotions   Terrain d’Entente

Faits observables

Name actual observable FACTS rather than perceptions.


  • We never see each other, and you never message to me. (PERCEPTION)
  • I only got one text from you last Sunday. (FACT)

Name the EMOTIONS felt, without accusing your partner.


  • I feel like you don’t love me as much as I love you.
  • I feel insecure in our relationship, and I’m scared of getting hurt. (THE EMOTION IS IDENTIFIED)
Terrain d’Entente

Find a positive, realistic MIDDLE GROUND that meets the needs of everyone involved.


  • I want you to text me several times a day, as soon as you’re not busy doing something else. (IS THIS REALLY ACCEPTABLE TO BOTH PARTNERS? IS IT REALISTIC?)
  • I would like it if we could set aside some time to spend together, as a couple. (POSITIVE, REALISTIC MIDDLE GROUND THAT MEETS THE NEEDS OF BOTH PEOPLE INVOLVED)

Other strategies can be used to communicate more effectively during a disagreement, such as:

  • Taking the time to calm down before talking to each other.
  • Asking for time to think about the situation (taking a step back).
  • Using humour to diffuse the situation and lighten the mood (humour can be used to start the conversation, when it’s appropriate).
  • Clearly expressing your expectations and actively participating in finding a solution (your needs will not all be met by your partner; you are part of the solution!).
  • Asking your partner when they are available to talk about it.
  • Clarifying your emotions before expressing them (for some teenagers, the emotions may become clearer during the conversation).

se calmer avant de parler

These tips may also help us understand ourselves better by becoming aware of the emotions we’re experiencing, our actual needs, our expectations, etc. The goal is to help your teenager communicate more effectively and better manage their disagreements by sharing the various strategies they can use.

What role should you adopt when a teenager tells you about a disagreement/conflict? It’s not always obvious whether you should take a stance or not when a teenager confides in you, or when you observe episodes of disagreement in your teenager’s relationship. First of all, taking the time to listen to what they are living will allow you to find out more about how they feel and what they want. After all, this isn’t your relationship, and you can’t guess their needs; however, you can help and support them in their thought process! For example, don’t hesitate to encourage them to reflect on their relationship by asking open-ended questions such as:

  • In general, how do you feel in your relationship?
  • What are the positive moments in your relationship vs. the more negative ones?
  • How would you like your disagreements to be resolved in the future?
  • What would you like your partner to know, to understand?
  • What do you want for the future of your relationship?

If the conflicts shared or observed involve violence (manipulation, blackmail, threats, physical violence, insults, etc.), refer to the “Dating violence” section.

Dating violence

prendre conscience des émotions que nous vivons

2 The role of caregivers/trusted adults

What can I do when my teen experiences disagreements in their romantic or intimate relationship? What can I do if I feel like communication is absent in their relationship? If they don’t have the space to express their opinion in their relationship?

You can ask your teenager questions about the misunderstandings, fights or differences of opinions they have in their relationship, if they feel comfortable talking to you about it: the themes of the fights that come up most often, how they talk about and settle the fights with their partner. You can start this conversation by asking questions on how differences of opinion and conflicts are resolved in their group of friends. This can put your teen more at ease, by beginning with a topic that is a little less sensitive than their relationship as a couple.

Le rôle des parents/adultes de confiance

A Quebec study conducted among a 100 teenage couples revealed some of the main causes of disagreements:

  • Jealousy
  • Lack of trust in their partner
  • The ex-partner (e.g., staying in touch with the ex)
  • Contact and activities as a couple (number of texts per day, frequency of contact, choice of activities, etc.)
  • The needs and expectations that can vary from one person to another
  • Substance use (drugs, alcohol, etc.)

La jalousie

It’s important to remind your teenager that if they feel the need to talk about a disagreement they’re going through in their relationship, you’re there to listen and to try to find solutions together. Whether we’re teenagers or adults, we use a variety of strategies to manage our disagreements:

It’s better to try to find a compromise that suits both partners, to be involved in the conversation while giving the other person room to express themselves, to work together to find a solution that completely meets the needs of both people, and to actively participate in looking for a satisfactory solution.

Some people may avoid conflict, sulk, confront their partner, bend to the needs of their partner while setting aside their own, hurt the other person or be hurt, or bring up past discussion topics during a conflict.

We don’t always manage our conflicts and disagreements in the best way. We may use a less adequate strategy, and that’s okay. Going through disagreements/conflicts in a relationship allows us to improve the way we handle them and to learn.

You can also ask your teenager questions on how often they have disagreements in their relationship. How does it usually go? What strategies do they use to make up? How do they feel during the resolution of disagreements in their relationship? Do some disagreements seem endless? The goal here is to prompt your teenager to reflect, and not necessarily to find the answers.

Teenagers may not know how to resolve disagreements they’re having in their relationship. It can be helpful to encourage them to think about how they resolve conflicts in other types of relationships, such as with their friends, family members, etc.

Le but ici est d’initier la réflexion chez lui∙elle