It’s one of the oldest adages in the book – one you’ve probably heard time and time again from magazines, relatives, TV shows – you name it. It’s been a common saying for such a long time, it’s practically the first thing on people’s minds when they hear the phrase “marriage advice.”
The saying goes: “Don’t go to bed angry.”
…And it couldn’t be a worse piece of advice.
The reasoning behind it goes something like this: if you go to bed without resolving your disputes, you’ll never get back around to talking about them. You’ll bury the anger and frustration, only to have it blow up later in much larger problems. The story goes, if you don’t address the issue in the moment, you’re likely not to address it all.
Well, that simply isn’t true.
Think about it – if you’re in the thick of an argument, tempers are running high, you’re feeling tense and angry, and just maybe you’ll let your emotions get the best of you and say hurtful things you don’t really mean.
What about late at night? You’re both exhausted and cranky, arguing when you don’t need to be, and only getting more and more irritable the later you stay up. Or you may even be so sleepy that you’re not able to devote your full attention to the matter at hand!
In these scenarios (and many others), avoiding “going to bed angry” isn’t going to make things any better in the moment – instead, you’ll just stay up later, get more irritated, and potentially create a much worse argument.
Now think about the alternative: you’re in the middle of an argument, you’re exhausted and stressed, and you make a decision with your spouse to let it go for the evening – and pick up the discussion in the morning when you’ve both had some rest.
In this scenario, you’ve had a chance to “sleep on” the issue. You might see the initial problem as less of a big deal, you may have come up with solutions, and if nothing else, you’ve had a chance to calm down. With a little bit of time gone by, you can approach the problem with a clearer head. What was an argument can now be a civil discussion.
Even the passage of one day to the next is enough to help some people reflect on their behavior and realize how wrong or out of line they may have been. A little bit of breathing room goes a long way.
So, the next time that misguided piece of advice comes up in conversation – or the next time you feel like you have to stay up to “finish” an argument because of it – just let it go for the night and give it a fresh start the next day. This approach will be far more productive and far less stressful.
Now, one last thing: you do have to come back to the argument though. That’s the one part of “don’t go to bed angry” that is true – if you just bury the problems and don’t ever take the time to address them, they will come back and bite you later.
It’s just fine to go to bed angry, as long as you’re willing to get up and address the problem soon after. It isn’t going to bed that’s the problem; it’s letting issues go unresolved.
As long as you’re focused on building solutions and resolving conflict – going to bed angry isn’t going to pose a major threat to your marriage. The old wisdom just doesn’t add up.