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Courtship is amazing. When you first start dating someone, it’s all sunshine and roses… with some butterflies in the stomach thrown in for good measure. And soon, you’re hooked.
You’re in love and thinking about moving in together or getting married. Maybe even adding a couple of kids to the mix.
That is when you’ll start to hear whispers of wisdom knocking on your door. You’ve suddenly got family members and friends giving advice out as if it’s candy, convinced they know the secret to a lasting relationship. They’ll say things like “Marriage takes work”, “Happy wife, happy life”… and, the all too familiar, “Don’t go to bed angry”.
Honestly, if there was a list, I think this would be Relationship Rule 101. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that the notion of not going to be angry has been ingrained in the brains of most (if not all) couples for centuries.
And it wasn’t until so-called experts on the topic were given free reign on television, radio, social media and the Internet that we started to hear this may not be the best idea. Seriously?
Truth be told, there is a camp of folks that don’t believe this is a good idea. So today, we’re going to go over the pros and cons of the notion, “don’t go to bed angry” and offer our opinion on which is best. Keep reading for a lively debate on the topic!
Pros of Going to Bed Angry
You may think that going to bed angry is a good idea, either because you’re too tired to fight or are simply not in the mood… but many psychologists believe that there are some true advantages to doing so.
#1. You are Less Likely to Say Something You’ll Regret.
I don’t know about you, but in the heat of the moment, I’ve been known to say things I wish I could take back. Things that were a tad too harsh or simply not true. I’ve done this not just with my spouse, but other family members and friends as well.
Words sting. They can’t be unheard and are hard, even impossible, to forget. It’s as if our brain records these things and has no delete button.
If you’re insistent on hashing things out before bedtime, you’re likely going to fall into this trap because you’re overtired and emotionally charged. Think about it.
Perhaps this argument isn’t just about your partner, but a culmination of bad luck or angst that built up throughout the day. And it’s unfair to throw all of those negative feelings at the wrong target.
You may be inclined to use words like “you always do this” and “you never say that” when yelling at your partner. And, yes, you’ll likely be yelling because all sense of reason and calm have gone out the window after a long day.
Making the decision to go to bed before the proverbial boxing match gets underway is like having a referee tell you to “make it a clean fight”.
#2. Rushing a Fight Could Result in an Ineffective or Temporary “Quick Fix”.
You may be tempted to get the fight over with and find yourself suddenly stepford in behavior. You don’t offer much in the way of criticism, nor do you have any counters. You just sit there and nod.
Maybe you even agree and “hold back” when it comes to saying how you really feel because you don’t want this sprint to turn into a marathon. But here’s the problem with not giving the problem the attention it deserves… it likely won’t change anything, at least not for long.
It’s like catching slow dripping water from a leaking roof in a bucket. It will eventually fill up and need to be emptied. That or it will just spill over.
Leaks don’t fix themselves, and neither do relationships. You need to take care of things properly the first time so that you can avoid having the same issue in the future.
#3. You’ll Have More Time to Gather Your Thoughts.
Maybe you won’t get the best night's sleep, but that’s likely because you’ll be thinking… giving yourself time to reflect on the argument and what it’s really about.
The trick is to step out of the situation in a way that doesn’t seem dismissive, letting your partner know you’d prefer to digest everything.
You may even suggest sleeping in separate rooms, this way you aren’t tempted to wake up and go at it. Nor will you keep each other awake tossing and turning.
Still, there are some arguments serious enough in nature that may require you to at least say something before parting ways for the night. The trick is to say the minimum amount to simply acknowledge that there is a problem and that you want to give it the attention it deserves after you’d have some time to process.
The last thing you want is to just walk away, making the other person feel abandoned or invalidated.
#4. A Big Fight Can Be Emotionally and Physically Draining.
If you think you’re in for a big fight, you need to know that it’s going to leave you feeling exhausted in every way. Emotions wreak all sorts of havoc on their own… and now you’ve added physical fatigue to the mix.
You’ve been in classes, working or taking care of the kids all day and you’re beat! The last thing you want to do is stay up late arguing, maybe to know avail.
Instead, try saying something like, “let’s schedule a time and place to hear each other out”. You can put it in your calendar and pick a time that works for the both of you, as well as neutral ground where you won’t be interrupted.
If you have kids, fighting around them is never a good idea… and chances are they are home if you’re picking a fight at bedtime.
Or maybe you have upstairs neighbors that don’t need to be privy to your relationship woes. The argument is between the two of you and nobody else needs to be dragged into it.
Setting a time when you feel rested and armed for battle is a good start, and won’t leave you feeling as if you’ve been caught off guard by a stampede of wild horses.
Cons of Going to Bed Angry
If you believe in ghosts, or the very possibility of such, you’ve likely heard the theory of spirits hanging around due to “unfinished business” in this life.
Similarly, going to be angry could leave you with the feeling of unfinished business… and that can cause a few unnecessary or unfortunate problems.
#1. You Most Likely Won’t Get a good Night’s Sleep.
For some, staying away to process things when an argument is on the horizon may be possible. Conversely, if the argument is not coming from you, you’re more likely to have a lot of questions that keep you up at night.
You may feel panic, stressed and anxious about what it is that your partner needs to say. What bone are they trying to pick? Is it a serious fight or just some silly pet peeves bubbling up to the surface?
Your mind may race with “what if’s” all night long, which means you won’t sleep well and you'll be left feeling completely exhausted and useless in the morning. And who wants to deal with drama before they’ve even had their first cup of coffee?
If your partner is already gone when you wake, you’ll have a difficult time concentrating during the day. You’ll want to text them for clues that it will all be ok and likely start reading into things. Perhaps even a text argument ensues, which can make things worse than they need to be.
#2. Anger Can Fester and Build Up by Morning.
If one or both of you are upset and go to bed without hashing things out, you do run the risk of making the fight bigger in your mind. While they say time heals all wounds, it can also cause them to fester in the short-term.
For instance, if the fight is about your spouse missing too many of your kids' basketball games and family dinners, the argument should be focused on his needing to be present more.
However, now that you’re lying awake in bed counting all of the times he’s let you down, you’ve drifted off to the land of crazy and believe he’s having an affair. Maybe even has a second family.
In this case, time is not your friend. You need to take inventory of what you really want to say before you start adding made up things to the list. So, make a physical list if you have to of everything you want to touch on. This will keep the argument orderly and productive.
#3. Not Acknowledging Your Anger is Invalidating Your Feelings and Emotional Needs.
If your partner refuses to talk to you and goes to bed angry, this can run the risk of making you feel like your feelings and emotions don’t matter. You have committed yourself to this person and consider them an extremely important part of your life… if not the most important. Don’t they feel the same?
If they respect you, they should want to hear you out so you’re not feeling insignificant in their eyes. They should also want this relationship to work out, same as you.
Furthermore, if you’ve got an issue with your loved one, not letting those feelings loose is mentally suffocating. By electing to go to bed angry, you are essentially telling yourself that your feelings are silly or pretentious. That they don’t matter and should be ignored, maybe even suppressed.
This can cause an increase in stress levels, which can have an impact on your physical health as well. Not to mention, if you suppress these emotions for too long, releasing them later is like popping the cork on a champagne bottle. It will be explosive and loud… maybe even cause a big mess!
Final Thoughts on Why You Don’t Go to Bed Angry
In my opinion, going to bed angry is the safer way to go… as long as you make it clear that you will talk about it in the next day or two. Put it in the calendar if you have to and schedule a time to calmly and rationally discuss things.
Sleeping in separate rooms may also be a wise move, as long as you keep words to a minimum and make it clear that the lines of communication will reopen tomorrow. Say very little and don’t get baited into a conversation you’re not mentally prepared to have. This will only result in a train wreck of misfired verbal digs, empty threats or painful ultimatums.
Back when I was dating my husband, we were looking at apartments together. He liked a one bed apartment near the beach with a small backyard. My fear was that if it didn’t work out, we didn’t even have a separate bedroom to go into until one of us figured out our exit.
I just didn’t want it to be on his terms, so I told him I needed time to think and decided not to sleep over his place that night. He stonewalled me that night, refusing to reply to a single phone call or text. Clearly, he was choosing to go to bed angry.
While I thought the worst and didn’t like it, it turned out to be the right decision. He called me the next morning and we had a productive and honest conversation. One week later, we signed a lease on a 3 bedroom house and never looked back.
The answer to this question may vary by couple, depending on the severity of the issue at hand… but most of the time, choosing not to rush into a fight can save you a lot of wasted energy and heartache.
And if you're looking for more articles about relationships, be sure to check out these blog posts:
- 13 Common Examples of Stonewalling in a Relationship
- 16 Signs You Have a Right Person, Wrong Time Relationship
- 15 Warnings Signs You Have a Toxic Girlfriend
Nicole Krause has been writing both personally and professionally for over 20 years. She holds a dual B.A. in English and Film Studies. Her work has appeared in some of the country’s top publications, major news outlets, online publications and blogs. As a happily married (and extremely busy) mother of four… her articles primarily focus on parenting, marriage, family, finance, organization and product reviews.