Right before you got married, you probably heard this advice… “Never go to bed angry.”
And I totally understand the idea, the intention, behind it.
You know… “End the day on a good note with your spouse,” “Don’t carry that conflict into the next day,” etc. etc.
So yeah, not terrible advice.
Buuuut… Depending on the situation, I do think this phrase “never go to bed angry” can add some unnecessary pressure or be misinterpreted in the moment.
For example, my husband and I have butted heads once or twice, when “never go to bed angry” somehow turned into “never go to bed with unresolved conflict.”
Instead of going to sleep, we were determined to get to the bottom of this fight and make sure everything was wrapped up nicely… Which just turned into a major headache and didn’t actually help things at all.
So, here are my thoughts about when that old saying “never go to bed angry” is not good advice, and 5 things you can try instead.
“Never go to bed angry” is Not good advice when…
1. You’re tired and not in a good frame of mind
When it’s late at night and you’re exhausted, the last thing you probably want to do is sort through a tricky conflict with your spouse. If you force that discussion, you might go round and round in circles. Or worse, say things you’ll regret. Simply because you’re tired, not thinking straight, and grumpy.
2. It’s a bigger issue that doesn’t have a simple solution
Not all conflict can be solved in one night. If your intention is to settle the argument once and for all, but there’s not actually a simple solution, you may need to accept that and plan a different course of action. Staying up late to get to the bottom of things is not going to do you much good in this case.
3. Other stressors from that day are getting in the way
When you’ve had a stressful day and you’re bearing the weight of everything else, the advice to “never go to bed angry” is probably not super helpful. Because it can be difficult to isolate that one point of contention in the conversation. Quickly, it turns into a big long list of everything that’s wrong. And then you’re even more upset and trying to sort through a mountain of issues right before bed, instead of just the one issue that started the conflict.
5 Things to try instead…
1. Establish boundaries/expectations for that late-night-upset situation
Before the late-night moment of anger strikes, talk with your spouse about how you’ll both handle that situation. Have a game plan. Discuss this in advance, when you’re on good terms with each other.
It doesn’t mean you’ll be perfect at following the plan every single time. But at least you’ll be a little more prepared to navigate the situation.
Some possible points to brainstorm:
- What conflict is or is not worth staying up late to discuss?
- How will you react if I ask for a break?
- What can we do to cool down?
- What strategies do we have to work through arguments?
- How do we conclude the discussion for the night?
- What reassurances can we give each other, even when we’re mad?
Here’s a story to illustrate why communicating in advance is so important…
When my husband and I were newly married, we got into an argument one night. I can’t even remember what the topic was, but tensions were high.
At the end of the discussion, my husband went to another room. He figured that giving me space was what I would want.
But I was devastated. Because I misinterpreted his gesture to mean that he was even more upset than I thought and didn’t even want to come to bed with me.
Of course that wasn’t his intention. But you just never know if you haven’t discussed those things in advance. And you can see how other conventions like “sleeping on the couch tonight” would have caused even deeper pain.
So, have a discussion. Even if the conflict remains unresolved, determine what is and is not going to be beneficial for those late-night upsets.
2. Plan a time to reconvene when you’re both mentally prepared for the conversation
As we’ve already discussed, late nights are not always the best time to sort through arguments. You’re tired and cranky and feeling the stress of the day.
So, if you find yourself in a heated discussion, try putting a pause on the topic, and plan another time to come back to it.
You may have a specific scheduled time (tomorrow at 10am), or a more general “let’s talk about this in the morning.”
Doing this allows both people to get what they need. Reassurance that the topic will be addressed later. And a chance to cool down and mentally prepare, especially for whoever is on the defense.
Just make sure to set yourself up for success by choosing a time when you’ll both be in your best state of mind. And when you’ll be calm enough to enter the discussion with the intention to restore peace, not just argue and prove your point.
3. Open another line of communication
When you’re stuck in face-to-face high tension conflict, it may be helpful to stop and approach the conversation using a different form of communication.
For example, you could write out your thoughts as notes, and exchange them with your spouse.
I’ve sometimes found it easier to express myself through writing, because I can fully collect my thoughts before communicating.
It also gives each person the chance to feel like they’re being heard, instead of shut down or interrupted.
4. Come to personal peace, even if you can’t have peace with your spouse in the moment
You may feel like you’re going around in endless circles with your spouse and just can’t see eye-to-eye.
But the good news is that you can conclude the night with your own personal peace.
Now, to be clear, this doesn’t look like “I’m right, and he’s wrong. So, there!” and then you happily roll over in a state of personal justification.
What is does look like is cooling down and gaining greater perspective, so you can go to sleep without an endless draining stress from night into morning.
Prayer is huge for me in this situation. Praying for peace, praying for my husband, praying for understanding and help in our marriage. Even if we haven’t resolved the issue, I can gain peace after expressing myself to God and asking for spiritual strength.
You could also try journaling, meditation, or some other exercise that will help you re-center yourself and end the night on a better note.
5. Give a form of reassurance
This is something you’ll probably want to talk about during your game plan for late-night upsets.
Establish some form of reassurance between you and your spouse. Something you can use after a conflict that lets them know you still love them and see the bigger picture of your marriage, even if they’re not your favorite person in that moment.
It might be a kiss, a hand squeeze, a hug, or a simple spoken “I love you.”
You don’t have to feel like your gesture of reassurance is caving or showing weakness. It’s just meant as a “I care about you. I want to be friends again. And we’ll figure this out.”
Before the night is over, even if you are going to bed angry, at least give each other the reassurance that you want to work things out.
Put in the hard work for marriage (… but maybe not right before bed)
Marriage is hard. And conflict is inevitable because you’re two totally separate people with your own opinions and personalities trying to come together and work in unity.
Butting heads doesn’t mean the relationship is over. It just means you have some differences to work through before you find a compromise.
And sometimes, the timing just so happens to be at the end of the day, right before you go to sleep.
Instead of taking that old marriage advice “never go to bed angry” too much to heart – feeling pressured and like you have to be at complete peace and resolution with your spouse before sleeping – consider implementing these strategies instead.
Look at marriage as the bigger picture. And then, put in that hard work!
… Just maaayybe not right before bed. 😉
What do you think of the marriage advice “never go to bed angry?” Will you be trying any of these strategies in the future? Feel free to share in the comments below! I’d love to hear your perspective.
Are you new to the blog? Check out my posts for 5 foolproof date nights at home or how my faith was strengthened from using a social app.