Question: What happens if you go to bed angry?
Answer: You might get some sleep.
Does that feel a bit anticlimactic to you? I’m sure many of you were expecting something a bit more intense, dramatic, or at the very least, interesting. However, that is the true and very simple answer to what is simultaneously a very simple, yet very complicated question.
Let me back up a few steps. One of the most common pieces of relationship advice we often hear is: “Never go to bed angry”. While I believe everyone offers up this bit of relationship wisdom with the best of intentions, unfortunately it happens to be one of the worst recommendations.
Why? The phrase “Never go to bed angry” implies you have some sort of control over your emotional state. Put into practice, most people interpret this to mean “If you’re angry with one another, make sure you solve the argument, stop being angry, and go to bed happy”.
Most often, if you’re in a heated conflict before going to bed, staying up late attempting to solve it will only worsen matters. You will become more and more exhausted, and you will be worried about the consequences of being tired the next day. You will be hungry, irritable, desperate to get the fight over with, and yet unsure of how to do so. You may even feel guilty, as if you’re failing at your relationship somehow, by being unable to solve the conflict before going to bed. With every hour that passes, these things will intensify. As these things intensify, the likelihood of reaching a genuine, appropriate, and healthy resolution drastically decreases.
So why do people give this advice? I truly believe people share this piece of advice with good intentions. I don’t know for sure, but I think it originated from a place of fear. Worst case scenario: You go to bed angry, with an unresolved conflict. Something terrible happens overnight, and you wake up to find your partner gone. That is absolutely terrifying. I get it. No wonder this is such a pervasive piece of advice – anyone and everyone would want to prevent that scenario.
So what do you do? You can feel anger towards your partner, and act loving at the same time. While you cannot control your emotions, you can control your behavior. No matter what you are feeling, you have the choice to treat your partner with kindness and respect.
If it’s getting late, and you both are having a hard time resolving a conflict, make the choice to put the conversation on hold, and revisit it the next day. Usually after some time has passed, and you both get some sleep, these conflicts are much easier to resolve. Most importantly, offer reassurance. This may sound like:
“I know it’s getting late, and we are trying hard to solve this. Would you mind if we revisit this conversation tomorrow? I love you, and I want to work this out with you.”
“Do you mind if we go to bed and talk about this tomorrow? I know we’re both upset right now, but please know that I love you and I’m here with you.”
See the difference?
The next time you’re wanting to give someone relationship advice, instead of saying “Never go to bed angry”, say “Never go to bed without offering reassurance”.
Please note that this content is for informational purposes, and not a substitute for treatment. If you are in need of mental health treatment, please seek out a provider in your area.