Lydia Levelva answers your sex and relationship questions.


Q.When my partner and I argue, he accuses me of acting like a child, yet when he’s angry, he’ll throw a tantrum like a three-year-old. What’s the best way to deal with this? – Grace, Coffs Harbour

A. We are all recovering children. And as our inner children do tend to make an appearance when we’re in conflict with loved ones, your partner may well be correct. But rather than focusing on conflict, which is inevitable in any relationship, it is worth shifting your attention to the opportunities for self-growth and development; relationships hold up a mirror to our inner self, enabling us to heal and transcend our past, and embrace our potential.    

However, to reap this benefit and those of healing an old wound, you will need to endure the discomfort of confronting issues from your childhood (think of it like putting antiseptic on a cut, knowing the sting is a condition for optimal recovery). Ironically, the closer and more intense a relationship, the messier things can get; Dr Phil calls it a ‘collision of imperfections’. But this truth also makes it even more important to work through it and consider any short-term pain a worthy investment.

The good news is that the situation you’re facing can be empowering, if you embrace it as an invaluable growth opportunity. First, rather than focus on the conflict itself, start by each asking yourselves whether the goal is to be right, or happy; this is your chance to join forces in the effort to get it right this time. (Wouldn’t it be more helpful to be allies in the process?)

Once you’ve got your answer, next time you notice you or your partner’s inner child, be grateful that a buried issue is being brought to light and recognise that you, as adults, are now here to allow ‘your kids’ to express their needs and help them to address and resolve their fears.  

While we are not responsible for the conditions that bred each other’s inner child issues, we are responsible to our partners to acknowledge their pain or its sources, and to be helpful and supportive – within reason.
So instead of taking the appearance of your partner’s inner child as a cue to use information about his or her past as a weapon, practise compassion and embrace the opportunity to get to know one another on a deeper and more intimate level. You can help each other to harness the courage to face what needs to be faced to transcend old patterns and move on. If this seems too time-consuming, a professional facilitator can help to accelerate this process.

Lydia is a Sydney-based consultant ( and teaches Positive Psychology in the Masters of Wellness program at RMIT University (

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